The ‘Disney Rash.’ Is it really a thing? I asked.

By Ken Zurski

Image result for walt disney world magic kingdom

The “Disney Rash,” as it is called, is a real honest to goodness thing.

Never heard of it? Neither had I.

But for the thousands who flock to the Disney theme parks every year, it’s a reality – or memory – they would like to forget.

Let’s clarify:  Just going to a Disney theme park does not necessarily procure health problems (although some kids – or adults  – who are excited with anticipation to get there may say otherwise. A “Disney Fever,” perhaps?).  No, the “Disney Rash” has some science behind.

First, the”Disney Rash” is not it’s official name.  However, the disorder has become so commonly associated with the Disney theme parks that it has taken on the brand. As for the “rash” part? It has nothing to do with the attitudes of those waiting in long lines. It’s truly a skin rash, plain and simple.

The “Disney Rash” is caused by the sun mostly and heat and sweat and exposure to skin specifically on the legs, most commonly on the ankles. It’s official medical term is Vasculitis, which covers a wide variety of inflammation issues.  The kind that Disney tourists experience is specific.  It’s exacerbated by exercise.  For example, walking or hiking for an extended period of time would do the trick.  In fact, before Disney took the name it was also known as golfer’s or hikers rash.

Here’s the symptoms. After prolonged exercise in heat, blood vessels of the lower legs are exposed and become inflamed causing tiny itchy red dots to develop. Many people do a lot of walking in the Disney theme parks (many do more walking there than they would anywhere else) so the connection makes sense. The rash lasts for about a week and the best way to get rid of it is to avoid exercise and stay out of the heat.

Humidity appears to be a factor too, since more cases are reported in Disney World in Orlando, Florida than Disney Land in Anaheim, California. Some have been even more specific and call it the “Epcot Rash” just to differentiate between the two. (Epcot Center is exclusive to Disney World).

Disney can rest assured knowing that large crowds and germs – which is another matter entirely – are not the cause of the “Disney Rash.”  Even in the park, at the medical tents, diagnosing the problem is pretty quick and treated with anti-itch lotion for temporary relief.

According to a story on a travel “planning tips” blog site, when a concerned Disney park patron went to a first aid center to show them the tiny red dots that unexpectedly popped up on their legs, they were told matter of factually: “You have the Disney Rash.” So even Disney park employees acknowledge the condition by it’s adopted name.

So besides not going to the actual park and walking in the heat, how do you avoid the “Disney Rash?” According to experts, take frequent breaks and drink plenty of fluids (that’s standard). Also wear long pants or knee high socks with shorts.

As for the long pants part, you might want to ask one of Disney’s most famous employees about that…



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

39 Years Ago, Two ‘Double’ LP’s Ushered in a New Decade

By Ken Zurski

The end of the 1970’s, specifically the end of 1979, was a very good time for music lovers.

Two albums – both double disc packages – were released only weeks apart from each other that even today, 39 years past, are still considered two of the most influential albums of all time.

Both albums were released in the U.S. in the final months of 1979, and due to their late arrival that year are widely considered to be successes in the 1980’s instead. Regardless of which decade they belong, both have a place in rock n roll history and both deserve recognition for being musically experimental and risky too –  after all they were double albums, meaning you got double the music, but paid nearly double the price.

On December 14, 1979, the British group The Clash released their third album titled “London Calling.” Right off the shelves, the album cover itself was striking. It featured an action shot of Joe Strummer in a leaning stance, holding a guitar by the neck and ready to smash it to pieces. It was captured moment of pure rock n roll explosiveness.  It also conveyed the group’s reputation as rebellious and unflinching.

The music inside was just as powerful.

Related image

The album sold as expected, reaching #27 on the US Billboard charts, and doing even better overseas. Critics adored it calling it a “masterpiece” and placing it on Top Ten lists of the year for both 1979 and 1980.

