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Columnist
A number of reasons to frown on Big Brown
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 5/2/2008 12:25 AM

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The numbers are enough to scare you.

And though trends may be for morons, this moron can't ignore the fact that only three of the last 28 post-time favorites have won the Kentucky Derby.

For that reason, among others, we're forced to pick against Big Brown, who figures to be the popular choice come Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs (5 p.m., Channel 5).

As good as he's been, and as good as he may turn out to be, Big Brown is going to need a perfect trip from a tough post (20), and that rarely happens with a huge Derby field, where luck and trip have more to do with winning than pure talent.

Winning from the auxiliary gate is far from impossible, but it's also far from ideal, and for that reason we also turn away from Gayego (19), who would have been the choice here if not for such a rotten draw.

Gayego has every right to run a huge race and might be in the mix for the trifecta or super, as should Big Brown.

The problem is Astrodirt -- that's Polytrack to you -- has made past performance difficult to quantify, so you can probably toss rules and history to an extent, but some trends still make sense.

For example, in the last 16 years, every winner except Sea Hero (1993) and Giacomo (2005) ran at least a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in a romp sometime prior to the Derby, and those who fit this year are Big Brown, Gayego, Pyro, Recapturetheglory and Z Fortune.

But 11 of the last 12 Derby winners have been first or second in their final prep, and of those we just listed, Big Brown and Recapturetheglory won their last, and Gayego and Z Fortune were first and second in the Arkansas Derby.

Recapturetheglory won the Illinois Derby, but he got out and ran alone here. It won't happen in Louisville and he's got the No. 18 post, so we toss him as well.

That directs us to Z Fortune, trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Robby Albarado. When those two won with Curlin in the Preakness a year ago, it was the first Triple Crown victory for both.

Z Fortune also leaves from the No. 6 post after running second to Gayego with a bad trip at Arkansas, and Alvarado should know Churchill as well as anyone.

"Last year taught me that you need a lot of things to go right,'' said Asmussen, whose brilliant Curlin finished third a year ago. "Not only does your horse need to be good enough, but you have to be extremely lucky.''

At a morning line of 15-1, Z Fortune's worth a shot. A longshot, at that.

The gimmicks

Another nice price to keep an eye on is Court Vision (20-1), trained by the great Bill Mott and out of the No. 4 post with Garrett Gomez, probably the best money rider going today.

Court Vision ran his career best at Churchill in the Iroquois Stakes last fall, has a tendency to come from way back on speed tracks, but should get involved a bit earlier in this one.

He also adds blinkers, another reason to like him for the exacta or trifecta.

We also like Visionaire, the Michael Matz (Barbaro) horse who won the Gotham in a swamp, and among the favorites, Colonel John is the best of the West Coast horses. He's raced exclusively on the synthetic surface, which is scary, but he's from Tiznow, who loved the dirt and the mile and a quarter.

Seam stress

There was hysteria throughout the North Side after Kerry Wood suffered his third blown save in seven tries Thursday, and the Cubs lost a tough one.

It's May 2, folks, and the Cubs are still going to win the Central by at least 5 games, maybe 10.

Keep in mind that the Cubs are 6 games over .500, a level they didn't reach last year until July 19. From that point forward, they played a whopping 2 games over .500 (to finish 8 over), and still managed to win the division.

So calm down. We repeat: It's May 2.

Closing time

As for Wood, you've known for months that it's only a matter of time before Carlos Marmol gets the job. Be patient on that front, as well.

Bull stuff

It wouldn't be a bad idea for GM John Paxson to await the outcome of the Mike D'Antoni situation in Phoenix before he hires a coach.

D'Antoni is nothing if not creative offensively, and that's something the Bulls have severely lacked.

The only time they looked like an NBA team on offense the last few years was for a 2½-game stretch against the Pistons in the 2007 postseason, when Ben Gordon ran the offense from out on top and moved the ball quickly and repeatedly.

What a concept.

Good option

Avery Johnson would be an excellent choice, because he fits the mold the Bulls are looking for as an ex-player who can relate to the roster.

He might even be able to get the Bulls to play defense and restore some discipline without the players resorting to mutiny after a year on the job.

Art Vandelay-ing

You sometimes think the best comedy on TV is the federal government at work, and then you check out local government, and you're sure you've never seen anything funnier -- until you see the guys running the BCS.

As George Costanza might say, this is why you don't put a fish behind the wheel of a car.

Best headline

Sportspickle.com: "Sports media picks new teams to hate at Annual Sports Media Conspiracy Convention.''

And finally …

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: "How can an 11-team conference that calls itself the Big Ten possibly be opposed to a 'plus one' football playoff?"