The Spectacle Blog

Fun for the Poses… or Something Like That

By on 5.2.08 | 11:13AM

One of our most devout readers, and a terrific correspondent, is Jay Swiatek of Massachusetts. He's also a great aficionado of horse-racing -- and, of course, the most famous race of all is tomorrow. More on the great Swiatek in a little while. Now I'm here to tell you right now that the New Orleans-based horse, Recapturetheglory, is the horse to bet on. Why? Forget all the scientific stuff about how fast he is, and forget that he recently won the Illinois Derby in very impressive fashion. That's logic talking. But this is horse-racing, and for people like me who know nothing about horse-racing but who win our Derby bets almost every year, the key thing to consider is gut instinct, which is usually based on the horse's name. And really, in this year when we conservatives are in funk, don't we all want to Recapturetheglory of the Reagan years?

But there's more. This horse is owned by Louis Roussell III and New Orleans car dealer/personality extraordinaire Ronnie Lamarque, famous for his old commercials about where he says his cars are "Bridging the Gap," whatever the heck that means, but it made him a media star -- and this is the same ownership team that brought Risen Star to prominence in 1988, when the horse won both the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes while donating 10 percent of his winnings to the Little Sisters of the Poor in Roussel's gratitude for their prayers as he successfully recovered from Throat Cancer.

But there's more: New Orleans sports-related figures are on a roll. As a New Orleanian myself, I am convinced that the gods of sports are smiling on New Orleanians as a way to make up for the terrible losses the city suffered in Katrina. The Saints, of all teams, reached the NFC title game. That's as big a miracle as has happened in, like centuries or something. Then New Orleanian Peyton Manning and his Colts won the Super Bowl. Then brother Eli and his Giants won the Super Bowl. (Peyton and Eli were famous for, on their own, chartering a plane to deliver relief supplies after the storm, and helping to load it and unload it themselves.) Also, nearby LSU won the NCAA football title. New Orleans-area QB Brett Favre (grew up just 50 miles away) played like a 26-year-old in leading the Packers to the NFC title game. The New Orleans Hornets basketball team had the NBA's third-best record this year and has won its first playoff series en route to what is sure to be a conference title appearance (at least).

I'm telling you, this New Orleans success thing is written in the stars -- the Risen Stars.

Wait, there's more: Recapturetheglory has a great pedigree. One great-great grandsire is Secretariat. A great-great-great grandsire is the great Northern Dancer, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and the most successful sire of the 20th Century. Not only that, but even more importantly, lots of other horses in Recapturetheglory's lineage have really cool names.

Meanwhile, Swiatek points out that conservatives have another horse to root for, Gayego. Why? Its owners have a great story of escaping Castro's persecution in Cuba.

Nevertheless, Swiatek informs me that his choices, in order, are Big Brown, Colonel John, Smooth Air, Z Fortune. But who are you gonna believe: somebody like Swiatek who knows horses, or somebody like me who believes in hunches, fate, romantic stories, and cool names?

Finally, Swiatek is known for his humorous, partly tongue-in-cheek Swiatek Sheet, in which he rates every Derby entrant. If I can figure the technology of how to post the whole thing here via attachment, I will do so in a little while. Meanwhile, a taste of the Swiatek wit and wisdom: Colonel John: He has what many of us presumably do not wish to have: sufficient bottom. But here that’s a good thingâ€"a firm foundation of racing has left him battle-tested and ready to zoom when it counts. Having a bottom is one thing, but having early zip, so as not to get funneled back to the bottom of the field around the first turn, is another. (In that case he’d bottom out.) So how will he break, and what trip will he get? We like the Colonel’s name, the Colonel’s stamina, the Colonel’s pedigree (by longtime fav’ and two-time Classic winner Tiznow), the Colonel’s white silks… and we like the Colonel: second, by a thin neck.

And: Smooth Air: A real sleeper. That’s literally true: Smooth Air has equine narcolepsy. In the Florida Derby, he dozed off in the starting gate, hit the snooze button when the bell sounded, then was roused to alacrity by the whip of jockey Manoel Cruz. Yawned down the backstretch, stretched down the home stretch, and finished an awakening second behind freaky Big Brown. Back in the shedrow he described vivid dreams involving the filly Eight Belles and a tub of oats. If he breaks alertly and has a dream trip May 3, he’ll toss and turn for the top five.  Â

Okay, that's enough for now. Follow Swiatek and bet on Big Brown. Or follow my incredible insights and bet on Recapturetheglory. But either way, watch: it'll be a helluva ride.

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