As albums go, before the digital age and a world where physical music is all but nonexistent, it is considered a work of genius, conceptually. Most double albums seemed overextended and unnecessary. “London Calling” was different. It was a complete work of art, from the music to the package. And that cover? Iconic. And although music itself is always subjective, most rock historians agree, “London Calling’ is a classic in the true sense of the word.  Today, it is the 6th most ranked record on critics’ lists of the all-time greatest albums according to Acclaimed Music. The Clash would go on to have bigger selling albums and singles, but for both musicianship and inventiveness, “London Calling’s” legacy is solid.

Several weeks before “London Calling” dropped, on November 30, another double album was released.  Unlike the Clash’s dramatic action shot on the cover, the front of this album was simple in design: a drawing of a white brick wall. But that was it. There was no writing on the wall, so to speak. If not for a transparent naming sticker attached to the cover, there was no other way of knowing who was responsible until you turned the album around.

The band, of course, was Pink Floyd and the work was appropriately titled, “The Wall.”

Image result for pink floyd the wall original album

Pink Floyd was an established band, known for its conceptual albums, and “The Wall,” their 11th release, was no exception. It was however, their first double LP and the reaction to its apparent expansiveness was mixed. “I’m not sure whether it’s brilliant or terrible, but I find it utterly compelling,” was the response from Melody Maker.

Despite the tepid response from critics, the album was a instant best seller, topping the charts in multiple countries, including the US.

Today, it is considered a classic that has stood the test of time. The album, along with several songs like “Another Brick in The Wall Part II” and “Comfortably Numb,” are rock radio staples and a movie of the album’s concept about a drugged out rock n roller who figuratively builds a wall around his troubled life, was released in 1982. Recent tours of “The Wall,” with varying members of the band participating, are huge successes  It still has legs, they say in the business.

The album’s initial release in late November, however was marred by tragedy when on December 3, 1979, eleven people were killed, crushed to death in a stampede, before a Who concert in Cincinnati.  Just days before, in reviews, the comparisons of the dark and satirical “The Wall” to the Who’s classic double album rock opera “Tommy” was justified, but purely coincidental, considering the circumstances. The Who were not held directly responsible for the deaths, but it didn’t matter. The industry as a whole took a hit. After the tragedy, the rock world paused to mourn, reflect, regroup, and eventually move on.

A week later, on December 14, The Clash’s “London Calling” was released.

Bring on the 80’s.

Related image





Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hits and Misses of Updating the Holy Bible

By Ken Zurski

In 1929, a showcase 18-hole golf course opened in an unincorporated grassy area southwest of Chicago, Illinois known as Navajo Fields, named,  of course, for its earliest residents.

The Navajo Fields Golf Course proved to be a player’s delight, including its most  challenging hole number four.  Although the reason why the fourth hole’s play  was such a challenge is not exactly known, it certainly earned a dubious reputation at the time. Despite  the toughness of the course, however, the clubhouse was decorative and cozy with several steeple ceilings and large bay windows. It served many banquets for groups who traveled out of Chicago’s fancy hotels and convention halls for a gathering in a more secluded setting.

Navajo Fields Golf Course and clubhouse

By the early 1950’s, Navajo Fields was one of the premium golf courses in the Chicago area and each spring  excited players lined up to tee off. “The prolonged coating of snow during the winter has had the effect of preserving the turf, “ course officials bragged to the Blue Island Sun Standard in 1953. “The course is in beautiful shape this year.”

Even hole number four, which “plagued many golfers,” was changed. “It has been rebuilt and enlarged and the hole will have an alternate tee.”

Several years later, in 1959, the area surrounding the golf course was incorporated and renamed Palos Heights, a small suburb of Chicago with only four square miles of land and water (Lake Katherine), but today boasts nearly 5,000 mostly upscale homes in neatly designed subdivisions.

