This is your annual horse racing wake-up call: The Kentucky Derby is Saturday.
You know, first leg of the Triple Crown. Run for the Roses. The yearly fleecing of the visitors, it being Louisville’s one chance to draw a crowd.
This year’s race offers a bit of a dilemma in the four-legged form of the favorite, Nyquist.
Even those of us able to partially decode the Racing Form can understand that this is a formidable beast. The horse is unbeaten in seven races. By way of perspective, other unbeatens entering the Derby have included Big Brown (lightly raced 3-0, 2008), Smarty Jones (6-0, 2004) and Seattle Slew (6-0, 1977). All of them fared just fine during the first Saturday in May.
While the name of the horse sounds like a liquid cold remedy – but watching him race will not make you drowsy – he actually is named after Detroit Red Wing forward Gustav Nyquist. As a result, with the Red Wings out of the postseason, a whole new group of fans may be attracted to horse racing. A good thing, generally, although it’s uncertain how officials will react when someone throws an octopus on the track during the race.
A horse capable of following up American Pharoah’s Triple Crown with a run of its own is something to be applauded. Any attention is therapeutic to a sport that is so 1900s.
But, here’s the rub. The ownership. It’s sometimes a chore to pick out a rooting interest among the swells. In this case, the disconnect between the owner’s box and the teeming masses at the $2 window is particularly apparent.
Nyquist’s owner, a Canadian-born Red Wings fan named Paul Reddam, doesn’t seem like a guy for whom you’d readily cheer. Certainly some of his customers in California and New York – two states which took on his high-interest small-loan company, CashCall – might find it difficult.
Back in 2009, the California Attorney General said the company, “preyed on consumers desperate for cash, charging triple digit interest rates and using loan shark tactics to collect on their debts.”
New York, citing interest rates ranging from 89 to 355 percent, reached a settlement with the company a couple years back.
OK, I don’t know any of the guy’s redeeming qualities. Wouldn't know him if he was taking a baseball bat to my knees. But on a most superficial nature, I wouldn’t want anything he owns – sorry, Nyquist – to succeed. Nothing personal big fella.
In league with trainer Doug O'Neill, Reddam had another horse, I'll Have Another, win the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2012 before being scratched just prior to the Belmont Stakes. The trainer is another story, saddled as he has been with frequent suspensions for medication violations.
However, this duo probably will do well Saturday. Louisville, after all, is a city with a particular affinity for the dislikeable character – see both its prominent collegiate coaches, the firm of Petrino & Pitino.
The purely mercenary among you might find in Nyquist a horse worth backing. If you can stand to bet the chalk.
Just don’t take out a quick loan to stake your wager.