Remembering the 2006 Horse Racing Season

As enter the 2007 Racing Season, who can help but to rub their hands together in anticipation of watching the upcoming juveniles show what they are made of. Street Sense, winner of the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, already has his hoof in the gate to the million-dollar Florida Derby (one of the final major prep races leading to the Kentucky Derby) in late March along with a handful of other thoroughbred babies.

Last year at this time, who knew that twice-raced young Barbaro would tromp through his early three-year-old season going undefeated into the Florida Derby, only to capture it with a knuckle-whitening half-length victory over Sharp Humor.

I remember meeting with a friend of mine last spring at a nearby Starbucks to talk about our upcoming trip to the Kentucky Derby. She said her parents had just returned from the Florida Derby and, having seen Barbaro for themselves, had their Derby horse picked. No doubt in their minds; he was the one. On Derby day, as I poured over the entrants, my friend couldn’t escape a gut feeling she had about Jazil. While May 6th wasn’t Jazil’s lucky day, he pressed on to win the Belmont Stakes five weeks later. Amateur wagerers, true, but guess who I’ll be listening to the first Saturday in May.

What events do you remember best from 2006? How about the January welcome of Smarty Jones’ first foal, a bay filly out of Shoppingwithbetty, by Danzig? And that a month later we said goodbye to Smarty’s owner and perhaps most admiring fan, Roy Chapman? Also in January, our eyes crossed between winners Brass Hat and Lawyer Ron at Louisiana Downs and Brother Derek and Lava Man at Santa Anita.

We couldn’t resist a heartfelt smile when dynamic duo Stevie Wonderboy and owner, Merv Griffin flashed on our TV screens. Like a proud father of a gifted athlete son, Griffin’s giddiness over his equine buddy was contagious...gosh, how fun it was just to watch them! When the news of Stevie’s ankle fracture and subsequent withdrawal from the Derby lineup hit, Griffin commented, “It’s the saddest thing in my life.”

Do you remember the Godolphin superstar, Electrocutionist, out nosing five American starters in the $6 million Dubai World Cup in March? And that back in Florida, all eyes were on 3 year-olds as Corinthian’s disqualification in the Fountain of Youth Stakes sent First Samurai, a 100 percent in-the-money finisher, into the winner’s circle once again? Around that time, too, Hall of Fame jockeys turned race analysts Jerry Bailey and Gary Stevens made their first television appearances on ESPN and TVG, respectively.

Bob and John (one colt, two names) trounced over a sloppy track and eight other contenders to win the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, leading trainer Bob (Baffert, that is) and owner/breeder Robert (nicknamed Bob?) McNair to the smell of roses. At Hawthorne, future Derby favorite Sweetnorthernsaint took the Illinois Derby while Lawyer Ron kept headlining racing news as he scored his sixth straight victory in the Arkansas Derby.

Did you put your money on longshot Lemons Forever in the Kentucky Oaks, despite her far outside post position? If you did, betcha you’ll never forget that return ($96.20 to win). If you didn’t, well, that’s racing.

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