The taxi man didn't quite get me to Churchill Downs. Something about not having the right sticker. Who knows if this was even a cab. It was yellow, anyway. The man dropped me a half-mile from Churchill's main entrance. It was going to be a long walk. It was going to be a long day.

All the umbrella sales were taking place on the opposite side of Central Avenue. Crossing the road was not allowed. Something about barricades and police. I hadn't taken the weather reports seriously. I didn't listen. Entering the track with my suit soaking wet would be the least of my regrets.

Just before going in, I heard someone on the street yelling through speakers that I would pay for my sins.

Preach.

That man was talking about eternal damnation for entering the gambling establishment. I'll have to deal with that issue later. Today the payment for my sins was that I got nothing out of the deal when a friend won the Kentucky Derby.

Well, I mean I'm happy for her. I'll think of that a lot when I go to an ATM and have money again.

I've known Daisy Phipps-Pulito for about 15 years. We used to work together back when I was doing live horse race coverage for ESPN and she was running the TV department for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Her dad is Dinny Phipps, chairman of the Jockey Club and a successful horse owner for decades. The Phipps family name has been prominent in industry, commerce and racing for a century or so. They're probably in that 39.6 percent tax bracket. Even so, to us, Daisy was always the girl next door. Probably in a house next door that was larger. But still. She didn't act privileged. She held a regular job, she downplayed her family's successes. In fact, when one of the Phipps Stable horses was running, she never boasted about the horse's chances.

Except one time.

It was the Breeders' Cup of 2005, Belmont Park. Daisy asked me to come up to the family's box and meet her mom. Then she let me know that they really liked Pleasant Home in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. I'd already made my expert analysis of the field and Pleasant Home had little chance of hitting the board, much less winning this thing. The favorite, Ashado, looked like an easy winner.

Good luck with that, Daisy. Nice to meet you, mom.

Pleasant Home won by nine lengths and paid $63.50.

Daisy had done everything but stand in line for me to bet. But I didn't listen.

I was real happy for her, though.

She called me down to the winner's enclosure to be in the picture. There were a lot of people in that picture. A picture's worth a thousand words. A lot of people in that picture had won thousands of dollars. I was just in the picture.

A picture's worth a thousand words. A lot of people in that picture had won thousands of dollars. I was just in the picture.

When Orb won the Florida Derby, I was happy for Daisy once more. She'd taken over as the racing manager for her father's stable. Orb's win was as impressive as any in the Derby preps. I'd found my Derby horse and had a direct link to the colt. The Phipps family owns Orb with a cousin, Stuart Janney. Neither had won a Kentucky Derby. Nor had the family's trainer, Shug McGaughey, whose patience with horses had him passing on entering most years when others might have forced the issue. The fact these connections had a Derby starter at all this year was thus a sign of great confidence. The first person I saw when I checked in to my hotel Wednesday night was Shug. All smiles. Not a care in the world. He was days away from sending out the morning-line Derby favorite. "We feel really good about him."

I saw Daisy the very next morning on the backstretch. "Feeling good about your animal?" I asked. She nodded in such a way that suggested she was saying, "Remember that time I told you to play Pleasant Home in the Breeders' Cup, but you were really stupid and didn't listen and then when she won and we took that picture, you were the only one in the picture who didn't bet a lot of money on her?" I'm certain she said all that through her simple nod.

I asked if she was surprised Orb had been made the favorite over unbeaten Verrazano.

"No."

With a nod and a word, I had all I needed. I already liked the horse a lot. The stride analysts suggested Orb had looked better than any other in the Churchill workouts, and now Shug and Daisy said and didn't say all the right things. Just then, as Orb was jogging out slowly, along came Normandy Invasion in an unplanned and out of control three-furlong sprint. The invasion the horse was named for was good. The invasion into Orb's space wasn't. Daisy was suddenly not feeling good at all about her horse. A collision was averted by mere inches. Those in the Orb camp were relieved. Crisis averted. Daisy felt good about her horse again. She didn't even have to nod.

