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Derby lead may have come in Arkansas

Apr 13, 2004 3:06 AM

With three weeks left till the Kentucky Derby, this week’s big Derby preps may have finally shed some light on one of horse racing’s biggest prizes.

In the Arkansas Derby undefeated Smarty Jones, the Pennsylvania bred not being ridden by Jerry Bailey or Pat Day but with Stewart Elliot up, overcame a wide trip and just ran another huge race. Smarty will be the first colt headed to the Derby undefeated since the great Seattle Slew won in 1977 and went on to capture the Triple Crown and become one of horse racing’s greatest studs.

Also if Smarty Jones wins the KD he will receive a $5 million bonus for taking the Rebel and Arkansas Derby. Who would have thought this could happen to this once lowly that at one time was called Quasimodo. Reason being his face was so disfigured after he smashed his head and face in a starting gate incident last spring. They weren’t even sure they could save his left eye and he had multiple fractures of his skull. Well that’s all history and now we have a colt that everyone has fallen in love with.

In the Wood all three horses ran big races and especially the winner Tapit who came from dead last on a speed-favoring track to charge up and snap the win from a very game Master David. David also ran a huge race while stuck down on the rail trying to fight off Eddington and never say Tapit coming. David needed this race and will be a force on Derby day. I think these two will both be right there and part of the picture.

The Blue Grass at Keeneland was won in fine fashion by The Cliff’s Edge who always seems to put in his late run. Several horses disappointed in this race. Action This Day continued his no running ways and may not even make it to the Derby. Preachinatthebar was close up early but faded badly and may not have enough earnings or stamina to go. Limehouse also did not run as anticipated and Lion Heart had no excuses. So the Edge was the only horse in this field I would even consider.

Monkey lifted from Phil

How about that Mickelson winning the green jacket, finally! What a popular victory! I was in the book betting some ponies and watching the Masters when he sunk that put and the place just went wild. There may be no stopping him now that the monkey is off his back.

Speaking about golf, it is so different than all other major sports. Golf is an honorable game, with the overwhelming majority of players being honorable people who don’t need refs. Golfers don’t have players in jail every week. They don’t scratch their privates on the course. They are compensated in direct proportion to how well they play.

They don’t get free air travel on charter flight when traveling between tournaments. They don’t hold out for more money, or demand new contracts because of another player’s deal. Pro golfers don’t demand that we the taxpayers pay for the courses on which they play. In fact the PGA Tour raises more money for charity in one year then the NFL does in two.

You can watch the best golfers in the world up close, at any tournament, including the majors, all day, every day for $25 or $30. The cost for a seat in the nosebleed section at the Super Bowl will cost around $300 and up. You can bring a picnic lunch to the course, watch the best and not spend a small fortune on food and drink. Try that at one of the taxpayer-funded baseball or football stadiums.

In golf you cannot fail 70 percent of the time and make $9 million a season, like the best hitters in baseball. Golf doesn’t change its rules to attract fans. They have to adapt to an entirely new playing area each week and they actually keep their clothes on while being interviewed.

In their prime, greats like Norman, Palmer, Nicklaus and others would shake your hand and say they were happy to meet you. In his prime Jose Canseco wore T-shirts that read "Leave Me Alone." Tiger Woods can hit a golf ball three times as far as Barry Bonds can hit a baseball.

Finally, here is a slice of golf history you may not know. Why do full-length courses have 18 holes, and not 20 or 10 or even a dozen? During a discussion among the club’s membership board at St. Andrews in 1858, one of the members pointed out that it takes exactly 18 shots to polish off a fifth of Scotch. By limiting himself to only one shot of Scotch per hole, the Scot figured a round of golf was finished when the Scotch ran out. Now you know how they came up with 18-hole courses.