BOZICH | Monday Muse: How to pick last-place Derby horse; Love for Lamar
Rick Bozich tried to forget about his Kentucky Derby pick and proceed with the Monday Muse, with updates on Mendelssohn, Lamar Jackson, Donovan Mitchell, Victor Oladipo and Brendan McKay.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The Customers Always Write — and that keeps my adrenaline percolating.
Vinnie Barry said it about as politely and gently as possible in the e-mail he wrote Monday:
“You nailed it.”
Love ya, Vinnie.
In case I had forgotten I picked Mendelssohn to win Kentucky Derby 144, Vinnie included a link to my Friday column.
Former University of Louisville athletic director Bill Olsen splashed more barbecue sauce on the fun with his e-mail.
“How do I get a refund on my bet on him??????”
Olsen confessed that he also liked Mendelssohn -- and that at his Derby party not one person picked Mendelssohn in the last-place pool.
My attorney will call this week, Coach Olsen.
First, it’s on to the Monday Muse.
1. How to Pick The Last Place Derby Horse
I’ve made my share of brutal Kentucky Derby picks.
Dortmund over American Pharoah three years ago was an inspired moment of handicapping. Tapit over Smarty Jones in 2004 was dazzling. Point Given over Monarchos in 2001 was unforgettable — and unforgivable to our Derby pool.
But I’d never picked a horse who finished last.
It’s become easy to pick the Derby winner. The favorite has won six straight. What’s the big deal?
Picking the horse that finishes last?
That’s not easy. It requires work. Insight. Film study. Analysis. Preparation. A complete 110 percent commitment to excellence.
That’s my story — and I’m sticking with it.
2. Kentucky Derby Savagery?
What did happen to Mendelssohn, the UAE Derby winner and third choice in Derby wagering Saturday?
His race was over three steps out of the gate.
I’m not here to make excuses. I’m here to hand the microphone to Aidan O’Brien, Mendelssohn’s trainer, who made it home to England faster than his colt made it to the finish line.
O’Brien spoke with The Guardian newspaper at Newmarket Sunday and said this (and more) about the cross body blocks absorbed by his talented colt during at least two Derby incidents.
“In America, dirt racing is very aggressive at the best of times but when the weather goes like that [very wet], the aggression turns into nearly savagery. Because everyone knows if you miss a millimetre at the start, it’s over. So everyone wants to hit the front, everyone wants to make the running. The pressure and the intensity steps up tenfold.
“We never experienced that. We experienced normal dirt racing before and we were prepared for that but we weren’t prepared for the different level of intensity. And obviously when we weren’t prepared, the horse wasn’t prepared. So ultimately the horse and the jockey paid the price for it. But going back next year, we would know a little bit more what to prepare and how to prepare. It’s learning from your failures.”
I still like O’Brien’s horse — and hope he returns to Churchill Downs and redeems himself at the Breeders’ Cup in November.
3. First Reviews of Lamar Jackson
Joe Flacco’s touchdown to interception ratio last season was an uninspiring 18-to-13. His yards per passing attempt sunk to a career low 5.7. His yards per completion were also a career low 8.9.
That’s not Tom Brady or John Elway that Lamar Jackson will try to unseat as the Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback this season. He’s trying to replace Joe “It’s Been Six Seasons Since I Won That Super Bowl,” Flacco.
Jackson participated in his first team activities in Baltimore after the Ravens traded up to draft him with the 32nd pick in the first round of the NFL Draft.
The early reviews were encouraging. Ravens coach John Harbaugh talked like a coach who expected to work Jackson into the Ravens’ offense this season. Ravens’ players praised Jackson’s talent.
The only person who did not appear to be gaga about Jackson’s arrival is … Joe Flacco.
Flacco has yet to call Jackson and welcome him to the team. The incumbent quarterback has not commented publicly on the addition of his new teammate.
Maybe Flacco was trying to figure out what happened to Mendelssohn in the Kentucky Derby.
4. Donovan Mitchell vs. The MVP
Former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell grew up in a baseball family, but as Mitchell makes his way to the end of a fabulous rookie season with Utah he has discovered baseball is not the only game with unwritten rules.
They exist in the NBA. Here is Rule Number One:
Veterans get calls.
