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Spring ushers in the final races on the road to the famed Kentucky Derby, first jewel of the triple crown in thoroughbred horse racing. It’s a time full of hope, conjecture, thrills, anguish, disappointment and defeat as horses prepare and cmopete for a coveted spot on the racing card on Derby day. 

One race truly stood out for me this year: the Wood Memorial, a Grade 1 stakes race at Aqueduct racetrack in New York. While I did not attend this year, I have in the past, and I can say that it’s pretty exciting, not just for the race, but also for all the famous New Yorkers, legendary jockeys and trainers, movie stars, and the supreme stars of course, the incredible equine athletes at the heights of their careers. Listening to Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York as the magnificent horses enter the track, make the thrill and hope of dreams larger than life seem palpable. It’s a big race in a big city studded with stardom and dreams. 

In this year’s race, Bourbonic, who went off at 72-1, came from behind at dead last to win the race in an incredible sprint to the finish line past the entire field of strong competitors. He got ahead in the stretch, securing a major upset in a very important race on his way to Churchill Downs. Hall of Fame jockey, Jerry Bailey, reporting for NBC, called it a “monumental leap for this horse.” Until the very end of the race, just before the stretch, Bourbonic trailed the peloton of horses by several lengths. No one expected him to move ahead let alone defeat the competition to win the race. Calumet Farms, his home, does like to enter long shots in stakes races to see what their horses can do and because, most importantly, anything can happen in a horse race. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Bourbonic proved that his training fitness, stamina, and talent could prevail with jockey Kendrick Carmouche.

One of the greatest thrills of thoroughbred racing is just that, the element of surprise and discovery of something unexpected, unimaginable about to happen. While studying results, endless data related to breeding, training, breezes, times, injuries, wins, losses, jockeys and so much more, anything can happen in a horse race. Bourbonic serves as a perfect example in the Wood Memorial going off at 72-1 and proving that a long shot can win and earn a spot in the big race in Kentucky this weekend. It’s going to be a race to watch. While I have several top choices, I will be placing a bet on Bourbonic as I imagine those who watched the Wood Memorial may do. Get excited for what will prove, as always, to be a very exciting day at the races!

Katharine MacCornack
Published on 2021-05-04