COLUMN: A September Run for the Roses

Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     One of the weirdest sports moments for me, in a year of weird sports moments, will be watching the Kentucky Derby Saturday.

     I am writing this on Friday, the day before what I still consider to be the greatest event on the sports calendar (we had an early deadline this week due to Labor Day).

     Churchill Downs, in an Iowa State-like reversal, had at first planned to allow a few thousand fans to attend, but wisely changed course and was empty on Derby Day.

     Even weirder, Derby Day was Sept. 5, not the usual first Saturday in May. And it was the second jewel of the Triple Crown this time, not the first (the Belmont Stakes, won by Tiz the Law, was run June 20).

     None of which is stopping me from recalling my favorite memories of Derby-winning horses, dating almost back to the beginning of my 35-year love affair with horse racing.

     They’re all in line…


1988: Winning Colors

     It was the first time I ever picked the winner of the Derby. Winning Colors was the only filly in the field, and she zipped to the front early and led them all the way around.

1989: Sunday Silence

     Picked the winner again, and he became one of my favorite racehorses ever, going 3-for-4 in an epic rivalry with New York-based Easy Goer. Sunday Silence won the Preakness as well, lost the Belmont, but settled the issue by holding off Easy Goer in a stirring Breeders Cup Classic that fall.

1990: Unbridled

     One of three Derby-winning horses I ever saw race in person. I didn’t go to that Derby, but I did see Unbridled run at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Md. two weeks later, thanks to a college roommate who lived near there for a time. Unbridled didn’t win; Summer Squall did. And I lost.

1993: Sea Hero

     When there’s a will, there’s a way. Because my home track in Minnesota had shut down, some friends and I went about the Derby a different way that year, betting through a phone account I was able to open, and watching the race on a big screen at a local establishment.

2002: War Emblem

     Again, I didn’t attend the Derby, but six months later I got to see this horse in person when Arlington Park near Chicago hosted the Breeders Cup.

2004: Smarty Jones

     Watched this Derby while at a wedding reception.

2011: Animal Kingdom

     Picked him as the winner.

2012: I’ll Have Another

     That was my first time attending the Kentucky Derby. And looking back, I did it right. I drove to Indiana on Friday, went to the races at a small track that night, hopped a fan bus to Louisville Saturday morning, and went to the Derby without having to worry about parking, or driving back if I had enjoyed one too many mint juleps. Which, I suppose, I did.

2020: ???

     Again, I wrote this on Friday, so I don’t know who won. But I had a good chance to come out happy no matter what the outcome was.

     If heavily-favored Tiz the Law won, he would seem likely to become a Triple Crown winner when they open the gates at the rescheduled Preakness Stakes Oct. 3. This would make him the third in the past six years.

     If he does, some might discredit his achievement because of the unusual schedule. But one pundit I read made a good point: to keep that horse in shape from mid-June all the way to October, and knocking off world-class 3-year-olds three times in a row in the process, might actually make a Triple Crown this year more impressive.

     Or, if one of the longshots won, I probably had him. By that I mean, I likely won a futures Derby bet I made back in February.

     The Derby futures pool selects 23 likely contenders to bet on at high odds, and then a 24th entry, “all others.” As usual, I bet on the “all others,” which wound up giving me 10 of the 18 starters, at odds of 2-1.

     I kind of hope it was one of those outcomes or the other. Either way, it was weird.



Subscriber Login