Also that year, the privately funded Trinity Christian College bought the Navajo Fields grounds, including the two buildings. The golf course was subsequently closed.  The old clubhouse was remodeled and became the school’s administration building, while the pro shop became the music building. The unaccredited college opened that fall with 37 students and 5 full time faculty members.

Then in 1965, the college hosted a special meeting of religious leaders to discuss a proposal to change the Old English wording of Bible. Specifically, to make the King James Version easier to read, more understandable and sustainable to long-term teaching. They gathered in the old clubhouse building and came up with a plan.

1B1Here’s why:  In 1952, a Revised Standard Version of the Bible was released by the National Council of Churches, the ecumenical body of mainline Protestant denominations in the United States. Opponents of the new version, mostly hardliner Protestant conservatives, more commonly known as Evangelicals, refused to adopt it, sticking with the original King James version for scripture readings instead. But change was needed. So the Evangelical council along with the Christian Reformed Church, a group founded by Dutch immigrants, who were also looking for a more streamlined and Americanized version of the Bible, came to Palos Heights.

Why they chose a small christian college in Illinois is curious, but understandable. It was discreet and private, yes, but also represented the type of educational institution a translated bible would benefit the most. Plus, if it didn’t go as planned, no one would know. Not much was publicized while the work commenced. A New York group would fund the project.

This reticent attitude is likely due to the monumental challenge and possible backlash for such an undertaking.  The Revised Standard Version was widely considered to be the first time the King James version had been extensively tinkered with since the early 17th century. But that was not entirely true.

In the early 19th century, Noah Webster, yes, the dictionary guru, also wanted to change the King James Version of the Holy Bible. He had a different agenda, however. He hated what the majesty’s version stood for. Not the religious aspect, that was fine, but it was too British, too overbearing, offensive and insulting.  So Webster set out to make it more American, and the language, more like Americans speak. This is what Americans wanted, he thought.

Noah Webster

He was wrong.  While his intentions were noble enough, the King James Version even after the end of British rule, continued to be accepted in America. Webster refused to back down. He went to work changing words he didn’t like and fixing grammar problems he called “atrocious.”

Webster’s “Holy Bible … with Amendments of the Language” or “Common Version” appeared in 1833. It was a colossal failure. A big, wordy waste of time, many thought. So dismissed, that a year later in 1834, Webster put out another book, an apology of sorts, but defending the Bible’s message and Christianity as a whole. Even at the age of seventy, he emphasized the importance of its completion. “I consider this emendation of the common version as the most important enterprise of my life,” he said.

Webster was off by nearly a hundred years.

By the mid 20th century, large church denominations were opening privately funded colleges and teaching the word of the Bible to students in hopes of sparking a revolution in religious educators and young pastors. The King James version of the Bible needed a revision. The Revised Standard Edition was a start. But the Evangelicals thought they could do better. So in Palos Heights, they came up with imperatives. For one, they needed more denominations to join in. They also needed a slew of scholars from around the world to participate. This unity -and variety  – would safeguard it from sectarian bias, they thought, something  the Revised Standard Edition did not do.  Soon enough they assembled a team of scholars from a group of churches:  Anglican, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Brethren, Church of Christ, Evangelical Free, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, among others. The next year, at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, they put their plan to work.

According to the Preface of the New International Version, the detailed process went like this:

The translation of each book was assigned to a group of scholars. Next, one of the Intermediate Editorial Committees revised the initial translation, with constant reference to the Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. Their work then went to one of the General Editorial Committees, which checked it in detail and made another thorough revision. This revision in turn was carefully reviewed by the Committee on Bible Translation, which made further changes and then released the final version for publication.

Among the many changes, old verbs like “doest,” “wouldest” and “hadst” were tossed out and replaced. Pronouns like “Thou” and “Thine” – referring to the Deity – were also considered too archaic. “If there was uncertainty about such material, it is enclosed in brackets,” explained the Committee on Bible Translation. “Also for the sake of clarity or style, nouns, including some proper nouns, are sometimes substituted for pronouns, and vice-versa.”

