You gotta love a guy like Ronald Lamarque.
One minute he's singing the praises of jockey E.T. Baird and trainer and co-owner Louis Roussel for getting his 3-year-old, Recapturetheglory, to the winner's circle at Hawthorne following the 51st running of the $500,000 Illinois Derby.
The next minute he's singing the praises of a higher power -- in robust and extended fashion -- to a group of unsuspecting media gathered around him on the track apron.
Lamarque was, without a doubt, the happiest guy in Cicero.
And why not?
Thanks to Recapturetheglory's front-running victory, Lamarque and Roussel will be sending a horse to the Kentucky Derby for just the second time in 20 years. Their last starter, Risen Star, finished third in the 1988 Derby before going on to win the Preakness and the Belmont.
"It's been an unbelievable road," said Lamarque, a New Orleans-based car dealer who's remained in the city throughout Katrina and beyond. "He graduated today."
And the 15-1 shot did it in stylish fashion, bursting out of the gate under Baird and grabbing a lead he'd never relinquish.
"All I did was just try to get him out of the gate running," said Baird, who knew he still had a handful of horse underneath him heading for home in the 1-mile race on the dirt. "Unless something unforeseen happened around the middle of the turn, I figured we were going to be tough. If something was going to get by me they had to be really running because he was getting it on."
It didn't happen, and now it's on to Louisville for Recapturetheglory's connections. Roussel, on the phone from New Orleans, said Baird, a 1984 graduate of Rolling Meadows High School, will ride Recapturetheglory in the Derby.
Golden Spikes (5-1) finished second after following Recapturetheglory all the way around the track, and Z Humor (4-1) was a non-threatening third.
The even-money favorite, Denis of Cork, with Julien Leparoux aboard, ran midpack much of the way before finishing a middling fifth.
"I was happy to see a fast track, but he never looked like he was traveling (well) at any point of the race and he never picked it up," trainer David Carroll said. "Very disappointing. What can I say?"
Not the case for the connections of Recapturetheglory, who made his debut at Arlington Park last summer as a 2-year-old.
"The Hornets are winning, we believe the Saints will be back and now we've got Recapturetheglory; what better name can you have to recapture the city of New Orleans?" Lamarque said. "Louis named him and it's perfect.
"Kentucky better be ready."