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Riders in the Big Races

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 5/17/2010 2:06:14 PM

NO EXCUSES

Super Saver got a perfect trip in Baltimore on Saturday but proved once again that these are not machines, but animals that have blood instead of oil running through those reins.

Props have to go out to Lookin at Lucky, who had some horrible trips this spring. And also to trainer Bob Baffert who stuck with the horse and new pilot Martin Garcia, who was working in a delicatessen only a few short years ago.

Garcia put up a ride well beyond his years and had to overcome a good strategic race by the horses trained by Dale Romans.

His student First Dude dug in at boxcars after pushing the issue the entire way but the more fancied of the pair, Paddy O’Prado was just not up to the task.

The Test of Champions is next in just under 3 weeks, and don’t be shocked if Slick Nick Zito is loaded for bear with his star in waiting Icebox, who just may have been best in Louisville.

Stay tuned.

GETTING UP FOR THE BIG RACES

If the first two legs of the Triple Crown have taught us if nothing else is that being able to ride with confidence and having the ability to make split-second decisions is paramount to winning on the big days.

Some say the Belmont Stakes and other big racing days are just like any other. They contend that the Belmont field is usually smaller, the horses in better condition and with a big sweeping track, the traffic problems are less likely to materialize.

Don’t be too quick to believe it and be very quick to consider the jockey factor in the major races in the world.

Eddie Delahoussaye remembers his first Kentucky Derby, although he'd like to forget it. Anxious as a groom on the first night of his honeymoon, Delahoussaye finished 13th in a field of 15 aboard a 24-1 shot named Honey Mark, who ran in place throughout. Beaten nearly 30 lengths by Foolish Pleasure, Delahoussaye learned a valuable lesson: ride the race like it's a $10,000 claimer.

It paid off, because Delahoussaye was second in his next Derby, beaten less than a length by Pleasant Colony when he rode 34-1 shot Woodchopper in 1981.

The next two years, Delahoussaye became one of only a handful of jockeys to take the race back-to-back when he won in 1982 on Gato Del Sol and in 1983 aboard Sunny's Halo.

Retired since January of 2003 after suffering neck and head injuries in a spill at Del Mar on Aug. 30, 2002, Eddie D. has two words of advice to riders competing in the Triple Crown: "stay cool."

“Jockeys can get nervous before the Derby because it carries more historical significance than any other race and every jock wants to win it. The roar of the crowd and the playing of ‘My Old Kentucky Home' creates pressure riders never experienced and they just lose it. The ones who don't, hopefully, their horses run well.

“After I rode my first Derby”, said Delahoussaye a few years ago, “I made up my mind that the next time it was going to be like an ordinary race. That's the thought a rider should put in his head before the Classic races. Relax and hope your horse runs his race. That way you ride better. You can't make the moves in the showcase events that you do in ordinary races if you put pressure on yourself. You think you can, but you can't. You've got to ride it cool, let the horse do the running and stay out of trouble.”

The Belmont Stakes is a bit different because unless you ride regularly at the mile and a half track, the distance can be tricky.

Many riders over the years have put their charge into a drive far to soon and too early and lived to be scorn the rest of their lives.

The first name that comes to mind is Ron Franklin. He rode Spectacular Bid to victory in the first 2 legs of the Triple Crown in 1979 but he asked his equine superstar for speed too early rushing up to overtake Gallant Best way before the real racing began only to wilt and succumb late to Coastal.

Another is Kent Desormeaux. He opened up a 4-length lead at the top of the lane Belmont Day in 1998 with Real Quiet, only to miss by a nostril to Victory Gallop.

The lesson is not to dismiss the jockey factor when the go a mile and a half in the Belmont Stakes.

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