The Tampa Bay Derby was, perhaps, last Saturday’s most dramatic race, and one can look at Odysseus’ win two ways – as a horse who gets himself into trouble (but still manages to win), or as a horse who fights to win despite the odds. The latter is a more interesting story, so we’ll be sticking with that one; it’s hard to recall a more exciting finish to a Derby prep. Of course, the horse also highlights the apparent lack of classical knowledge in modern America – why should it be so difficult to pronounce his name? Did no one ever read The Iliad or The Odyssey? I don’t demand that they be read in Greek or even in a boring Loeb or Chapman edition, but come on – at least the CliffsNotes of another English translation? I have a sneaking suspicion that the Latin version, Ulysses, would be just as complicated, despite a president so named being pictured on the $50 bill. Sigh.
That aside, I am thrilled that Odysseus seems to be the real deal – now I can refer to him undertaking Sisyphean tasks, or I can point out that Heinrich Schliemann dug through Homeric Troy (or, if you prefer, Ilion), or that Charles Maclaren identified Hisarlik as Troy long before Schilemann…the possibilities are endless! I don’t get to use my archaeology degrees very often, so this is a rare moment of excitement – if someone would name a horse after something Minoan, Mycenaean or Hallstatt-related, that would be lovely; I’d have a lot more sympathy with race callers having difficulty with a horse named Býčí Skála (although I would secretly enjoy it).
Of course, he was not the only promising 3-year-old in action last weekend; Lookin At Lucky’s win in the Rebel demonstrated that he’s back this year in good form – trainer Bob Baffert joked:
“It’s got to make you [Turf writers] feel better for voting for him for champion two-year-old. We watched Rachel Alexandra get beat, and you think, ‘Oh, I hope that’s not us.’ It’s horse racing, so anything can happen. That’s the beauty of it.”
It was encouraging to see him win on conventional dirt at Oaklawn, but the California race he defected from, the San Felipe, was very interesting as well. Sidney’s Candy was a deserving winner, but Interactif and Caracortado both had wide trips but finished well; American Lion looked like the distance was perhaps a bit much for him. The question remains how they will all fare on traditional dirt, but hopefully we’ll get a chance to see them give that a shot before May.
We’ll look more at the Florida Derby later this week - Eskenderya is out to try the Wood Memorial instead, and Rule is looking to take his place as the Big Horse in the field, which will also include Lentenor, with Alan Garcia aboard…