Among the more interesting added features were the italicized sectional headings. This is the one part of the new work that was wholly generated by present day writers. They are simple chapter titles designed to give the reader quick reference in themes. For example, in the Book of John some of the headings include, Jesus Walks on Water and The Plot to Kill Jesus.

1B1.jpgIt took nearly 10 years and several revisions before the New International Version was published in 1978 and although slight additions and subtractions would come later,  the original vision remains the same. “The most massive and painstaking literary tour de force in history,” one newspaper writer enthused upon its initial release.

Dr . Burton L Goddard, a theologian who worked on the new Bible was grateful, but relieved. “We all acknowledge this to be the hardest work we have ever known,” he expressed.

Trinity Christian College still sits on the grounds of the old golf course in Palos Heights. In 1966, the board initiated the process for the college to become a four-year, degree-granting institution. The first baccalaureate degrees were awarded in May 1971. More buildings were added but many were built similar in style to original clubhouse. Today it’s still considered a small school by college standards, with just over 1500 in enrollment.

In 1983, during a new printing of the New International Version a line was added to the Preface to reflect a very Christian-like humble attitude: “Like all translations of the Bible, made as they are by imperfect man, this one undoubtedly falls short of its goals.”

Oh, the anxieties of high expectations.

Kind of like playing golf.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Historically, Washington, Illinois Shares This Date – 11/17

By Ken Zurski

The town of Red Bud, Illinois sits in northwest Randolph County on the far southwestern part of the state along Illinois State Route 3, a scenic byway that’s part of the Great River Road, a long designated drive that follows the banks of the Mississippi River from Minnesota south to the Gulf of Mexico. Due to practically, it seems, the River Road branches off the Mississippi banks just south of St. Louis.  Then it extends eastward for about a 100 miles before looping back to join the river’s shoreline again in Chester, Illinois.

Basically, where Illinois’ protruding belly – its western border – bottoms out near the southern tip of the state, the River Road is associated with the river in name only.

Red Bud is in the middle of this inland path, about 30 miles east of the river. So comparative to the more picturesque Mississippi shore, the deviated route that passes through Red Bud is pastoral enough, but nothing special.  In fact, on an official site map for the Great River Road and its attractions, among the hundreds of interesting places to visit, Red Bud is not listed as one of them.

Those who live there, however, would say otherwise.


Red Bud’s history reads like many other cities of its size and location. A rouge pioneer happens upon the land and builds a log cabin. He begins to farm and prosper and soon other settlers are coming for similar reasons. A school is built along with several businesses. In 1847, the first public lots are sold. Homes are constructed and on each landowners plot there’s a distinctive feature, a colorful tree, known as a redbud.  The stout tree, with its distinctive pink and red leaves that bloom during the spring before turning green in the summer, is what the town is named after.

In 1867, Red Bud was chartered.

In 1875 it officially became a city.

Less than 20 years later, in 1892, it was nearly wiped off the map.

The date was November 17.


It was 3:30 in the morning when the distant rumbling of thunder awakened the less hardy of sleepers. Then streaks of lightening were followed by an awful rush of wind. Suddenly, timbers began cracking in succession and flew like sharpened arrows in all directions. Horses neighed in terror.

Townspeople, already frightened by the sickening sounds of rushing wind and startled animals, huddled inside their homes and watched in horror as their roofs and walls blew out. They held on for dear life as everything around them was swept up by the mighty wind.

Then in a whoosh it was gone, followed by an eerie silence.

At first light, the devastation was apparent. “Where Wednesday night stood a beautiful city, full of happy homes,” the Rolla New Missouri would later report, “there is to-day a scene of wreck and desolation. Houses, barns, fences and orchards are leveled to the earth and spread over the surrounding country. The scene is difficult to describe. The streets when lit up the first streaks of dawn presented a pitiable scene of ruin.”

