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ales of Team Carborundum
    2nd May 2002
Jesse May
Jesse May, multiple author in the gambling field and sometimes dubded the "voice of poker", writes a bi-weekly column.
Most people know Jesse as "the voice of poker" from his colourful commentary in CH4's late Night Poker. Jesse is also the author of the widely respected novel, Shut Up And Deal, which looks deep into the poker playing life. Its the hard faced 21st Century Cincinnati Kid.

Jesse is also the creator of The Gambler's Guide to the World, an insiders look at the action and games around the world.
Email : Jesse May
  H.O.R.S.E 's in Kentucky
Well, “Johnny World” Hennigan won the H.O.R.S.E event in the 2002 World Series Of Poker. When asked which was his favorite game out of the Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, or Eight or Better that are cyclically played in the tourney, Johnny World replied, “Betting.”

Take a break from the WSOP this weekend when all eyes turn to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. This will be the most interesting Derby in years, and that’s not least because Team Carborundum is riding into town with a 50-1 win ticket. This Derby is so wide open that it’s a week before post time and it’s not even clear who the morning line favorite will be. Came Home still looks good from here. He’s dogged everybody he’s faced. He’s refused to lose in an outrageous fashion, and I can’t wait to see if a horse has the guts to face him. It takes guts to win the Kentucky Derby. Twenty horses going around a dirt track is something you rarely see, and if we saw it more we’d see a lot more injuries, riders and horses and berserk bettors, because the Kentucky Derby isn’t just the run for the roses. It’s the run for the big time.

This is one race I ain’t charting out. It’s gonna be fast in front, powerful in the middle, and all out at the end. This is the Derby for crying out loud, and no little darling is gonna win this race. You need a horse with yazoos up the yin-yang. You need a runner.

Not one legitimate horse columnist or handicapper has come forward and touted Came Home to win this race. Came Home has won three magnificent races already this year, perfect traditional preps for the Derby. And there’s still a million excuses. Can’t go a mile and a quarter, cast in his stall, no bloodlines, the time was too slow. Look man, the only place time counts is when you’re sitting behind bars. An interesting report by the clocker, last week he wrote, “Came Home was full of vim and vigor with exercise rider Sal Gonzalez Jr. having his hands full trying to keep the compact colt from running off around the turn. Not the best of signs for a horse who needs to relax if he's got any chance of stretching his speed one and one quarter miles on Derby day.”

Now, I may be really dumb, but how can it be bad that the horse wants to run? I look for a horse that doesn’t need to be whipped to be told to run fast. I got news for you. You go, Came Home. You just go. I’m happy with that. The horse wants to run fast? I want to bet on him.

One horse no one is talking about is Johannesburg. Trainer Aidan O’Brien is shipping Johannesburg over to Ireland just for the race, even though it’s a plain fact that a foreign horse has almost never won the Kentucky Derby and to try and run in it without American prep races is statistical suicide. So TC put in a call to Ireland, to Maynooth bookmaker Liam Flood, who knows horsemen up and down the country. Is O’Brien serious about thinking he can win the Derby? This is the horse, after all, who shipped over from Ireland last October for the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile with no prep races and blew away the field, the horse that was the winter future book favorite for the Derby, the horse that’s all horse.

Liam did some checking and called me back. Aidan O’Brien is a top trainer in Ireland, which says something in itself being that Ireland is like the home of modern horse racing, and so Aidan O’Brien is no fool about getting horses ready. “What you have to understand,” Liam said, “is that this is the biggest prize in horse racing. The purse doesn’t matter. The stud fees for a Kentucky Derby champion is like hitting the lottery. Is Aidan O’Brien serious? You better believe he is. Johannesburg will show up in Kentucky ready to go, and if he’s 9-1 or better, I’d back myself right up on him.”

Harlan’s Holiday may well be the most lukewarm favorite since Summer Squall. Bayakoa comes to mind. Horses that are all hype and no guts. Horses for money dropping in a drain. You want guts? Load it up on Came Home. Stack it in there on Johannesburg. Bet on a horse that likes to win something.

Frankly, I see Came Home and Johannesburg in a pell mell dash for the wire. I don’t see how any of the other horses in the race can touch them. But one of the nice things about the Derby is that class separates. No grumbling in the muck after five p.m. come Saturday afternoon.
First leg of racing's Triple Crown
Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.
Saturday, 11:06 p.m UK time
1 Monarchos (Jorge Chavez)
2 Invisible Ink (John Velazquez)
3 Congaree (Victor Espinoza)
4 Thunder Blitz (Edgar Prado)
5 Point Given (Gary Stevens)
6 Jamaican Rum (Eddie Delahoussaye)
7 A.P. Valentine (Corey Nakatani)
8 Express Tour (David Flores)
9 Fifty Stars (Donnie Meche)
10 Startac (Alex Solis)
11 Millennium Wind (Laffit Pincay Jr)
12 Arctic Boy (Calvin Borel)
13 Songandaprayer (Aaron Gryder)
14 Balto Star (Mark Guidry)
15 Dollar Bill (Pat Day)
16 Keats (Larry Melancon)
17 Talk is Money (Jerry Bailey) DNF

Key Facts
Fastest first half-mile in history: 44 4/5 secs
Pace set by Songandaprayer, but Monarchos went clear after the turn
Result stands after steward's inquiry
Second highest crowd: 154,210
Highest crowd: 163,628, 100th running, 1974
Favourite Point Given finished fifth
Editor's note
Since Venezuela's Canonero II won in 1971, 11 horses have run in the Kentucky Derby without a U.S. start as a 3-year-old. Johannesburg, Castle Gandolfo and Essence of Dubai are doing it this year.
YEAR-HORSE-FINISH (2001) Express Tour 8th (2000) China Visit 6th Curule 7th (1999) Worldly Manner 7th (1995) Eltish 6th Citadeed 9th Ski Captain 14th (1992) Dr. Devious 7th Arazi 8th Thyer 13th (1974) Lexico 22nd