The years of 2003 through 2009 were spent watching the Derby in various locales including Puerto Aventuras, Mexico; Las Vegas; Jefferson Downs OTB; and at home with a friends having a Derby Party.
In 2003, I saw Funny Cide run in the Louisiana Derby and wasn’t impressed. I was impressed with Empire Maker – a horse trained by Bobby Frankel – but his odds were too low so it is with great regret that I admit my pick for the 2003 Derby was Ten Cents a Shine. And, that’s all I have to say about that.
2004 found the Beychoks in a newly discovered locale called Puerto Aventuras. This little city is located about 40 miles south of Cancun, Mexico and is the only open water port between Cancun and Belize. I grew up going to Cozumel in the 1970s when Cozumel didn’t have cruise ships and the restaurants had dirt floors. We were scuba divers and we would go anywhere to dive a reef including the Red Sea in Israel. Cozumel got discovered however and became too commercialized for my tastes so I was always on the look out for a small town that was rustic enough to give a flavor of the country you were visiting and Puerto Aventuras had it all. Small restaurants, houses on the beach and people that actually spoke Spanish.
My wife and I and other couples were in Puerto Aventuras for a vacation that happened to fall on Derby Day. I was able to bet through finding a hard line modem at an “internet café” – remember those – earlier in the day and I bet on Lion Heart. It was not that I didn’t like Smarty Jones just that his odds were low. I did have the exacta however.
For my family it wasn’t unusual to be somewhere on a holiday like New Years or Easter. For our family, we often found ourselves out of town or country during Passover. As I said we were divers and nearly every year while I was a teenager we would get in the plane with my dad and six teens and go off to dive. My father would have pre-planned for this and we held many Seders in remote locations with our friends looking on and participating. One of the most memorable was in Ambergris Cay, Belize where we were staying in huts and all meals were served in a kitchen hut. My dad arranged to have some private time and we did a Seder in about 30 minutes – at the time a family record. Ambergris Cay is another one of those places that have grown up since the 70s into a commercial operation but back then there were two places to stay. Ramón’s on one end of the island and Paradise on the other. Ramón’s was nicer but Paradise had a small bar hut. You could walk from one end of the island to another andduring one of those walks through town where we may or may not have all worn our underwear on our heads we saw a basketball court right in the middle of town and right on the ocean where there was a constant game going on. Now, we were junior and seniors in high school. There was a lot of testosterone between us. My brother was an all-district basketball player and the rest of us were just athletes. So, we had a few Red Stripes in us and challenged the local team to a game. They readily accepted. It was set for later that afternoon so we went back to our huts got on some tennis shoes, had a few more beers and went back to the little cement court by the ocean – and there were hundreds of people there now. We played a game in front of what could have been the whole town and it was rough and tumble. I could hear the sound of switchblades being opened up and closed while we played. I’m not sure whether we won or lost but since we didn’t get beat up or cut up I’m thinking we lost. We ended up going into town to a local party where we drank rum and ate something grilled on an open fire until the sun came up.
2005 was one of those years where I had my Derby horse early in the year and you are not going to believe who it was – Giacomo. But, there is more to the story. After seeing Giacomo run in the Hollywood Futurity where he made such a nice run to be second and knowing his trainer would not have him fully cranked as a two year old I had my Derby horse. But, Giacomo was disappointing as a three year old. A fourth place finish in the Santa Anita Derby ended my relationship with Giacomo although I did have a keepsake to remember him by – a future bet in the Twinspires future pool I made in one of the early pools. So, that was nice. I watched the Derby with a friend at the Jefferson Downs OTB. I think I had Noble Causeway. As the horses crossed the line we both looked at each other and asked “who was that” as the sound wasn’t that good in the place and someone said Giacomo. I paused for a few seconds and then stood up and said, “ I got that!” remembering just then I had a future bet on him. Now, I will tell you that my odds on the future bet were lower than his off odds making it a pretty poor bet but when that money showed up in my account I wasn’t thinking about that – I was thinking I should have stuck with him.
In 2006 I was in Vegas to watch the race and we were all over the place in terms of picks that year. I had Point Determined trying to get Baffert back in the winner’s circle and didn’t really consider Barbaro as I was wrong to think he was a turf horse that found an easy field in the Florida Derby. I was wrong. He was a champion.
2007 was another one of those years where I found my horse early and it seems in those years when I’ve stuck with the horse the results have been pretty good. Street Sense captured me when he won the Breeders Cup Juvenile. Of course it helped that I had a bet on him that day but I thought that if he could hold his form together then he could duplicate that performance over the same track six months later. And, I happened to be right this time as Street Sense paid a nice 11.80 to win and Nafzger got his second Derby win.
2008 was Big Brown’s year and I didn’t like him but it was more not liking or having a disdain for the connections. I knew without seeing the actual event that Dick Dutrow was cheating the system by using illegal drugs. His results with newly obtained horses were out of the realm of possibilities in terms of winning. So, when he got Big Brown to run those big figures it just pissed me off. I wasn’t betting on him in the Derby even though I would bet on a Dutrow horse in a claiming race at Belmont during the week. It was just different to me. Big Brown was a good horse that Dutrow made into a great performer using drugs. So, I didn’t bet on Big Brown in the Derby. My pick was Court Vision. But, when Dutrow somehow admitted that Big Brown did get some clenbuterol and now was off of it I made a big play in the Belmont against him. I even said on a radio show that he would not run in the money. I hit the race pretty hard because I used nearly every combo except having Big Brown in the mix. I have to admit I was happy he didn’t win the Triple Crown, as it would have been a stain on the sport. Now, I’m not saying Dutrow was a bad trainer. I happen to think he was very good to the horses and that was his life but he was working around the edges and sometimes went over the edge and that has been borne out.
2009 was a crazy Derby result. The track came up sloppy – the horses were slow going in and the result was unexpected. Looking back now at the entrants none of them really distinguished themselves outside of their age group moving forward. But, we did have a lovely Derby party at the house. I ended up on another Baffert – seems like I default to Baffert when I don’t have a real opinion – hello, 2016. I went to Pioneerofthenile who looked like he had the race won until some bullet found a way up the rail under Calvin Borail/Borel and won the race at 50-1.
Derby Record 30-5-11-1 = 119.69/43.60 profit for a $ 2 dollar win bet