The search for survivors commenced at dawn. “The streets were blocked with the debris of the storm’s wreck and for some time it was impossible to get an accurate list of the sufferers of the terrible visitation.” the paper read. One thing however was painfully clear. “The number of houses wrecked by the storm is fairly complete.”

What the searchers found, however, was surprising.

While just the loss of one person’s life constitutes a tragedy, the number of dead was far less than expected. A woman referred to in the papers as Mrs. Jacob Koch and her 11-year-old son were so badly injured, went the report, “they will likely die.” Sadly they did. But they were the only two casualties. While many were injured, and some may have later succumbed to their injuries, the mother and child were listed as the only victims of the “terrible twister.”

Most of the other residents, however, while fortunate to survive, were left homeless. Describing one structure as “handsome and solid” before the storm, the paper remarked: “[The residence] was crumbled to a shapeless mass as though it had been a toy house, with scarcely one stone standing above another over the foundation. The destruction was complete.”

Eighty-four buildings in all were destroyed leaving a town not just in utter destruction, but “utter desolation,” the papers reported.

The town’s rebirth is also a remarkable story. In the months and years that followed, the people of Red Bud banded together and rebuilt their homes and their lives. Even the beautiful redbud trees, the ones lost in the raging cyclone, were replaced.

Red Bud literally regrew.


More than 120 years later, in 2013, on the same date, November 17, during a seasonally warm Sunday morning, a tornado ripped through the town of Washington, Illinois. While sirens wailed and warned those it was coming, where it would end up and how powerful it would be could only be answered after the twister had cut a destructive path through a tightly packed neighborhood. “Utter destruction,” was a term used again to describe the widespread damage. Large lumber piles sat where mid-sized homes once stood.

The story of the Washington tornado, like Red Bud’s, is a tragic one. A man was killed in the storm and several more later died from injuries.


We know the Washington story well. In the modern day era of social media, instant messaging, and uploaded videos, almost everyone could share in some sense at least, the terror of those few horrifying minutes when the twister barreled through. Now a year later, residents are rebuilding their homes and getting on with their lives. Washington’s spirit lives, like Red Bud’s did over a century ago.

Today, Red Bud does not commemorate the deadly tornado of 1892. It’s just too far removed. But it’s still listed in Illinois history books as one of the most damaging in the state’s history. There are others that have been more deadly, but in comparison to time, and in terms of destruction, it was devastating.


Perhaps what did not change after all these years are the twisters themselves; menacing in size and fury, unsuspecting and weirdly confusing. “Some of the freaks of the storm were marvelous,” the papers described in 1892. “Here a house was literally lifted from the ground and scarce a vestige of it left, while a neighboring residence seemed to have escaped with comparatively little injury.”   That report from Red Bud, could have been also been written about Washington. In both cases, in freakish instances, a home on one side of the street was completely leveled while a structure on the other side was left unscathed.

Today, we may be better informed and better prepared when a tornado suddenly strikes, but we are still humbled, awed and shocked by its size, strength and impact. Nature, as it turns out, has no diminishing gain. Not even time can change that.

In Illinois, Red Bud and Washington didn’t pick the date, November 17, but the two are forever linked by that day, over a century apart, when a tornado came to their respective towns and changed lives forever.

(Originally published 11/17/2014)


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why America’s Largest Roadside Cross Isn’t Any Higher

By Ken Zurski


“Cross at the Crossroads”

Although it already stands an impressive 198 feet tall and 113 feet wide, the largest roadside cross in America located in Effingham, Illinois and called “Cross at the Crossroads,” could have been higher.

In fact, the sky’s the limit for any foundation that would like to build a cross taller than the “Cross at the Crossroads,” but one thing so far has stood in the way: Principle.

Well, that and the FAA.

