“[W]e have still not reached the end of our trials. One more labor lies in store—boundless, laden with danger, great and long, and I must brave it out from start to finish“
- Odysseus – The Odyssey (Book 23: The Great Rooted Bed)
It took Homer’s legendary hero Odysseus ten full years to return home to Ithaca following the Trojan War. On Wednesday at Tampa Bay Downs, it took a promising 3-year-old colt of the same name only 1:44.37 to travel 8.5 furlongs while demolishing a field of Allowance runners in impressive fashion. In the process, he may have given us our first glimpse at the 2010 Kentucky Derby winner.
So what do we have here? A legitimate Derby contender or a “Trojan Horse”? It was, after all, the cunning Odysseus who came up with the idea for the famed Trojan Horse ruse (after an unsuccessful attempt involving a hastily constructed “large wooden rabbit”, of course).
Let your eyes do the judging. The replay has not been uploaded yet to Youtube as of this writing, but it is available over at Tampa Bay Downs replay archive. Just click on the date 2/17 and then select the 9th race.
Additionally, the Equibase results chart is available here.
The two races that instantly crept into my mind when viewing this were the first time we saw Curlin in 2007, and Big Brown’s triumphant start to his 2008 campaign. Remember how those horses just looked clearly the best? Obviously the 15 length victory margin over horses of questionable quality should not be overstated, but he sure does look like he’s got “it”, whatever “it” is. Of course, not only does he look magnificent on the track, evidently he also has what it takes under the hood. The famed Steve Haskin from Bloodhorse notes in his latest column that Odysseus has numerous Belmont Stakes winners and an English Triple Crown winner in his first 3 generations.
Only time (and a healthy dose of luck) will tell if he goes on to achieve the kind of glory he seems capable of. The path to the Derby being literred with countless horses who displayed a flash of brilliance, only to wind up forgotten with the passage of time. We all know painfully well that anything can and will happen on the road to the Derby. It does appear, however, that this is a horse you might want to start taking seriously, and is probably worth adding to the old horse watch list over the weekend so that you don’t miss him next time out.
My personal opinion? I don’t think we’ll see him challenged until he faces the cream of the crop at the Grade 1 level. All things being equal, he appears likely to blow right through the Grade 3 level, and probably the Grade 2 level if they chose to give him a run there.
In fact, not only do I think he’s a contender, but I’m officially jumping squarely on the bandwagon (and busting out my trusty “jump to conclusions mat” for good measure). He’s my Derby horse. All the way to the top of the list. There, I said it.
I guess that’s only fitting and proper considering the tagline for this blog is “the odyssey of a horse racing enthusiast and amateur handicapper.”
And to think, all along I thought it was Aspire I was going to have to hitch my wagons to from a nomenclature standpoint.
It’s not that I want to get too carried away with him, but by and large my gut feeling on this year’s crop is that it’s been largely unimpressive thus far. Nobody had blown me away…at least not until Odysseus came along. I think the world of many of this year’s horses, but none of them had left you with that “wow feeling” in the pit of your stomach. I got that “wow” sensation watching this guy run. Now I just have to hope he stays healthy and can live up to those expectations as a potential date with destiny approaches.
Given my lack of recent Derby success, it seems it would take a horse that invokes remembrances of epic heroes and mythical voyages to break the curse that the horse racing gods have placed upon me. That may be what it takes to get one of my Kentucky Derby picks home. It’s become one of those idiosyncrasies that I no longer try to fight. I just accept it, put my head down, and come to the realization that to plow right through is the only option. Suffice to say, I cannot pick a Derby winner to save my life. Ironic (if not Socratically Ironic) given that I always seem to get the Preakness right, but for the life of me picking a Derby winner has been darn near impossible ever since Barbaro.
Let’s review quickly, if only for a lesson in handicapping ineptitude:
- 2006: I liked Barbaro and made him my top pick, but also gave out Bandini as a horse that had to be played. I’m not sure if Bandini has even crossed the finish line yet, all these years later.
- 2007: Obviously I was all about Curlin, although Hard Spun was my 2nd choice. The one horse I was taking a stand against wound up being Street Sense, whose brilliant rail move absolutely crushed the rest of the field. To be honest, huddled around a small monitor without any sound at Pimlico that afternoon, I didn’t even realize that Curlin had fought on for 3rd. Moot point, of course, as he never threatened for the win, but in the end we did get the last laugh in this act.
- 2008: Deciding that Big Brown could not be played at 5/2 breaking from the 20 hole, despite clearly being the best horse in the race, I put my faith in Colonel John and anointed him as the selection. What followed was perhaps the worst race from the Colonel in his entire career.
- 2009: A trifecta of Derby related tragedy and ineptitude, having made Quality Road my top choice several weeks out, only to see him injured and scratched from the race. Without batting an eye, I settled on I Want Revenge, only to find out on Derby morning that he too was a no go. Finally, I went with Friesan Fire, who wound up finishing 19th out of 20th.
Why do I bring the painful history denoted above up? Because this is the year we break through. I’ve consulted the Oracle of Delphi on the mater, and in a hypnotic trance she seemed to suggest something about “a wager on the hero brings gold to the chosen ones.” Of course, she also cautioned me against invading Persia, but you know how Oracles can be.
This much I’m certain of: Odysseus is going to be the horse that gives me a shot to finally pull it off.
Overall, this weekend stands to tell us quite a bit about the rest of the crop, with no shortage of Derby prep races being run across the nation. I’m going with D’funnybone over Radiohead in the Hutcheson and Buddy’s Saint over Pulsion in the Fountain of Youth. Nothing particularly surprising there. The Risen Star looks a bit more wide open to me, with Tempted to Tapit, Ron the Greek, Drosselmeyer, and Discreetly Mine all being possible win candidates. I’m going to be playing Tempted to Tapit as my top choice, but it’s not a confident selection. I guess I’ll take Dublin over Conveyance and Cool Bullet in the rescheduled Southwest Stakes, although again, no where near as confident with that pick as I am with D’funnybone in the Hutcheson or Buddy’s Saint in the Fountain of Youth.
The journey has begun, my friends! After this weekend I’ll start putting together a revolving top 10 list each week. For now though, I’m very curious to know what your opinions on Odysseus may be. Did we see a Derby contender on Wednesday, or is he a Trojan Horse that is being overhyped by folks like me?