In race for greatness, `Derek' lagging far behind Barbaro

May 19, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK | PETER SCHMUCK,SUN COLUMNIST

I just want to make sure everyone remembers that I was on the Barbaro bandwagon from the start. I picked the horse to win the Kentucky Derby and I declared him a "mortal lock" to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed right after Edgar Prado rode him to a resounding victory at Churchill Downs.

My confidence hasn't wavered over the past two weeks, even though some members of the horse racing glitterati have become enamored of Brother Derek, the morning-line Derby favorite who got hung out to dry in the 18th post and rallied to finish in a dead heat for fourth place.

Barbaro, according to the skeptics, had a perfect ride, which may be true. He also is undefeated in six starts and won the Derby by the biggest margin in 60 years (6 1/2 lengths), which ought to count for something.

Of course, my stubborn insistence that the horse is unbeatable should come as great news to the owners of the other eight horses running in tomorrow's Preakness, because my ability to pick horses ranks only slightly ahead of my wife's ability to pick husbands - and, on that count, let's just say she's still talking about a couple of rich claimers that got away.

Can't believe I missed Wednesday night's SportsCenter at the Preakness Draw at the ESPN Zone. The event used to be known as the "Pill Party," but that moniker no longer seems appropriate in this era of illicit performance-enhancing drugs.

Last year, I went to the draw and met Miss Preakness, who looked at me funny when I mentioned what a coincidence it was that the race organizers always seemed to find a pretty, unmarried girl with the last name Preakness. I guess my sense of humor is lost on the horse racing crowd.

Now that I mention it, I think it also is lost on the beauty pageant crowd, considering the dustup I had with Miss USA pageant officials at last year's touch football event with the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

I did make a couple of Preakness-related events yesterday. ESPN commentator Kenny Mayne was honored at the annual Alibi Breakfast with an Old Hilltop Award and deadpanned a very funny acceptance speech.

"George Washington was a member of the Maryland Jockey Club," Mayne said. "You don't think George Washington would have installed slot machines if he could? They just didn't have the technology."

Mayne also may have echoed the mixed feelings of a lot of race fans with his good wishes for a Triple Crown.

"Good luck to Barbaro ... but not at 2-to-5," he said. "You're on your own with that. We'll have our money elsewhere, but we'll be the first ones up if he does it."

WBAL vice president and station manager Jeff Beauchamp received the Old Hilltop Special Award of Merit to recognize his longtime emphasis on Preakness coverage, which has garnered the station six Eclipse Awards. Beauchamp told me yesterday that he grew up a racing fan and spent many a happy afternoon at the track with his father.

This probably explains why Beauchamp is a lot better at picking horses than he is at picking morning sports guys.

Yes, that was another shot at WBAL microphone mangler Jerry Coleman. I just can't help myself.

I could have sworn I saw him out at the stables trying to interview Sweetnorthernsaint yesterday ... and the horse saying, "What kind of question is that?"

Trainer Dan Hendricks said yesterday that his confidence in Brother Derek is based on a fairly simple principle:

"We'll only have to run a mile and 3/16 this time," he said.

Brother Derek started so far outside in the Derby and had to run six wide for so long, he probably ran significantly farther than Barbaro to get to the finish line in the 1 1/4 -mile race. They'll leave the gate side-by-side out of the fifth and sixth slots tomorrow.

I made my racing debut as a crab jockey yesterday at the Lexington Market's Celebrity Blue Crab Derby, during which local media and business types race blue crabs in an attempt to win a $500 donation to a local charity.

Unfortunately, I was assigned the only crab who had signed a Do Not Resuscitate order before the race and finished behind just about everybody but Sun food columnist Rob Kasper, whose crab featured an aromatic combination of spices certain to please the palate.

The winner was Ron Kreitner, the executive director of Westside Renaissance, whose crab crushed the competition so convincingly that there was a hint of scandal.

"His crab was on the juice," said Baltimore Magazine's Max Weiss. "It's obviously just a little more than a coincidence that the guy with the Westside Renaissance wins the crab derby."

Kreitner, who donated his winnings to Health Care for the Homeless, declined to comment.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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