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TrackNotes: Evil & Earworms

They ran a race and nobody got hurt, so that's something.

Class willed out as Medina Spirit gave trainer Bob Baffert his record seventh Kentucky Derby victory. Earlier in the day, his Gamine gave him a record-breaker for Grade I wins, after the horse was reinstated to an Oaklawn victory from last year that was drug-disputed by what Baffert called "uncontrollable environmental factors." It never ends.

After Medina's Derby win, even Baffert seemed blasé, as if to say "HA! Chumps" as he walked to the winner's circle.

More later, but television fans were stomped upon by NBC's painful coverage and this wagerer was injured by satanic internet demons, which perhaps could have been anticipated in such close proximity to Churchill Downs Inc.

The break was clean as Hall of Famer for a reason John Velazquez got/let his son of Protonico (Giant's Causeway and Storm Cat on pop's side, which explains it) take the first lead.

Soup and Sandwich followed him and Mandaloun was close as they settled in for the 10-furlong journey. Luckily, some of the bums we talked about trailed. Hot Rod Charlie, who acquitted himself well in the end, had his name called too. How many times? Mandaloun and Florent Geroux tried hard, but he just couldn't catch Medina Spirit, even if they'd have run another furlong, and Baffert's trainee had wired the race.

Medina Spirit paid a healthy $26.20, $12.00 and $7.60 on 12-1 odds. The exotics followed with a $503.60 exacta, $848.84 for the trifecta and $9,456.40 for the super. Mattress king Jim McIngvale of Runhappy fame was gaudily shown making his $2 million bet on the favorite Essential Quality. I'm thinking' it's pretty obscene to be able to bet and lose that kind of money, but maybe that's just me. Mattress Mack does a lot of good things for people, as he must, when non-existent climate change keeps pounding his beloved Houston with hurricanes, flooding and petroleum accidents. Rock Your World finished a bumper-car 17th and he's going to need to get off his knees and run again if we are to have faith in him.

I was happy for my Mandaloun, and Hot Rod Charlie finished third, indicating that this race restored a kind of order in the world when Churchill Downs tries so hard to upset the apple cart every year with such a ridiculous race. Favorite Essential Quality finished fourth, which I think was just about right. Soup and Sandwich faded to 19th. Pole sitter Known Agenda came in ninth and O Besos took fifth. The Preakness will feature a bunch of new shooters. If you want to, remember some of these Derby runners for the summer. If you don't want to, that's alright too.

I'll explain my travails a bit later.

Terrible Tirico
We don't expect much; I was expecting NBC's coverage to be rote and lazy. It was, but it was also even worse.

You be the judge of why MikeTirico still has a job. I guess he did what he was told to do, and it felt like "For this kind of pay, I'll do what I'm told."

His lack of interest and knowledge and even his seeming disdain for horse racing was obvious. His earworm was "some sort of normalcy as a reduced crowd comes back to the Derby." Mike, when you only know three things, maybe it's time to sit down and learn more.

Again, he went nuts for football when they showed Aaron Rodgers lurking on the balcony rail in his super suite. He went nuts when they mentioned, many times, that Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim was part owner of one of the horses. For 260 years, Boeheim has represented to me the dark underbelly of college sports. He just hasn't been caught in any meaningful way.

But the blood coursing through Tirico's veins was OLYMPICS. NBC cut away from pre-race analysis of the Turf Classic entree race into the Derby to talk to a sprinter. Not a 6-furlong horse - an Olympic sprinter. I think Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey were really peeved when they got back to talking about the race. Gary Stevens might have said something if he were there.

NBC is part of the problem when they launder boatloads of money into the bubbling Olympic cesspool, and I get why they were talking about it so much. The Olympics must be stopped, NOW. The best we can do is make sure they are never held in America again.

But Tirico was a kid-in-the-candy-store gleeful shill for an agenda that had nothing to do with American Thoroughbred horse racing. Dennis Green, we know exactly who Mike Tirico is.

The Normalcy Chorus
Gravity. But what Tim Layden does, with the help of a symphony of violins and video images, is very easy to do. Buy into it, give 'em what they want and schmaltz it to Saturn. His "essay" pinkies up, about how Churchill Downs was empty this time last year, created a new victimhood for both himself and the American masses. That's cheap and easy. It's a lot harder to write when you have to deal with the truth.