Not that the FAA is discouraging anyone from building a cross taller than 200 feet, but if you do, by regulation, a rotating aviation beacon light must be on its top. Something at least to this point no one is prepared to do. “There’s no way in heck that we would put a light on the top” a volunteer worker in Effingham explains.  Similar resistance have come from other groups who built large religious symbols like the cross in Groom, Texas which stands 196 feet tall and the “Christ of the Ozarks” statue in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which is only 66 feet tall.

Image result for christ of the ozarks

“Christ of the Ozarks”

Even recognizes this obvious limitation: “We’ve always thought this regulatory height barrier established an intriguing line of demarcation between worldly safety and spiritual salvation,” they wrote in a review. “The bigger the cross, the more likely it is noticed, and the higher rate of conversion.”

By conversion they mean the percentage of people who might see the cross and become good Christians, a reason why the cross in Effingham was built in the first place.

But its location, in the middle of the heartland, helps the cause:  “Thrusting heavenward out of easy-to-reach flat farmland, the cross seems even bigger than it already is, an effect not enjoyed by some other crosses that were unwisely built on distant hills.” (

Built in 2001 by the Cross Foundation, the “Cross at the Crossroads” depends mostly on donations to help pay for maintenance costs, including a “substantial electric bill for lighting,” which of course illuminates the cross at night.

But only from the bottom up.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Time To Give Steven Spielberg His Due

By Ken Zurski

In 1975, when the movie Jaws came out, I was ten years old.  My mother didn’t think I was old enough to see it.  So I watched it later, at some point, maybe when I was 11, I’m not sure. But it didn’t matter. I’ll never forget it. It is still one of my favorite movies, if not one of my all-time favorite move experiences.

There are others. In 1981, I was sixteen when Raiders of the Lost Ark was released, and still a teenager when ET came out in June of 1982. That movie I witnessed for the first time at a premiere screening and was so moved at the end of the film, I stood to applaud. I wasn’t alone.

And it’s all due to one man: Steven Spielberg.

Reflectively, this year, I turned 53. Steven Spielberg, the man who directed these movies is in his mid 70’s. I don’t know about you, but his movies, especially these three films, are a part of my past and future; I remember them, I praise them, I can’t wait to show them to my kids. They’re ageless.

And I thank Spielberg for that.

Now I’m not saying Spielberg doesn’t get his just praise. His movies were lauded when released, but not highly awarded. None of these three movies (include Close Encounters too) won an Oscar for Best Picture. In 1975, it was Godfather Part II, in 1981 and ’82 it was Ordinary People and Gandhi, respectively. All good movies. I’ve seen them all. But, I’m not really motivated to see them again.  Spielberg knew exactly what he was doing, creating movies and memories that would last a lifetime – and beyond.

Fortunately, this is not a retrospective memorial of his work. Spielberg is still actively directing movies (The Post ’17 & Ready Player One ’18). He’s made more than 30 films, some great, some very good, some not so good (although my kid’s like Hook).

Other than the three masterpieces mentioned, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report and The Color Purple are some of my other favorites.  Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List and Amistad are also high on my list. Through the years, he’s also dabbled in television. Remember Amazing Stories or Tiny Toons?

Spielberg will no doubt make more movies and I’m convinced they will also be very good, maybe great, like Lincoln.

I once asked a Lincoln historian what he thought of the movie Lincoln and he told me it was “The best thing I have ever seen.”

So there you go Mr. Spielberg.

For then, now and in the years ahead, let’s give Spielberg the recognition he deserves.  Do it now.

Thank him.

Image result for end of et movie

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

For Six Years In A Row Now the Kentucky Derby Has Been Surprisingly Predictable

Horse Racing: 141st Kentucky Derby

By Ken Zurski

(Note: this story was originally posted in 2015 and updated for this year because favorites have kept winning)

Ready to pick a winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby? Here’s a tip: pick the favorite. That’s because for the past six years in a row now, including of course the past two Triple Crown winners, the horse chosen by the betting public as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby has actually won the race.