Mitchell discovered that during Utah’s Western Conference semifinal series against Houston, where he has been matched against James Harden and Chris Paul, a pair of perennial all-stars and MVP candidates.
Mitchell battled foul trouble Sunday night as the Jazz lost to the Rockets, 100-87, to fall behind 3-to-1 in the best of seven series. Harden got calls. Harden always gets calls because as Pacers’ star Victor Oladipo said on the TNT telecast, Harden sells the calls to officials.
Salt Lake City TV person Jake Edmonds said he overheard Mitchell saying this after the game:
Does Harden flop, wince or cry out whenever a defender approaches?
5. Victor Oladipo Triple Threat
Anybody who watched Oladipo’s rise from a recruit who was not ranked among the Top 100 prospects in his high school class to a first-team all-American at Indiana knows Oladipo is the kind of player who’ll make multiple NBA all-star teams and keep the Indiana Pacers in contention in the NBA East.
But Oladipo is more than a guy with a 40-inch vertical jump who can make a three-point shot.
He’s a bright, thoughtful player who had fun filling in for Kenny Smith on the TNT NBA Playoff set with Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Ernie Johnson Sunday night.
Then Oladipo took it up a notch — showing off his singing skills with Barkley.
The man has skills.
6. Brendan McKay, Oh My!
How was your weekend?
Spectacular, I hope.
It wasn’t better than Brendan McKay’s weekend.
McKay filed another reminder there is no reason to make him choose between pitching, hitting and playing first base as he makes his way through his first full pro season after he was taken in the first round out of the University of Louisville by the Tampa Bay Rays last June.
On Friday McKay threw 4 2/3 no-hit innings for Bowling Green against Burlington. He struck out nine.
On Saturday, McKay served as the Hot Rods’ designated hitter, driving in five runs with his first home run as well as a double.
On Sunday, McKay moved to first base, walking three times in a 2-1 Hot Rods’ victory.
I wonder if he can sing like Oladipo — or pick a Kentucky Derby winner.
7. Matt Koch vs. Justin Verlander
Most of the talk about former Louisville baseball players in professional baseball starts with McKay. Adam Duvall, Chad Green and Adam Engel earn love because they’re in the big leagues. Corey Ray, Nick Solak and Kyle Funkhouser should play their way to The Show soon.
Don’t sleep on Matt Koch.
A third-round pick by the Mets six years ago, Koch made his way to Arizona — and then made his way into the headlines Sunday.
In only his 13th big-league appearance, Koch out-pitched former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander as the first-place Diamondbacks defeated the World Series champion Astros, 3-1. Koch allowed one run and six hits in 6 1/3 innings.
The moment Koch showed he belonged came in the sixth inning. Jose Altuve led off with a triple. Koch hit Carlos Correa. Big problems loomed with the middle of the Astros lineup.
Nope. Koch struck out Josh Reddick and ended the threat by getting Alex Bregman to roll into a double play.
"He found himself squarely in the middle of a mess, and it's one thing that continues to stand out for me, he doesn't come unglued," Arizona manager Torey Lovullo told MLB.com.
8. The Top 25 Quarterbacks in College Football
It’s the First Monday in May. You know what that means. The preseason college football yearbooks should be available in the next 15 seconds.
I can’t read a two-deep coverage, but I can read some clues. The Sporting News shared its list of its Top 25 quarterbacks in the game.
Don’t look for local representation. It doesn’t exist. Lamar Jackson and Mike White are not walking through that door.
Life is really good at Clemson and Alabama. Both programs have two guys on the list. In fact, Alabama has two in the top 11 — Jalen Hurts at 11 and Tua Tagovailoa at 2.
The winner? Trace McSorley of Penn State.
9. Poll Results I
Who is your pick in Kentucky Derby 144?
Mendelssohn 37.9 percent (haha).
Other 19 percent
Justify 15.7 percent
Audible 11.1 percent
Good Magic 10.5 percent
Magnum Moon 5.9 percent
10. Poll Results II
Which NFL team would you like to see draft former Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson?
New England Patriots 30 percent
Pittsburgh Steelers 19.5 percent
Cincinnati Bengals 13.4 percent
Other 11.2 percent
Miami Dolphins 10 percent
Arizona Cardinals 7.3 percent
Indianapolis Colts 6.8 percent
Buffalo Bills 1.7 percent
Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.