Balto Star is the speed horse in Derby

May 1, 2001 10:57 AM

This Kentucky Derby has speed, speed and more speed. Santa Anita Derby winner Point Given, who will go postward as the short-priced favorite, has the speed to get a good position early or even go to the front quickly, if his rider so desires.

The same can be said of Blue Grass Stakes winner Millennium Wind and Wood Memorial winner Congaree.

But the prime speed horse of the race is Balto Star, who performed brilliantly in winning the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park and the Arkansas Derby.

Look for him to try to wire the field. Should he manage to do so, he’ll be unable to improve the breed as he’s a gelding and no gelding has won the Derby since 1929 when Clyed Van Dusen splashed home over a muddy track. If his race at Oaklawn Park is any criterion, Balto Star is a superior mudder.

It’s axiomatic in racing that the faster the early pace, the better it sets up for the late runners. That’s especially true in the case of cheap speed but this Derby has quality speed and the most prominent come-from-behind horses appear to be plodders that will pass tired horses in the race’s latter stages without making a forceful impact.

Monarchos’ huge move in the Florida Derby was not as big as it first appeared because everything else in the race stopped running after seven furlongs, Dollar Bill was a well-beaten favorite in the Blue Grass Stakes and A P Valentine, last year’s winner of the Champagne Stakes, has managed only one win since and that was against a field of selling platers at Hialeah Park.

The mystery horse of the race is the Godolphin’s Express Tour. Should he win, it would culminate an amazing training feat as his only preparations have come in the desert.

Express Tour beat Street Cry by a nose in the United Arab Emirates Derby, turning the race’s 11/8 miles in 1:47.

The race will be over by the time the field hits the eighth pole. Although much is made of the Derby distance of 1¼ miles, a study of past Derby charts reveals that the winning horse, except in rare cases, was in front at the eighth pole. Even the two winners who came from farthest back - 18-20 lengths behind at the half-mile pole - Gato Del Sol (1982) and Ferdinand (1986), were in front at the eighth pole.

The only recent winner who made up appreciable ground - 3 lengths - in the final furlong was Grindstone who got up in the final stride to nip Cavonnier in 1996.

Bob Baffert ran 1-3 in 1998 with Real Quiet and Indian Charlie, and he has a double-barreled shot this Saturday with Point Given and Congaree.

The big horse is Point Given, who appears to be a thoroughbred of exceptional quality. He’s obviously the horse to beat. However you bet the Derby, you must absolutely include Point Given in any perfectas or trifectas that you buy.

The day before the Derby they’ll run the Kentucky Oaks, a $500,000 Grade 1 event for three-year-old fillies going 11/8 miles for the first time. The connections of Platinum Tiara have carefully pointed her for this race. She likes the Churchill Downs strip and will appreciate the race’s distance. The price should be decent. Get aboard.


In connection with the Kentucky Derby, it’s been the custom of this writer to offer Kentuckian Irvin S. Cobb’s recipe for mint julep. But we’re breaking with tradition this year and instead offering a recipe for a famous Kentucky dish known as burgoo.

This begs the question, especially from Yankees, just what is burgoo?

Burgoo is a highly-seasoned, full-flavored stew, which in its original form, consisted of wild squirrel, rabbit, ground hog, fowl and vegetables cooked 24 hours over wood fires in giant kettles.

Modern recipes, maintaining the meat-and-game flavor, include three to five meats, a garden’s worth of vegetables and whatever the cook desires.

Burgoo is standard fare for Louisville hostesses of parties and dinners surrounding the Kentucky Derby. Incidentally, burgoo is offered at the concessions stands at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington.

A Frenchman named Gus Jaubert (surely his first name must really have been Gustave) introduced burgoo to Kentucky about 1810. He said it was a stew made in iron cauldrons and served to crews of French sailing vessels. Jaubert objected to Southern cooking because it was too greasy and made his burgoo from lean meat, chicken and squirrel.

But the man who came to be known as "The Burgoo King" was James T. Looney. A native of Mount Sterling, Ky., Looney had worked with Jaubert and said he learned the burgoo recipe from him. Looney’s burgoo career lasted more than 40 years and often involved serving 10,000 people at a time.

Looney served burgoo at Col. E.R. Bradley’s annual one-day race meets for the benefit of Kentucky’s crippled children. He and Bradley became friends and Bradley named one of his horses after him.

The name of the horse - what else? - Burgoo King. It was a fortuitous selection. Burgoo King went on to win the 1932 Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

It seems that everybody in Kentucky has a special recipe for mint juleps and also for burgoo. Following is a simple recipe that makes six servings and can be cooked on your kitchen stove:

In large saucepot or Dutch oven, combine two pounds of chicken or rabbit with the skin removed, 1 pound of beef short ribs and ½-pound of strips of smoked ham. Then add beef broth (1 can), tomatoes (1 can), bourbon, parsley and cayenne peppers.

Bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1½ hours. Add lima beans, whole okra and small cobs of corn. Cover saucepot and simmer for a half-hour until the meat is tender.

Anything in the foregoing recipe can be omitted and anything else can be added. Just cook and stir and be your own burgoo king.

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