Q&A with The Sun's Tom Keyser

The Sun's horse racing reporter answers readers' questions

May 04, 2004|By Baltimoresun.com Staff

Tom Keyser has been covering horse racing for The Sun for the past eight years.

R. Plociennik, Pasadena: During the prelude to this year's Derby, seems I took favorite to the underdogs: Smarty Jones and Pollard's Vision. I'm thrilled for Smarty, but what's the scoop on Pollard...and do you think he'll be in the Preakness or Belmont?

Keyser: Todd Pletcher, trainer of Pollard's Vision, says the colt won't run in either the Preakness or Belmont. He says he'll try to find easier spots for Pollard's Vision. The Ohio Derby might be the next likely ace, he says. I took to the underdogs, too. I went to Louisville figuring to pick against Smarty Jones, but I became captivated by the horse, his story and Sherry and John Servis, who were delightful. I don't think I 've ever seen anyone in racing deal with the press and public more affably than John Servis did. He and Sherry have been married 23 years and seem to get along great. That's saying something in this day and age. As for Pollard's Vision, I met him in March at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida. I talked with two of his exercise riders, one of whom is Angel Cordero Jr., and they said he's a pleasure to ride. They swore they don't ride him any differently than any other horse, but to me, I think if I was riding a horse who was blind in one eye I'd constantly keep that in mind. I was hoping he'd do better in the Derby. Pletcher says he thought the slop would help Pollard's Vision, but as it turned out, he didn't handle it, just as several other Derby horses didn't. I'll tell you, it poured a couple of hours before the race - buckets and buckets, with wind and lightning so close it crackled.

Bob K, Hunt Valley: What are the specifics on Quintons Gold Rush? Did he cross the finish line with a rider? What happened?

Keyser: This is so funny. I got three phone calls asking the same thing, and now I get this. I don't know whether Quintons Gold Rush crossed the finish line or not. I asked Barbara Livingston, a photographer who was on the finish line, and she says she's pretty sure he did. She remembers seeing him in the frantic moments after the race when the photographers scramble to get into position to photograph the winner coming back. However, because that time is so crazy, and because she wasn't paying particular attention to Quintons Gold Rush, she says she can say with only 80-percentcertainty that he crossed the finish line with his rider.

Bill, Towson: Had it been a fast track last Saturday at the Kentucky Derby, do you think the results would have changed? If so, which horse do you think might have won?

Keyser: I honestly don't know. Smarty Jones might have won anyway. He looked unbeatable. I think it's safe to say horses such as Tapit and The Cliff's Edge would have run better. In fact, all the closers probably would have run better. As you know, a track like that favors speed. You've got to feel for the closers back there getting mud kicked in their faces for a mile and a quarter. I wish the track had been dry so we could have seen more of the horses at their best. This was such an interesting Derby because it seemed so wide open; so many things could have happened. Let's hope the weather's nice for the Preakness and Belmont. Still, it's a shame we couldn't see that intriguing Derby field race over a dry track. We'll never know what might have happened then.

Tom, Aberdeen: With only two of the top five [Derby finishers] likely coming to Pimlico, should the Triple Crown be stretched out over a longer period instead?

Keyser: What a battle between tradition and innovation that question raises! I can see both sides of the debate (which is typical for me, and that's why I couldn't be a modern-day columnist). I think it'd be better for the horses if it was stretched out, or even if it was moved back later in the year. But the Triple Crown is one of the few things in racing that works(as far as the public is concerned), so I doubt we'll see it tinkered with anytime soon.

D.D. Hart, Cobb Island: Did Birdstone lose her front or back shoe? What kind of shoes was Smarty Jones wearing?

Keyser: Birdstone lost his left front shoe. I don't know what kind of shoes Smarty Jones was wearing, but I'll try to find out for you.

Michael Kuhn, Glen Burnie: I've been a horse racing fan since the mid 1980's, and I always read your column. My question is about D. Wayne Lukas. Over the years it seems any decent 2 or 3-year-old he's had has been washed up or retired through injury by the time it was 4 years old. The only exception was Serena's Song. Any good older horse he had was because he didn't have it when it was younger. Do you think he was mismanaging Azeri by running her 7 furlongs? She's probably the best female since Bayakoa, but turning a star at 1 1/16 or a 1 1/8 back to 7 furlongs is ridiculous. He seemed to want to say it was to get her exposure on Derby day, but that isn't right. I know he has credentials, but what is your opinion of him?

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