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Monday
Mar142011

Keep Your Tickets

If you did not know by now, please note that we view Triple Crown season with exceeding seriousness around here.  We class it up.  I get a new hat, The Readers strongly consider bathing, and the staff upgrades the stock from Wild Irish Rose to Arbor Mist.  It is a gentle time, fresh with spring and squirt cheese right out of a brand-new can.

If you don't normally follow Thoroughbred racing and are wondering why we're busying ourselves in this fashion in mid-March, realize that in order to gather a Kentucky Derby field, Churchill Downs does not simply cram the first twenty horses who happen to wander down I-75 into a gate.  Horses must earn their way in through prep races, one of which is the esteemed Tampa Bay Derby. 

The Tampa Bay Derby is much like the Kentucky Derby, with the somewhat minor exceptions that the official drink is Natty Lite instead of the mint julep, chances that Michael Jordan will be in attendance are relatively slim, and you are going to be watching warmed-over SportsCenter fourth stringers on TVG instead of GARY STEVENS! on NBC.  Oh, and also, nobody cares.

That means it's perfect for us:

-We begin at the official POST of my bachelorettehood, Tampa Bay Downs.  The last time I attended the Tampa Bay Derby, the horse who won totally, utterly, and completely lost the Kentucky Derby.  Pat Day was riding.  As he is infallible, this was clearly my fault.  Today I watch from a safe, relatively non-threatening distance of about 500 miles.

It is not enough.

-Footage from Tampa Bay Downs is always distinguishable from that of other tracks because seagulls are constantly freaking out and wheeling out of the frame as the horses thunder past.  You'd think they'd have learned by now, but no.  Seagulls like Natty Lite as much as the next upstanding citizen.

-Here's another sign you're watching TVG: The ticker at the bottom of the screen is running odds from races round the country rather than truly important news bulletins out of the Worldwide Second By Second National Update Center on the Life, Times, and VD Status of the Cast of Jersey Shore.

-Wha... I am at a loss here.  While waiting for the Tampa Bay Derby to begin, they're showing another race entirely.  I am flummoxed.  And outraged.  How am I going to know what Smokey Robinson thinks about anything?  You people know absolutely nothing about how to properly broadcast a horse race.

-Please no.  Don't show the crowd.

...Oh wait, that's the 2:30 PM line for the Early Bird Dinner Special at Morrison's Cafeteria.  Never mind.

-There's actually quite a bit of money getting laid down on this race.  Word got out on the wicked awesome hot dogs served up at the BP at the highway exit down the block.

-Your favorite is 2010 Derby winner SuperSaver's half-brother, Brethren, who pricks his ears into the camera.  If horses had dimples, he'd totally be flashing them right now.  Not unlike Justin Timberlake, he's simply adorable, and he knows it, which makes him 1) a candidate for his own reality show 2) and therefore not to be trusted.

-Much discussion of Brethren trainer Todd Pletcher.  (Hey!  Has he won a Triple Crown race yet?)  The watershed moment of the feature is a zoom-out of Todd beginning with the four-color pen in his hand.  Oh snap, four colors?  That's some pretty staggering trainer glam right there.  I bet Baffert sees this and is all, "Well, who can possibly compete with that?"

-Maybe it's because I was just watching footage of Secretariat laying it down, but Brethren looks like he was foaled out of a Newborn My Little Pony box, only somewhat more realistically colored.  He is tiny.

-It is confirmed by the anchors that as far as Todd Pletcher is concerned, "when he shows up, he shows up."  There's your doom, Todd, for you and your four color pen.  Enjoy.

-The Timely Writer Stakes, won in convincing fashion by Breeders' Cup Juvie champ Uncle Mo, is rebroadcast.  The whole thing, too.  And then we are reminded, once again, that This Is TVG:  It is gaily announced that "if we were to have the opportunity to have (owner) Mike Repole on the line, he would be very pleased with what he saw."  But we... don't.  I mean, we tried calling, but it just went right to voicemail.  Mike has emailed us that he'll text later about whether or not he'll maybe think on maybe calling us back.

-See, I do not understand why more people don't demand that TVG become part of basic cable.  Here's your Expert Analysis on the Timely Writer:  "I think that was a perfect prep race.  Because, it was an easy one, yes, but he had to work just enough, I think, to make it a legitimate race.  It wasn't just a walk in the park-- I mean, it was kind of, but at least Rattlesnake Joe--  or Rattlesnake Bridge, excuse me..."  Back to you, anchors Candice Cameron and Scott Baio!

-I have never heard a commentary team which openly hates one another quite as much as these three.  During the desk-chat shot, they were constantly undercutting one another, and not in the fun, frat house, gonna-taze-you-bro fashion, either.  This is full on hhhhhaaaaaaaaaaate, to the point where I almost wish they'd cut away from the post parade and back to the desk in the hopes that some outright groin-punching breaks out.

-There's a colt in this race named Economic Summit.  Good call, owners.  "Let's make our Derby hopeful sound like a C-SPAN hearing!  People will swarm to buy the tee shirt!"

-By the way, there's no beating Brethren today!  Not with Todd Pletcher and his perfectly performing Derby hopefuls, no siree!

-We are reminded that we are "rockin' with the best-- TVG!"  Lines are open for Mike Repole, plus some requests and dedications, right after traffic on the 7's.

-Holy frickin' crap, Moonhanger flips in the gate, right in front of the Early Bird Special line and Todd Pletcher and everybody

-Jock Carlos Marquez is tossed but okay.  Oh geez, that was ugly.  In horseracing?  Hooves perpendicular to the ground is a bad thing.

-Everybody hangs out in the gate.  Stewardesses pass around SkyMall and bags of tiny little pretzels.  Brethren orders a SlumberSleeve.

-Horses movin' on the Redneck Riviera

-Moonhanger, having failed to exit the gate backwards, is now doing his level best to put some distance between himself and it in the opposite direction.  Whelp, that's one way to get a pacesetter.

-The one-two tracker at the bottom of the screen is priceless:  1-2 Brethren barely leads the 86-1 Crimson Knight.  Somebody screengrab this and make it all the world's wallpaper.

-Frickin' match race between Crimson Knight, once a claimer, and  Watch Me Go.  Brethren hangs in for a few strides and then is all. "Whatever, is my SlumberSleeve here yet?"

-Watch Me Go is trained by a person with a uterus.  Aw crap, is he in the Derby now?  NBC immediately parachutes a feature film crew into the infield. 

-The anchors turn their Hate Guns from one another and fully onto Brethren jockey Ramon Dominguez.  WHAT WAS HE THINKING?!  WHAT WAS HE DOING, BEING OVERCONFIDENT LIKE THAT?!  HOW COULD HE POSSIBLY GET OVERCONFIDENT, THERE ON HIS 1-2 HORSE WITH HIS  UNDEFEATED RECORD AND HIS DIMPLES AND HIS TRAINER'S FOUR-COLOR PEN?!

-Two grand exacta.  Early Bird at Morrison's is on me!  Feel free to order a drink instead of asking for water, even!

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