CRAWFORD | Looking for cures for the American Pharoah hangover in Kentucky Derby 142
How to handle a Triple Crown hangover? WDRB's Eric Crawford explores the problem of Kentucky Derby life post-American Pharoah.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- In a city that knows something about hangovers, the signature sporting event of Louisville appears to be operating under the effects of a Triple Crown hangover.
Trainer Bob Baffert has a colt with a decent shot in Kentucky Derby, Mor Spirit. But all most people have wanted from Baffert this week is more American Pharoah.
There was the visit to see the Triple Crown winner at Ashford Stud on Monday. A new Kentucky Derby Museum exhibit on Pharoah opened on Tuesday. Maker's Mark debuted a new bourbon bottle in the champion's colors.
The Kentucky Derby will go to post as scheduled on Saturday, with the crowd decked out in its usual finery. But the warm feeling American Pharoah gave the sport with his accomplishments last year seem to linger over the proceedings like the scent of spilled wine on last night's party dress.
"There's definitely a hangover feel," New York Times horse racing writer Joe Drape told me Tuesday night during an event to discuss his new book, you guessed it, American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown.
American Pharaoh certainly was the center of discussion at that gathering of race fans at 21c Museum and Hotel in downtown Louisville on Tuesday night. Everybody had a story, or a memory.
"We all have American Pharoah hangover," Baffert said. ". . . But there should also be a good carryover, with all the new fans he brought to the sport."
The favorite for this year's Derby is named Nyquist. Might as well be named Nyquil. He's done nothing wrong. He's never lost. He's perfect in seven races. He's been dominant. Any other year, he'd be the toast of Louisville. At the moment, the message has been, "Hey, buddy, could you keep down the noise from all those hoofbeats?"
Nyquist's trainer, Doug O'Neill, was asked if he felt the same subdued feel everyone else seems to have in the run-up to this race, or if at least if his colt comes in a non-drowsy formula.
"I think it's a good thing," O'Neill said. "Now you've got different newspapers and stuff who are actually covering newspapers now because of American Pharoah. Hopefully we can take it another step."
American Pharoah himself is having no problem adapting. As a stallion, he's a natural. He's "covered" an estimated 100 (or more) mares at Ashford Stud, at $200,000 per session. His "strike rate," or rate of impregnating the female, is better than 80 percent.
So he, I would venture to say, has moved on.
I suppose it's time for the rest of us to do the same.
The problem with once-in-a-lifetime stuff is that it's just that. Once in a lifetime. The Triple Crown was one thing.
But having a horse win who was so accommodating, so friendly to fans, who seemed to have a sense when the camera came out, who even is the first "selfie" friendly championship-caliber horse I've ever seen, just adds to the loss.
"He loved human contact," Baffert said. "I never had one I could just turn loose with people like that."
I don't know what to tell you about hangover remedies. They all promise more than they deliver.
All I can tell you is that the Derby is around the corner, and share with you the words of Jennie Rees, longtime racing writer in Louisville, who always said, "There's no such thing as a bad Derby."
Probably good words to remember.
And if you're still feeling the signs of an American Pharoah hangover, take two mint juleps and call me with the Morning Line.
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