I was glad to see Mike Luzzi get the Grade I win on Daaher in the Cigar Mile; for some reason, I have this image of Luzzi as some kind of underdog, trying to scratch out a living on the tough New York circuit. This impression was sustained at least in part by his riding at Saratoga last summer, as he was the last regular rider at the meet to get a win, and it came in the fourth or fifth week.
So after seeing him get the win on Saturday, I decided to do a little research, and while Luzzi is not up there with Gomez, Velazquez, and Desormeaux, I don’t feel quite so sorry for him. Luzzi comes from a horse racing family and won the Eclipse Award in 1989 as the top apprentice jock in the country. In 2001, the New York Racing Association voted him the recipient of the Mike Venezia Memorial Award, which goes to the jockey who exemplifies extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship [NTRA].
And his win in the Cigar was hardly his first Grade I; he won the 2006 Frizette with Sutra, and the 2006 Apple Blossom and Go for Wand with Todd Pletcher’s Spun Sugar. 2006 was quite a year, as he also won the Grade III Stuyvesant on Accountforthegold and the Grade II Kelso on Ashkal Way.
Luzzi also seems to be one of the good guys; he rode a friend of mine’s horse at Belmont and was incredibly gracious to us while we were in the paddock, and he was an active participant in the two charity events I attended in Saratoga last summer, the jockeys’ basketball game to benefit Andrew Lakeman and the benefit for the Belmont Child Care Association.
On another jockey note: I know that following his win in the Derby, Calvin Borel became America’s newest folk hero, the embodiment of the American Dream who overcame hardship and a lack of education to win racing’s most glorious title and dine at the White House. You will, I fear, color me cynical, but I was one of the apparently few not enraptured by Borel’s victory antics. Does a fellow have a right to exult after winning the Derby as he did? Sure. Absolutely.
But I’m a fan of modesty, and of not gloating, and of the “act like you’ve been there before” comment attributed to any one of a number of great athletes (I like to believe it was Gretzky who said it); I don’t like end zone dances or in your face chest bumps, or hockey players who fist-pump frantically after a goal. And so, watching Calvin’s exuberance at Saratoga last summer began to wear a little thin on me.
Watching simulcasting at the harness track on Saturday, I was not the only one who wasn’t a huge Calvin fan. Folks nearby, aware of the tight race for the jockey title at Churchill, were keeping track as Borel was ahead of, then tied with, Julien Leparoux; looking ahead in the card, they checked the odds on their mounts, conjecturing what it would take for Leparoux to overtake Borel.
The Daily Racing Form today reports on the outcome; going into the final race of the card on the final day of the meet, Borel and Leparoux were tied:
In deep stretch, Borel, riding Revenge Is Sweet, began to inch clear from Sir Jock, and in the final strides, he appeared to have the race won. But then seemingly from out of nowhere, Aquarian came flying to win in the last jump.
Borel was so confident he had won [the title] that he gave his familiar fist-pumps and wave-whips as he crossed under the wire. A win would have given him the title outright and a loss would have left him in a tie for the title – except for one scenario. And it was that scenario that became true – Aquarian was ridden by Leparoux, who seized the title, 27-26.
I haven’t seen the race (had left simulcasting just before it went off to begin the trek back to Brooklyn), but I know that there were some people mighty chuffed at the way it turned out.
Today’s bizarre media observation: ESPN has Jeannine Edwards covering the death of Washington Redskins’ player Sean Taylor. It may seem indelicate to note, but as she reported on his injury and death, I couldn’t help but be reminded by her vigils at New Bolton during Barbaro’s stay there. Poor Jeannine; what did she do to end up on this beat?