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May 03, 2013

Nobody asked me, but ...

By: By Drew Markol, Contributing Editor

 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Isn't there some kind of big horse race this weekend?

You know, the first Saturday in May.

Oh, yeah, the Kentucky Derby.

It's sad, but the grand race - the most exciting two minutes in sports as it was once known - gets lost in the sports shuffle, and that's not right.

The Kentucky Derby is marvelous. It's tradition. My gosh, they'll be running it for the 139th time early Saturday evening.

But surrounded by the NFL Draft, the NBA and NHL playoffs and the start of the baseball season, the Derby gets pushed to the end of the line or completely out of the line.

Tell me, unless you live in Louisville, have you seen a sports section with a front page story on the Derby? I've looked and I haven't.

Some will come Friday and Saturday, and the Derby will be on the front page of Sunday's sports sections across the country, but Monday?

By Monday, the race will all but be forgotten unless there is some kind of tragedy in which a horse or jockey gets injured (let's hope that's not the case).

Can you recall the horse that won last year's Kentucky Derby? To be honest, and I consider myself a pseudo fan of the sport, I had to go to Google to find out it was I'll Have Another. If you knew, you get a tip of the hat.

Horse racing will go away for a few weeks until the Preakness kicks in and then we'll go through the same cycle again.

Unless, and we've heard this for years and years, we get a super horse. A true stud that can capture our imagination.

Such a horse wouldn't cure all of the ills for a declining sport, but, boy, oh boy, it couldn't hurt.

My kingdom, as small as it may be, for a Triple Crown winner. Give us a horse that makes us remember what it used to be like.

Now, I'm not asking for Secretariat, the greatest thoroughbred to grace a race track.

Remarkably, this is the 40-year anniversary of Secretariat's wondrous 1973 run into history.

I, like so many of my generation, watched him on a black and white TV crush records and opponents on the way to the Triple Crown. I'll never forget the Belmont Stakes, where the "Great One" left all in his dust to cap his run.

And I'll never forget watching my dad just shake his head as Secretariat crossed the finish line at the Belmont half an hour before the rest of the field.

But that was then, a long time ago.

What about today, when champion horses are worth more in the barn than on the track and if a horse can win just one of the Triple Crown races its owner will think twice about even letting it run again because of the fear of injury.

So, what in the name of Affirmed can be done?

Is there hope? Could this be the year when a magical four-legged beast makes us remember what it was like?

If you follow the money, the best bet to be that horse is Verrazano, trained by the wily Todd Pletcher.

Verrazano will go off as the second favorite Saturday (Orb will be the favorite at 7/2) and if he wins the hopeful talk will start up.

If you've never seen Verrazano, well, picture a young Arnold Schwarzenegger as a horse. Heavily muscled and just plain big, Verrazano looks like a million bucks.

But will looks be good enough? Will Orb steal the show? Or how about the speedy Goldencents? You'll hear a lot about him Saturday because Rick Pitino is one of his owners and Pitino is the king of Louisville.

My two bucks will go on Goldencents because it just seems to be Pitino's year. His horse, like his basketball team, goes really fast.

But whoever wins Saturday, let him be super and stay that way through the Preakness and Belmont.

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