"A shrine with empty pews. A party with no revelers. A tradition painfully interrupted. We had already begun to long for the undefinable something we call 'normal.'"

Garth, I think I'm gonna hurl! When I see crap like that, I wonder, how much is he getting paid?

Brothers & Britney
Let's go positive for a moment. Commentators like Kenny Rice were right on the edge of pook and reality, scripted. But Donna Brothers asked all the best questions of the winning jockeys in the return to the winner's circle. As usual. You do know she was an accomplished jockey, right? Britney Eurton must have been mortified as Tirico fell back on one of the four or five things he knows about racing and kept mentioning how Britney's father, Peter, is a horse trainer of high skill. But she's a young veteran by now and asked the trainers the right questions too. My friend, The Girl With a System, I'm seriously not kidding, from Wisconsin's Fox Valley, was itching to see what kind of shoes Britney might wear on the trek from the barns, across dirt, to the paddock. We never got to see. As she said, "She's walking with no problems."

Lava, Luis & Belichick
The video features, without Tirico involved, were very good, except for one, which included Tirico.

The piece on Lava Man, who went through claiming and racetrack glory both, was really sweet. His cheap price and personal travails, and race heroics, make his story worth reading. Now, he's a companion and lead pony for current runners, and don't think that's easy. Imagine stepping on the track, which you used to dominate. The heartthrob Kona Gold did the same thing, to the point of helping his charges.

The piece on jock Luis Saez was also sweet, although it failed to mention that his and Maximum Security's disqualification in the 2019 Kentucky Derby was justified. They portrayed him and his horse as the victims, but it was so nice to see his wife and children's support, and the very young daughter sit on top of a horse.

Then, they had a gratuitous video of Bob Baffert and Bill Belichick talking to each other via video about "the numbers." The numbers of championship wins. Tirico moderating, fawningly of course. Baffert was on his ego horse, although it looked like he could see through the concept. Belichick showed how he is really a big horse racing fan and was relaxed and jovial. They should have just let those two jawbone together, but with the amount of money they're paying Tirico, they have to give him something to do.

Betting Bungle
In the "They're Going To Hear From Me Monday Morning" department, my betting platform froze up 27 minutes before the Derby. For you eagle eyes out there, I know I said I would never bet Churchill again. But after much research, I determined that my miserly gold doesn't really reach CDI. And that's all I can say.

But imagine my shock and disappointment of not being able to put in what would have been a sizable bet. I had to jump over to another service I have, but it only had $30 in the bankroll. The best I could do was get in Win and Place on Mandaloun and a couple others. I would have had the top two and the exacta. Funny, I didn't get totally angry. Now I want to see what I can extract from the website.

Our Very Own Evil Incarnate
One more thing, Columbo. There was no mention of the homicide Churchill Downs Inc. is committing on Arlington Park. I didn't expect it. On Friday morning, Fox32 news sent Roseanne Tellez, a very likable person and you should know her story, out to Arlington for a clueless valentine to the track on its opening day.

She clearly doesn't understand the impact of what evil incarnate is doing out there, but she was clearly gobsmacked and giddy over the magnificence of what I will say again is the greatest sporting venue in the world.

The place looked great, to the point of tears. She interviewed Arlington's general manager and rusted horseshoe Tony Petrillo. I kept saying to the screen, here's your question: "What on Earth would possess Churchill Downs Incorporated to close this place? Huh? HUH?"

Instead, because they don't know better, she allowed Petrillo to just say "We'll see what happens."

Petrillo has worked there a long time. He is as responsible for the violent acts CDI has perpetrated on racing, and racing in Illinois, as anybody. With a smile on his face, I couldn't help but wonder how he squares selling his soul to what they're doing. I'm sure money has something to do with it. Does he breeze past the grooms and hot walkers without even acknowledging their existence, if he even goes down there? Paul Lynde for the win, I say yes, he does.

Vexing Valets
Just a minute, ma'am, the valets at Churchill Downs backed down on their threat to strike during the Derby. They're the guys who take care of the jockeys so all they have to worry about is riding. I would kill for that job. What an opportunity wasted! I don't get it.


Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

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