2013 Kentucky Derby Preview

Due to circumstances beyond our control, ALDLAND’s coverage of this year’s Kentucky Derby will be significantly more limited than it was for last year’s. Among other things, this means that there is no planned live blogging of the race.

Instead, the following is available for your prerace enjoyment:

  • A story about William Faulkner at the 1955 DerbyLouisville; and
  • The last video footage ever taken of Secretariat:

Enjoy the race tomorrow.

Churchill Downs to initiate NASCAR-like regular season in 2013

The Courier-Journal reports:

In one of the most significant changes in the 139-year history of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs will determine the 20-horse field for next year’s event through points accrued in selected prep races.

The points system, to be known as the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and intended to build advance fan interest, will begin this fall, with 2-year-olds able to earn points for the May 4 Derby in designated races.

Churchill’s management believes the new structure, which it plans to announce today, organizes the preps into the equivalent of a regular season and playoffs, to which fans can relate. Ever since the field has been limited to 20 horses, some form of earnings has been used to determine the field. Since 1986, Churchill has used graded-stakes earnings.

The plan calls for 36 races, as opposed to about 185 races worldwide that counted toward Derby selection under the previous arrangement.

The campaign of races leading up to the Derby is being divided into four phases with different point scales.

The first is called the Kentucky Derby Prep Season, typically spanning stakes from late September through late February. That will offer a 10-4-2-1 point scale for the top four finishers.

Next is the first of a three-phase Kentucky Derby Championship Season, which typically will span the 10-week run-up to the Derby. Races in the first phase of the Championshp [sic] Season will offer a 50-20-10-5 point scale.

That’s followed by the most important part of the Championship Season. These races will encompass the biggest events: the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby, Toyota Blue Grass and Louisiana Derby, while also including the $2 million UAE Derby in Dubai. Those races will offer a 100-40-20-10 point scale.

Finally, there’s a last chance “wild-card setup” — Keeneland’s Lexington Stakes two weeks before the Derby and Churchill Downs’ opening-night Derby Trial a week before the Run for the Roses. Those points (20-8-4-2) could put a “bubble” horse over the top.

I like this idea. I don’t know if the audience for horse racing is growing, and I suspect it is not, but this will help in two ways: 1) it will help people focus on and understand the value and importance of certain pre-Derby races, and 2) it will enhance the experience of watching the Derby and the other Triple Crown races by contextualizing them, familiarizing fans with the participants further in advance of the big races. The further hope is that this will lead to broader television coverage. I look forward to learning more about Saratoga, Santa Anita, Arkansas, and, of course, Keenland. Not so much Pantoji.

To what we’re (sort of) listening during the Derby: Stephen Stills and Jerry Garcia

Plenty of people have made good listening suggestions for Derby day (HT: @amention, who also gave us yesterday’s timely jam), but two of the musical selections I most associate with horse racing are strikingly mediocre offerings by two top-tier musicians.

First up is Stephen Stills’ Thoroughfare Gap, a 1978 release that is the lowest-rated of all Stills’ albums on AllMusic. Usually thorough (sorry), AMG’s review is a mere two sentences long: “A rather poor attempt of Stephen Stills’ to adapt to the disco/dance craze. Includes lame covers of Buddy Holly (‘Not Fade Away’) and Gregg Allman (‘Midnight Rider’) along with the semi-hit title track.” Click here for a live take of that title track in which the Texan sounds alternatively tired and British, although his acoustic guitar is expectedly dexterous.

Jerry Garcia’s 1982 Run For The Roses received a few more lines in its AllMusic review, but it really isn’t any more glowing, beginning by noting that it’s the last release for the Jerry Garcia Band and “sadly, it is also Garcia’s most lightweight effort as a bandleader,” and including adjectives like “marginal,” “impotently executed,” “underachieving,” and, with respect to the cover art (pictured above, right), “disconcerting.” Like Thoroughfare Gap, the title track is the best-regarded selection on Run For The Roses. Here‘s a lazy live version from an undated JGB performance.

What’s playing in the background of your Derby party?

…and down the stretch they come: ALDLAND’s 2012 Kentucky Derby Preview

Horse racing is an intriguing pairing of human and bestial talent. And money. The preparation that lasts years is tested in two minutes. Like any endeavour that involves large amounts of resources, extensive preparation, and flashpoint testing, predictability is highly prized. Here, however, it remains elusive. It is that absence of ultimate predictability, however, that keeps the sport and its accordant culture alive.

Since my only possible qualifications for writing a substantive post on horse racing at this juncture come from an evening watching harness racing at Vernon Downs five years ago and spending last week in Lexington, during which I saw plenty of horses and horse farms, but no horse racing, let me direct you to a collection of stories and other online features that will help you get ready for this year’s Kentucky Derby:

Beyond this pre-race coverage (such as it is), we will be live blogging the event beginning sometime on Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned for more details.

Finally, my win-place-show prediction, based on the same thing for which war is good, is:

  1. Union Rags
  2. Gemologist
  3. Take Charge Indy

Two other horses to watch are Daddy Long Legs and Bodemeister. Of course, you can watch all of them at once, and I’d advise that. It isn’t too difficult.

No matter what your style, be sure to check back here on Saturday afternoon for ALDLAND’s live blog of the 2012 Kentucky Derby.