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Giacomo proves luck a big part of Derby

Last Wednesday morning ‘ while on my way to pick up my aunt, Meg, for our annual Derby-week trip to Churchill Downs ‘ I made a call to the Bob Valvano Show.
The sports-themed show, which broadcasts on AM-790, is second in entertainment value only to the Joe B. (Hall) and Denny (Crum) Show, which broadcasts on the same station immediately following Valvano’s.
Valvano’s schtick-of-the-day was a call-in game where the 20 Kentucky Derby contenders were eliminated one by one until a show ‘favorite’ was declared.
My pick that morning to be kicked out of the mix was Nick Zito’s Sun King. Valvano (highly) questioned the nomination and I told him on the air that the Kentucky Derby winner is not always the best horse or the winner of a race in Arkansas or some other prep race. While it takes some skill to win the Derby, it also takes a ton of luck.
He down-played the luck factor and moved on to the next caller.
Later, he almost kept Sun King in so he could toss out a different horse of his own choosing.
Sorry, Bobby V., but I told you so.
I’m not going to lie and say that I thought Giacomo had a snowball’s chance to win the Derby, but I certainly didn’t think it would be Bellamy Road, Afleet Alex, Bandini or any of the other ‘sure bets,’ either.
With 10 entries, luck is a factor. With 20, it’s the factor.
Horses in the Derby have never raced a mile and a quarter. They’ve never been in a race with 19 other competitors. They’ve never raced in front of the same crowd that they do on the first Saturday in May.
Even with today’s high-tech breeding practices, it’s no coincidence the record for the Derby’s mile-and-a-quarter is still standing more than three decades after Secretariat crossed the line in 1:59 2/5.
Secretariat was a great thoroughbred, but was he really that great? Apparently so.
And so long as breeders continue to go for speed, instead of endurance, the chance of getting another Triple Crown winner gets slimmer and slimmer, while getting long-shots like Giacomo to come in will happen more and more.
— A tip of the hat goes out to my cousin, Mary Lois Mercer, for picking Giacomo in the Derby.
Not only did she and her husband, Todd, put $2 to win on Giacomo, but they put $2 across the board!
That’s almost $170 smackaroos for a $6 bet, if you are counting … and they certainly are.
In Derby tradition, there’s always a story behind the story.
In late October, Mary Lois’ brother, Tommy, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.
I found out on Oct. 22, the night of Corydon Central’s sectional football game against Greensburg, and the news hit me like a ton of bricks.
Tommy and I were like two peas in a pod growing up. When the two of us were together on my great-grandfather’s Nicholasville (Ky.) farm during summer vacation or Spring Break, there was constant hi-jinks.
I won’t go into details, but two of the best stories had to do with an old gasoline pump and Poor Pa’s large fireplace; and a fidgety old television that had the dial and tuner go berserk if you turned it too fast. There was never a dull moment when we were together.
So how did Mary Lois pick Giacomo?
Yesterday, May 10, Tommy would have celebrated his 32nd birthday.
Giacomo wore the the No. 10 cloth in the Derby, coming in with 50-1 odds.
And as Tommy loved to say, ‘Every day is Christmas.’
— My take on Churchill Downs’ kabillion-zillion dollar renovation: extremely nice, but haven’t I been here before?
Add a few slot machines, some roulette tables and a couple of dealers and I’d swear I was on the Glory Of Rome riverboat at Caesars Indiana.
The new duds at Churchill are spectacular, with the restaurant, ‘Silks,’ being my favorite place to take in a race.
‘Silks’ overlooks the paddock area, and there’s quick access to the food court and the front-stretch box seats to see the finish line.
I’m no high-stakes gambler (the track only got $17 from me … I’ve fared worse at a movie theater), but the track’s new look is enough to keep me coming back.
— A couple of weeks ago, I finally made it up to Allen’s Market in Palmyra for the annual David Minter Scholarship Dinner.
The fund-raiser ‘ which benefits student-athletes each year at North Harrison High School ‘ been held each year since Minter’s tragic death in 1998 in an automobile accident.
Former North Harrison boys basketball coach Ken Oppel got the chicken and pork barbeque dinner started, and each year I tried to make it, but couldn’t for one reason or another.
I certainly won’t miss it any more.
The portions were plentiful for the price ($6), not to mention the money goes to a great cause, and the food was awesome.
‘Mrs. Wolsiefer’s Home Economics class made around 15 dozen cookies and 1st Harrison Bank, Scott Auto Sales and Barry McAfee/Shelter Insurance donated money,’ Oppel said. ‘Allen’s Grocery (Scott Trowbridge owner), takes care of all of our supplies, St. Michael’s Card Party donated many desserts, Ron Smith and his barbeque crew donate all of their time, Harvey Trowbridge donates his time to do the barbeque sauce, Scott Trowbridge and I try to put things together, Michael Rawert, Jordan Churchill, Daniel Priddy and Stewart Wenning did much of the labor.
‘Diane Senn cuts and stacks all of the desserts. Here at school, many teachers donate desserts or money In general, there are many, many people involved to put this program on.’