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Run for the Roses!

Apr 29, 2003 6:07 AM

The Derby is like a box of Cracker Jacks, and just like Gomer Pyle used to say, "surprise, surprise, surprise." We may not see it this year as overwhelming favorite Empire Maker may be as good as everyone believes and get Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel off the Derby schneid. But just in case it doesn’t happen, let’s just take a quick look at a few things that could possibly take place.

I just finished reading the book "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" written by Laura Hillenbrand and it was just great and a good read for anyone, not only horse players.

I always like to read the book before the movie if there is going to be a movie and in this case there is. One of the main players in the movie is Gary Stevens who plays comeback kid Red Pollard in the movie. He’s also in the midst of a comeback and riding a very unlikely Derby horse by the name of Buddy Gil.

Well back in 1936, trainer Sunny Fitzsimmons was in a similar spot as Bobby Frankel; he had several top horses, but the one he favored as his best runner was Granville, who ended up as the horse of the year.

Sunny devoted all of his energy to preparing Granville for the Kentucky Derby, but as the horse gods would have it, Granville lost his rider at the start of the race and that was that.

Another horse in Sunny’s stable was Seabiscuit, and we all know the rest of his story, even if you never read the book or saw the movie.

The Biscuit never ran in the Kentucky Derby, but he beat War Admiral, the 1937 Derby winner in the famous match race. He finished as one of the greatest racehorses of all time.

The best horse just doesn’t always win the Derby. So let’s see prizes might be waiting inside that box of Cracker Jacks.

The Bobby Frankel parallel to Sunny Fitzsimmons is an intriguing one. The weeks leading up to the Derby saw most of his attention focused on Empire Maker.

Peace Rules, Frankel’s second stringer, hasn’t been getting much support, even though he’s won three straight. He can’t be ignored, though. Last year we had War Emblem. Why shouldn’t we have Peace Rules this year? It could be the Tolstoy factor: War and Peace!

Maybe Peace Rules could he be the next Biscuit.

Then there’s the Hollywood angle. The guys who made the movie, director Gary Ross and some of the producers, purchased 10% if a horse named Atswhatimtalknbout. Could there be a real-life sequel in the works?

Then there’s another comeback story as trainer Wally Dollase is making his way back after losing his entire stable. He has another top contender in Ten Most Wanted.

Another unfolding story could be Brancusi, who was life and death to survive berth for his small-time breeders.

Another tear-jerker could be the unfolding saga of Buddy Gil, a gelding raised in Idaho, who has been given little credit for winning the Santa Anita Derby. Maybe this one is the next Seabiscuit, or even the next John Henry.

What about the lightly raced Indian Express, bred in Utah of all places with a stop over in Panama.

The story will unfold this Saturday, and the two most exciting minutes in sports will provide all the answers and give all the viewers something very special. Be prepared for a "surprise, surprise, surprise."