Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How's this for a quick-hitter?

Even after a plot to keep Rachel Alexandra out of the Preakness Stakes fell by the wayside Sunday, the connections of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, owned and trained by men experienced in the improvisational pugilistic arts, remain interesting.

The day after the Birdstone gelding scored at an improbable 50-1, the Anchorage Daily News reported that principal owner Mark Allen of Double Eagle Ranch in New Mexico might have become criminally entangled in Alaska's ongoing public corruption probe, if not for immunity gained as a condition of his father Bill's plea bargain. Certainly that story has now made the rounds fairly well, but as colorful as this group seems to be, it seems that stories not normally told of Derby-winning connections could keep filtering to the top.

Like this: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, also on the day after the Derby, might have been the first to report that Allen and longtime trainer (and ex-bull rider) Bennie Woolley Jr., first became friends as the result of a bar brawl. It's only a brief reference to the scuffle in a story primarily about the horse -- who, hopefully, will get to be the one in the spotlight ongoing. But it seems that some 25 years ago, Allen fomented fisticuffs in a drinking establishment, Woolley for whatever reason came to his aid, and the two have been buddies since.

The Associated Press sort of wrapped up the coverage of the connections later in the week, including some additional details on the Alaskan bribery probe.

As a small-town Kansas boy with a modest upbringing, I'd like to root for connections that are a little (O.K., a lot) rough around the edges by Triple Crown standards. Married into a rodeo family, I have a fondness for the fellas who congregate behind the chutes. It's a tough crowd, but if you can show 'em you're legit -- particularly that you're interested in and truly know their sport, not just a (ahem) tinhorn assigned to cover the rodeo -- they'll take you in almost as one of their own.

On the other hand, as a journalist by training and trade, tasked with keeping an eye on local government and business for signs of corruption, the bribery mess in Alaska keeps me from jumping on the Allen-Woolley bandwagon.

It does not, however, sour me on the horse. I don't wish him ill, or even particularly a loss. All he knows is he's born to race, and has earned his chance to be the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed by running the race of his life at Churchill.

Hopefully since the plot went poof his connections have turned their thoughts fully to prepping their little fellow for the race. Because while Rachel Alexandra -- and her four-straight Beyer speed figures over 100 -- might be his biggest threat, the Daily Racing Form past performances for potential Preakness contenders show she isn't the only one.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome comments, including criticism and debate. But jerks and the vulgar will not be tolerated.