If you miss the wedding don’t go to the funeral. It’s a common refrain among railbirds who know that opportunity usually strikes but once. The rare exception occurs when a horse melds ability, fitness and opportunity into a perfect storm of racing magic. A horse like Orb, the polygamous 3-year-old that’s won five straight races and promises to be the first horse in 35 years to win the Triple Crown.
This afternoon at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland, Orb is the favorite to win the Preakness Stakes and advance to the Belmont Stakes on June 8. A win there would make Orb the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
First things first, however, and the bad news is that Orb drew the rail, a post position from which only one horse has won the Preakness in the last 50 years. The good news is that this is the smallest Preakness field in 13 years with only nine horses going to post and that will likely give jockey Joel Rosario room to move out of the starting gate without losing too much ground.
Pimlico linemaker Frank Carulli made Orb the even money favorite, though the odds at post time could fall to 4-to-5, meaning a $2 win bet would return $3.60. He listed Mylute as the 5-to-1 second choice off its fifth place showing in the Kentucky Derby, and has Departing the third choice at 6-1 off the gelding’s four wins in its last five starts.
“I can’t make the horse,” Greenfield handicapper John Dobrydnio said of Departing. “I know his record is very good, but the Hawthorne number that Andy Beyer gave him, 93, I don’t agree with.” Translated that means J.D. doesn’t think Departing is as fast as some folks claim.
Gunslinger D. Wayne Lukas’ three horses include a frontrunner named Titletown Five that’s listed at 30-1, and a pair of colts named Will Take Charge at 12-1 and Oxbow at 15-1. The former finished seventh in the Run for the Roses and the latter was sixth.
The other two horses entered today that raced in the Kentucky Derby, Itsmyluckyday and Goldencents, finished 15th and 17th respectively.
Normally Dobrydnio wouldn’t go near a race like today’s Preakness. He likes to beat favorites, not bet on them, and only an injury or bad racing luck will keep Orb from wearing the blanket of black-eyed susans. Yet he’s loyal to horses that fatten his bankroll and Orb’s win streak has caused Dobrydnio to hire his cousin Bill Kostanski as his bodyguard.
If anything, Dobrydnio might couple Orb in an exacta. “The thing that impressed me most after going through the charts was Oxbow’s last race.” That would be a 1-6 exacta on your program, though Dobrydnio warned, “This is total money management. I’m not betting too much because there’s not a lot to be gained. I’m gonna use Orb because I wanna be in New York to watch him race for the Triple Crown. An old friend has a box at Belmont so I can watch the race and then go over to Armando’s in Brooklyn and have a bowl of homemade linguini with calamari.”
Sounds good, just be sure Kostanski checks the men’s room for handguns taped to the back of the toilet.
Chuck Demers and Bob Merriam were among those at last Saturday’s well-attended memorial service for Ruth Bohrer at the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield. Both worked at Deerfield Academy, Demers as the school’s longtime trainer and Merriam as English teacher, hockey coach and much-feared disciplinarian (as his nickname Frowner would attest).
Asked to pick the best hockey player to wear the green-and-white under his coaching tenure Merriam answered, “I always say Gene Kinasewich. He could skate in either direction, left or right, and he made the other players better. He coached them, myself included. He’d come to the bench and say, ‘How about we do this?’”
Kinasewich was from Thorsby, Alberta, the second youngest of 13 children born to Ukrainian immigrants. He attended Harvard and graduated magna cum laude in 1964. During his undergraduate years he helped the Crimson go 59-15-2 in three seasons under coach Ralph Welland. Last March 9 was the 50th anniversary of Harvard’s ECAC championship after Kinasewich scored in overtime against Boston College. “His skates never touched the ice, he was flying,” said Eagles coach Snooks Kelley.
Kinasewich earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and later taught at a private day school. He died of cancer at age 63 in 2005.
Our man in Tampa Skip Smith got an up-close look at Rays’ manager Joe Maddon’s back-to-back ejections at Tropicana Field. Smith works a TV camera next to the Rays’ dugout and “I hear the exchanges between them and the plate umpires. Add to that the fact I have the benefit of watching replays on my camera and I can relay the bad calls.”
Playing against Toronto, Maddon’s “first (ejection) was a blown call at the plate.”
The next heave-ho, said Smith, was more complicated. “Home plate umpire Scott Barry ruled Maicer Izturis had fouled the ball off his foot before a ground out and Maddon yelled from the dugout, ‘Ask Izzy if it hit him. Izzy’s a good guy, he won’t lie to you!’ I looked over to Maddon and said the ball didn’t hit him and he really got on him then, but what a line, ‘Ask Izzy, he’s a good guy.”
Column reader Pete Hantzis who co-authored “Saving Bernie Carbo” passes along news related to an item from last week’s column that former Red Sox infielder Rico Petrocelli is living in a gated community on a golf course in Nashua, N.H.
Hantzis also provided some input regarding the fiasco that happened after Cubs fan Steve Bartman tried to catch a foul popup during the 2003 NLCS. “I once discussed it with Mike Mordecai who had a three-run double (later that inning). He doubted Moises Alou could have caught the ball even if Bartman hadn’t interfered.”
And, wrote Hantzis, “Bernie received a nice note from Larry Lucchino telling him how much he liked the book and was proud Bernie was a member of the Red Sox family. I don’t think that the Sox felt that way during his wild days.”
Condolences to Recorder editorial page editor Justin Abelson, whose father Alan Abelson died in Manhattan on May 9. The 87-year-old Abelson built a strong journalistic legacy at Barron’s, the financial magazine that covers the markets.
The New York Times obituary by Douglas Martin included this paragraph: “Mr. Abelson’s power prompted executives worried about negative articles to threaten to punch him in the nose early in his career and to sue him in later, gentler times. “Go right ahead” was his brisk rejoinder of those threatening to sue. Many did, but none won.”
During the aforementioned memorial service for Ruth Bohrer, Hattie Ball reached past Judd and Beattie Blaine and touched my sleeve. She remembered me from the years when her daughter Shelly and I were grammar school classmates. “I have great admiration for your mother for having raised such a hellion,” said Ball. “You were a brat.”
Some would say it’s carried over into adulthood.
Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.