LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Since we are told in the Good Book that the last shall be first, it was only just and righteous that a colt named Creator came from the end of the pack to win Saturday's $1 million Arkansas Derby and earn a trip to Kentucky Derby 142 on May 7 at Churchill Downs.
Going into the race, the son of Tapit wasn't in the 20-horse Derby field, owning only 10 points under the race's eligibility system. But the 100 points that go to the Arkansas Derby winner moved him into sixth place in the standings. Only an act of God -- or trainer Steve Asmussen -- will keep him out now.
This could mean a windfall or disaster for churches in the Louisville area. You can bet that some of the religious folks in the anticipated Derby crowd of 150,000 will take a few bucks earmarked for the Sunday collection plate and put it on Creator's gray nose.
If they lose, so will the church. But if Creator wins under confident jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. -- he figures to be about the fifth or six choice behind the favored Nyquist -- surely the happy parishioners will want to share their Creator winnings with, well, their creator.
Speaking of giving away money, Collected won Saturday’s other Kentucky Derby prep, the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, but the victory gave him only 10 Derby points and a total of 121. That means he won't make the field without several defections.
That's too bad for trainer Bob Baffert and his owners. The way he ran yesterday, Collected might be good enough to get at least a piece of the Derby's $2 million purse, especially considering Baffert's well-documented reputation for doing his best work in the last couple of weeks before a big race.
After yesterday’s race, part-owner Peter Flouor speculated that if Collected doesn’t make the Derby, he might test the Derby winner in the Preakness, the second jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown, on May 21 in Baltimore.
While Baffert had to be pleased with what he saw in Lexington, his good mood probably vanished after his favored Cupid ran a dismal 10th in the Arkansas Derby. Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes seemed to blame jockey Michael Garcia for putting Cupid second to Gettysburg, who made a statement, if not an address, by gunning to the lead.
When Gettysburg began to retreat, the highly regarded Destin and a couple of others took a shot at the tiring Cupid. But it was Creator who came charging through the field to produce a hallelujah win for the backers in the crowd of more than 65,000.
The Arkansas and the Lexington were the final Derby prep races, meaning that the media will produce a lot more speculation than news during the next three weeks. And, unfortunately, the only news probably will be bad news -- somebody getting hurt during training or catching a virus that will keep him out of the Derby. Right now, here’s the 20-horse field, based on the point system:
Gun Runner, Nyquist, Exaggerator, Outwork, Brody’s Cause, Creator, Lani, Mor Spirit, Mohaymen, Danzig Candy, Destin, Suddenbreakingnews, Cupid, Oscar Nominated, Shagaf, Whitmore, Tom’s Ready, My Man Sam, Majesto and Trojan Nation.
If somebody had to drop out, the first one in will be Mo Tom, followed by -- I am not making this up -- Fellowship and Adventist. You can see the temptation, right? It would almost be sinful for a churchgoer to not bet Creator, Fellowship and Adventist in an exacta box.
But Fellowship and Adventist aren't likely to make it. They probably are bound for some heathen outpost where horses aren’t worshiped as they are at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
Billy Reed is a longtime sportswriter who contributes regular columns to WAVE3.com.
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