Certainly in the modern era of 20 horse Derby fields, it’s unprecedented.

There may be a few good reasons why.  But first to explain why the Kentucky Derby is such a unique race.

For starters, it traditionally has the largest field of any race on any thoroughbred track in the United States. Since 1975, the Derby field has been open to 20 entrants. Basically 20 horses are eligible to run for the roses. A point system determines who makes it. The better you do on the Derby prep trail, the better chance you have to get in.

That didn’t always mean 20 horses wanted in. But today, due to the prestige of running in the race, the owners just want to get their horse in and be part of the day’s festivities. (Now, it’s a whole week of festivities with big perks and big parties. Who doesn’t want to be part of that?)

So today, more than 20 owners want in. In fact, there is waiting list for eligible horses (by points) hoping others get out. The race is almost guaranteed to have 20 entrants.  Late scratches would be the only reason the number would go down at the gate. But even if 18 horses go to post as it did in 2016, that is still considered large by racing standards and when there is a large field, anything can happen. A better horse (by form) may run into early trouble and never recover, while a lesser horse’s chances might be elevated by a trouble-free trip. You never know.

Then there’s the distance. It’s rare that any two or three-year-old horse is asked to run the a mile-and-a-quarter in a race before the Derby.  So this is the first time these horses will run the distance. Only pedigrees are used to determine if a horse is suited to handle a longer distance race. Horses without long runners in their bloodline may be used for sprint races instead.

There’s no handicap advantage to level the playing field. In the Derby, all horses carry 126 pounds.  Usually, this is the first time any of these horses carried that high of weight.  In theory, these horses are all equal in age and class so only talent will – or should – determine the outcome, not weight. All this adds up to a greater betting interest and excitement which is good for the sport.  A preferred gate assignment is considered the only asset. But even that is chosen by a random draw.

Between 2004 and 2013, only three favorites finished first: 2004 (Smarty Jones), 2007 (Street Sense) and 2008 (Big Brown). There were big longshot winners: Giacomo in 2005 (50-1) and 2009 Mine That Bird (50-1). In 2011, winner Animal Kingdom was dismissed at 20-1 and I’ll Have Another won in 2012 at 15-1.

But from 2013 on, the post-time favorites Orb, California Chrome, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Nyquist, Always Dreaming and Justify (another Triple Crown champion), have all won convincingly.

Is it just a fluke? Maybe not.

Based on the current point system, the horses entered in the Derby don’t have to win every race, just be consistent. They are all good horses and in many cases were the betting favorites in races they were entered. But the best horse in any race doesn’t always win.  There are lots of prep races leading up to the Kentucky Derby and bettors like grit. Favorites then, based on consistency, rather than just wins, become distinguishable. Lately, however, the top horses have come in with a string of victories, some unbeaten. That makes picking a proverbial favorite easier.

Also, past Derby scenarios have given trainers and jockeys a better idea how to run the race.  No one wants to get caught up in a speed duel, so the pace has been more honest lately. This is bad for the “closers” (horses who like to lag in the back of the pack and come running late). But a horse that comes from out of the clouds, so to speak, is never a sure thing, or good bet, and rarely a favorite. It’s all about racing luck and that usually doesn’t fly with the big money bettors. The stalkers, or horses waiting in the mid-pack before striking out with a good kick in the stretch, is generally considered the best running style for the Derby.

No one wants to get into racing trouble either. In the past horses were jostled, clipped, or caught behind a wall of horses. A bad trip dropped their chances of winning. The strategy has changed to better maximize success. Stay out of trouble and be in a solid and unfettered position turning for home.

Plus, Jockeys aren’t fighters – in a literal sense. They generally like and respect each other. And no one wants to get hurt. Run the race and may the best horse win is their thinking.

Lately, the best horse has done just that.

Let’s see what happens this year.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment