Raise a glass, please. A congratulatory toast to ….
You and your win ticket for Kentucky Derby 137. All half dozen of you.
At 20- to- 1: Animal House. Uh, Animal Cookies. Er, Animal World?
Who? Animal Kingdom paid $43.80.
Reflective of a more sophisticated time in our Sport of Kings, Derby 137 was Animal Kingdom’s first race on dirt. Pause on that a moment — a horse running on dirt. What a novel idea.
When Derby 137 was official, winning jockey John Velazquez said everything in nine words. “When I asked him to run, it was amazing.”
It was. Animal Kingdom emerged from the pack at the stretch and left the wannabes chugging and wheezing like horses in front of Walmart.
Raise a glass also to Kentuckians. We hosted international last Saturday – the winner’s trainer was Brit Graham Motion, Latin jockey Velazquez, and a 20-owner syndicate called Team Valor International. All come to our Commonwealth — land of opportunity under the radar.
Media footnote. A small glass of non-sweet tart orange juice please for talking-head experts, newspaper pundits and those who anoint favorites at Keeneland and Churchill Downs each spring. With months and weeks to examine everything from blood line to bathroom breaks to sleep habits before the Run for the Roses, the guys and gals demonstrated once again they had no more idea what was coming than Osama bin Laden and the Pakistanis.
More Toasts, Please
Next, clink a glass for Terrence Jones. His Derby Day decision to remain a college player another year brought a chorus of cheers heard from up there (Fort Thomas) to down there (Jellico) and all the way to Seattle where his mother approved too.
Jones will bask in the glow of Big Blue Nation affection again and could elevate himself to Jamal Mashburn-status after the ball stops bouncing. He will work on last year’s scouting report “make Jones go right.” Meanwhile, marketers send back jersey No. 12 and increase an order and promote sales for No. 3.
Starting with Jimmy Dykes, wait to hear … “This Kentucky team is going to be Terrence’s team. Going to be Cal’s go-to-guy, be the straw that stirs the drink.”
Pressure? What pressure?
Meanwhile, with Brandon Knight, DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrellson gone, a fistful of McDonalds all-star freshmen coming and senior-to-be Darius Miller’s first sergeant more than second lieutenant playing style, the Wildcats may well become Team Terrence.
Brandon Knight has left the building. See ya.
DeAndre Liggins. Good for the Chicago kid. We hope a savvy NBA general manager values Lunch Bucket Liggins’s play-all-day style with a first round pick. Relentless from tip-off to last whistle. At Kentucky he will be missed profoundly.
Kentucky’s player departures and influx of best- of- the- best rookies will give validity to John Calipari’s next whine that “we have so much youth and inexperience.” And, creates space and time to try and lower expectations. Which, at Kentucky of course, is a fool’s errand.
NBA Draft Come June 20 we won’t be surprised to see … • Before league commissioner David Stern warms up his pipes and the draft order maneuverings are done, Calipari will have denied three times (minimum) interest in Phil Jackson’s old job. • Kenneth Faried’s name climbs the draft board. • Eric Kanter is picked before Brandon Knight. • Terrence Jennings’ decision to leave Louisville, stay in the draft is second round at best for Jennings but excellent for UofL’s roster. • Tennessee’s Scotty Hopson and/ or Tobias Harris will be second round picks.
Locke, Matthews Kentucky running back Derrick Locke and receiver Chris Matthews never heard their names called in the NFL Draft. Why? At 5- 10, 180, Locke is not only too small, but his lack of durability was glaring. The former track man had knee surgery along with perpetual shoulder trouble that brought another surgery. Matthews has size and soft hands. But guess here is a lack of discipline running routes cost him, along with a tendency to lose his temper and control.
‘Wait For It’ Dept. The University of Kentucky has a new president. Dr. Eli Capilouto becomes 12th president in UK history. “I was attracted to the Top 20 aspirations because I believe that you can’t have big successes if you don’t have big dreams,” he said. So, we University of Kentucky graduates can rest easy, can’t we? Here is a man of distinguished scholarship who has in mind college basketball’s Top 20, right? Could be most interesting the outcome of Capilouto’s first substantive sit- down with the ball coach from the partner across the Avenue of Champions. A discussion of the elephant in the room — one and done- ism. Wait for it.
And so it goes.
You may reach Bob Watkins at Sprtsinky@aol.com