The horse I liked next most was Goldencents, winner of the Santa Anita Derby. It just so happened we would end up working on a couple of stories Thursday and Friday that included the trainer of Goldencents, Doug O'Neill. In a horse racing version of Stockholm Syndrome, I began to identify with my interview subject captor over those two days. Goldencents looked very fast and would likely be placed toward the front end of the Derby. The question was whether he could stay the mile and a quarter. That didn't seem to be a question at all with Orb. But then I started looking again at the times and the speed ratings and began to wrestle with the fact Orb's numbers seemed just a little off -- no matter how impressive his Florida win was and how he'd conducted himself once at Churchill.

Goldencents stopped running about the time Orb started. Goldencents appeared to be going backwards on a treadmill.

I would end up using Orb on top of some exotic tickets but the eventual runner-up, Golden Soul, was a throwout.

Goldencents was my true key horse. The rains and sloppy track would only increase the advantage of his front-running style. Orb and the others wouldn't care for all that muck thrown in their faces. Goldencents stopped running about the time Orb started. Goldencents appeared to be going backwards on a treadmill. Coming from the back of the field, Orb and jockey Joel Rosario were obscured by all the slop thrown at them, but they could always be cleaned up before it was time to take a picture. Goldencents finished 17th.

As I was making my departure from Churchill Downs, I crossed paths with Daisy and her family. Hugs and kisses and a meaningful handshake with her brother. I got to meet her mom again. No one brought up Pleasant Home. I told you they don't brag about their horses.

As she walked away Daisy turned and asked, "Do you want to come to the party?" I had work to do so I'd be late. Late to the party. Too late also to change my betting strategy (which merely deprived me of a trifecta worth more than $6,000).

I'm happy for Daisy. I am. I can go to an ATM.

The man telling me I'd pay for my sins wasn't outside when I left the grounds. It wasn't necessary. I knew. Preach, Daisy.

Over at the Doug O'Neill barn after the Preakness, everyone hugged everyone.

Some people even made their fist bumps blow up. The mood was stirring. Not as stirring as a Kentucky Derby winner taking down the Preakness in the final jump, but what do you expect from humans?

Much is now expected of I'll Have Another. Dozens of people stood and watched him take a bath outside the barn. They laughed and pointed and took pictures. They did this because they want to be able to say to their grandchildren, "I saw a Triple Crown winner rinsed off with a garden hose."

There's that much at stake.

I know because I laughed and pointed and took pictures.

As he was led into his stall, the significance of what's on the line now was revealed to I'll Have Another.

First, of course, the call came in from the president of these United States.

President Barack Obama: It's a significant accomplishment you made today. I'm running for re-election.

I'll Have Another: I am ineligible to vote. I'm only 3. Plus I'm a horse.

President Obama: Still, it was something. Good luck in New York. A lot of people are counting on you.

IHA: I'm aware. The grandchildren speech.

Big Brown and Smarty Jones called in together.

Big Brown: Don't let the humans objectify you.

IHA: Too late. A bunch of humans who have nothing to do with Team O'Neill took pictures of my privates. Then they made fist bumps blow up.

Smarty Jones: They're so stupid. Don't fall for that pressure they'll put on you. I had the weight of the whole industry on my back when I turned for home.

Big Brown: No wonder you lost a four-length lead.

Smarty Jones: At least I didn't quit.

IHA: Guys.

Smarty Jones: They're gonna tell you a Triple Crown will save the game and bring racing back to its glory days.

Big Brown: Like we want to live through another Depression.

Smarty Jones: The only thing a Triple Crown will do is sell a few more magazines and books. You already did your job in Baltimore.

Big Brown: You created buzz, son.

Smarty Jones: You put fannies in seats. New York is gonna be a zoo. Wish I could be there.

Big Brown: Wish I hadn't quit.

Smarty Jones: Don't be so hard on yourself. You got the first two. The third one is for the humans.

IHA: I think I see what's going on here. Thanks, men.

Smarty Jones: Horses.

Big Brown: Animals.

Back at the O'Neill barn, people got close to the stall and took more pictures. They were told not to use a flash. The handlers didn't want I'll Have Another spooked.

Too late.

When Bob Baffert had his heart attack a little over a month ago in Dubai, I sent him a get well text.

He came back with, "Can't have sex for 30 days."

His humor intact and his heart repaired, Baffert got back to work trying to win his fourth Kentucky Derby. A couple weeks after being allowed to live some more, Baffert was blessed further. His horse Bodemeister put on the single-most talked about move in the Derby prep season, when he found a fifth gear in the stretch of the Arkansas Derby and won by nearly 10 lengths.

It was either a one-time adrenaline rush for the horse and the game or we had a superstar on our hands, in Baffert's hands.

I asked him the night before the Derby if he was as confident about Bodemeister as he was in 2001 with Point Given. "I know I have the best horse in the race," he said. Point Given got a little too close to a ridiculous pace and ended up fifth in that Derby, before going on to win the Preakness and the Belmont.

It got ridiculous again Saturday. But this time Baffert's horse wasn't close to the pace. He was setting it. Bodemeister and jockey Mike Smith ran like they were being chased by wild dogs. It was just the 9 horse, Trinniberg. He wasn't really scary at all, folding to finish 17th in the field of 20. Bodemeister ran the half-mile and six furlong fractions just a shade slower than Songandaprayer's record times from 2001.

But by the top of the stretch, when Trinniberg was dropping anchor, it didn't seem to matter. Bodemeister looked like a superstar, conventional times be damned. He opened up on the field and was about to give a guy who almost died six weeks previous something more to live for, the first leg toward the first Triple Crown since 1978. Bodemeister looked that invincible.

Just a couple days ago, for our ESPN.com profiles on the 20 Derby horses, Baffert got philosophical with us. When you almost die on a trip to Dubai for the purpose of making a horse run in a circle, getting philosophical comes with the territory.

Baffert said the experience made him a better person. The way he treats others, the way he treats himself. What it seemed to do most is get him to recognize he needs to let go of things over which he doesn't have control. For instance, he can't control Mike Smith and Bodemeister from believing they were being chased by wild dogs. It was just Trinniberg. Damn Trinniberg. Without that sprinter in this field, maybe Bodemeister would have been able to relax a bit, carve out more reasonable fractions and come home invincible. Instead the pressure really did get to Bodemeister and the SA Derby winner, I'll Have Another, gave trainer Doug O'Neill his first Kentucky Derby win.

Afterward O'Neil mentioned that Baffert had told him when you win a Kentucky Derby there's absolutely no feeling like it.

And now Baffert can explain to O'Neill how when you almost die of a heart attack in Dubai while there to make a horse run in a circle and then almost win another Kentucky Derby six weeks later after your horse has been chased by wild dogs and runs too fast … there's nothing like it.

Before the heart attack, Baffert would have been devastated to lose a Derby this way. He might have had strong words for his jockey -- even if the jockey explained, well, the thing about the wild dogs. Baffert would have second-guessed himself, eaten more bad food quickly and replayed in his mind again and again what could have been.

These days he's taking care of himself better, beginning with his perspective on wins and losses. Even Kentucky Derby wins and losses.

I sent him another text Saturday night: "Second place isn't bad for a guy who wasn't feeling very well a month or so ago."

Baffert said Trinniberg's pressure did him in, but it was without malice. "That's racing," he said. Trinniberg had earned the right to run a mile and then walk the final quarter.

Baffert ended simply: "I'm happy."

Happy no wild dogs can harass his horse any longer. Happy to be second-best on Saturday. Doesn't mean he has lost his ambition. It means his ambition no longer controls him. The trip to Dubai was the worst and best thing that ever happened to him. Bodemeister losing his lead is what happened on one Saturday.

ESPN's Kenny Mayne finds a par-3 unlike any other during his visit to South Africa.

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To check out more of Mayne's travels, go to our site.

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A long, long time ago, when this project was just a bunch of phone calls and desperate emails to bosses, there finally came a day when one of the men on high told us to go make things happen. Just make it happen in a week. We needed someplace foreign and interesting, but also fairly local. Canada was close, but we're more ambitious than that. Plus, by picking London, the most expensive city in the world, they might look the other way if one day we bought an elephant in Thailand.

In England, the crew bought me a cricket uniform and I learned how to play that ancient (some might call it "boring") game. We also went to the Lion's Den, a very exciting stadium where the Millwall Football Club does business and its rowdy fans are reputed to do bad things. We took the risk and lived to tell the tale.

To read more about my trips, check it out here.

Kenny Mayne Voices SaragotaRob Tringali for ESPN The MagazineNo one watching so I fed this animal peppermints. Twenty of them.

This story appears in the Aug. 22, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

The last fight I remember getting into was in seventh grade. Dennis Doran and I were below-average basketball players, and we were scrapping at the gym in order to make our mark in a pickup game. Things escalated from there. It wasn't much of a fight, something just short of when relief pitchers jog to the mound from the bullpen and pretend to join a brawl. But still.

So nearly 40 years later, a guy standing two feet away at a restaurant in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., is preparing to take a swing at me. What incensed him was that on TV just one week earlier, I'd had the nerve to say nice things about California's storied Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

I tried to explain how I felt that it's okay to have strong feelings for both Del Mar and Saratoga, but this guy, as a devout Saratoga fan, felt violated. He backed off eventually -- he'd probably heard of my draw vs. Doran during the Ali-Frazier era -- but his wounds were apparent, because Saratoga is as much a feeling as it is a place.

There's something important going on there, and just by being in town during the 40-day meet, you are a part of it. The racing, which moves north from Belmont Park in mid-July, culminates in late August, when the top 3-year-olds in the country come to Saratoga for the Travers Stakes, aka the Midsummer Derby. As legendary Saratoga rider John Velazquez tells me, "This is where the best horses, best trainers and best jockeys come. And if you want to shine, this is the place."

I'd heard of Saratoga while growing up some 3,000 miles away in Seattle. It seemed a distant, mythical place. The kind of place where Seabiscuit raced. The kind of place Carly Simon referred to in song. Horse racing's Hall of Fame is across the street, for goodness' sake, so it had to be a big deal. And it's been so for a long time. The war between the states was raging when Saratoga opened in 1863, and the North deserved one hell of a track.

Editor's note: Kenny used all caps so as to be noticed.

NOT SAYING ESPN THOUGHT LITTLE OF MY HARD WORK THIS WEEK, BUT IF I'M NOT MISTAKEN, MY 12 LITTLE VIDEO HITS FOR THE 143RD BELMONT STAKES WERE FOUND UNDER "OTHER SPORTS." HOW WOULD I KNOW? I DON'T EVEN OWN A COMPUTER ANY LONGER. THE LAST FIVE BLEW UP, AND I'M NOT GOING TO SUPPORT A DYING INDUSTRY ANY LONGER.

DID SOMEONE SAY DYING INDUSTRY?

THAT'S WHAT THEY SAY OFTEN ABOUT MY SECOND-FAVORITE SPORT (TO TACKLE FOOTBALL, C'MON).

EACH YEAR, THE LAME STORY IS TROTTED OUT ONCE AGAIN … SADLY … EVEN BY THOSE WHO CLAIM TO FOLLOW THE GAME, THAT HORSE RACING NEEDS A TRIPLE CROWN WINNER SO AS TO SAVE ITSELF.

YOU MIGHT BE WONDERING HOW I AM TYPING THIS IF I DON'T OWN A COMPUTER. I MAKE FAST FRIENDS. FRIENDS FAST. PLUS, THE GIRL WHO REALLY OWNS THIS MACHINE IS A HORSE NUT. SHE'S HERE AT BELMONT PARK. SHE EVEN PUT OUT AND WORE A HAT. THAT'S DEDICATION. HATS ARE MEANT FOR THE KENTUCKY DERBY OR MAYBE THE PREAKNESS, WHEN THERE'S STILL HOPE FOR SAVING THIS SPORT.

BUT NOT NOW. NOT HERE. WITH THE SPLIT OF THE FIRST TWO LEGS (ANIMAL KINGDOM, THEN SHACKLEFORD), THERE AGAIN WOULD NOT BE A TRIPLE CROWN WINNER, AFFIRMED BEING THE LAST TO PULL IT OFF BACK IN 1978.

THING IS, WHETHER THERE HAD BEEN ANOTHER TRIPLE CROWN WINNER THIS YEAR OR NOT, THE ONLY IMPACT AFTER THE FACT WOULD BE THAT TIME MAGAZINE WOULD PUT THE ANIMAL ON ITS COVER. THE U.S. SPORTING PUBLIC WOULD NOT HAVE RUSHED OUT THE DAY AFTER TO THE LOCAL TRACKS, SO INSPIRED OVER THE FEAT.

LIKEWISE, WHEN SUNDAY COMES AROUND, THOSE WHO WERE GOING TO GO ARE GOING TO GO, THOSE WHO WERE GOING TO BET ON THEIR COMPUTERS OR THEIR PHONES OR IN LAS VEGAS ARE GOING TO DO THAT.

THAT IS TO SAY, THE THRILL IS IN THE CHASE. PRETTY MUCH LIKE ANYTHING ELSE.

WITH NO TRIPLE CROWN ON THE LINE SATURDAY AT BELMONT PARK, THE BEST THE RACING PR MACHINE COULD KICK OUT WAS THE OBVIOUS -- A RUBBER MATCH BETWEEN THE DERBY AND PREAKNESS WINNERS. NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT, BUT I MIGHT HAVE GONE WITH SOMETHING EVEN MORE SELF-EVIDENT. THE SELLING TOOL I WOULD HAVE USED IS: 12 HORSES ARE GOING TO RUN A MILE AND A HALF AT STORIED BELMONT PARK, SITE OF SECRETARIAT'S ROMP, IN SOMETHING CALLED THE BELMONT STAKES. IT'S A GRADE 1. IT'S WORTH A LOT OF MONEY. THOUSANDS WILL COME, MILLIONS WILL WATCH. AND SUNDAY, SOME OF THEM WILL COME BACK AND WATCH LESSER HORSES HERE AND AT LESSER TRACKS.

FOR SOME REASON, PROBABLY A COMMITTEE WAS INVOLVED, THE RACING GAME HAS FOR YEARS AND YEARS CONCERNED ITSELF GREATLY WITH ALL THOSE WHO DON'T CARE FOR HORSE RACING RATHER THAN CONCERNING ITSELF WITH THOSE WHO DO. (IDEA NO. 1 -- FREE ADMISSION)

I'M JUST ONE GUY HERE FROM KENT, WASH., BUT I DID GROW UP GOING TO A HELL OF A TRACK SOUTH OF SEATTLE. IT WAS CALLED LONGACRES. THE BOEING COMPANY BOUGHT IT ONE DAY AND TORE IT DOWN. BOEING DOES MAKE NICE AIRPLANES. IT WAS BOEING'S PROPERTY. BUT IN ALL MY YEARS GROWING UP NEAR SEATTLE, I'D NEVER HEARD ANYONE COMMENT ON BOEING'S LOVE FOR HORSE RACING (OTHER THAN HAVING A STAKES RACE NAMED FOR IT). IT'S A BIT LIKE HOW THE STARBUCKS GUY SOLD THE SONICS TO PEOPLE WHO AREN'T FROM SEATTLE. IN OTHER WORDS, TWO OF THE GREAT LOVES OF MY LIFE WERE SOLD TO PEOPLE WHO HAD ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST IN CONTINUING THOSE PROPERTIES IN MY HOMETOWN. THEY HAD MADE INVESTMENTS, SURE. BUT THEY WEREN'T INVESTED IN THE IDEA OF MAINTAINING THOSE TWO GREAT TRADITIONS.

THERE ARE ALL SORTS OF HORSE RACE FANS WHO ARE FULLY INVESTED. SOME OF THEM INVEST TOO MUCH (PAY YOUR REAL BILLS FIRST, KIDS), BUT NEARLY ALL OF THEM HAVE AN UNENDING APPRECIATION OF THE TRADITIONS AND THRILLS THIS SPORT HAS TO OFFER. THEY'RE EVEN READING THIS RIGHT NOW, EVEN IF ESPN BURIED IT UNDER "OTHER SPORTS." HOW WOULD I KNOW? I DON'T HAVE A COMPUTER. PLUS, I WROTE IT. THIS STORY IS DEAD TO ME. BUT THE SPORT ISN'T. NO MATTER WHO WON, I WANTED MASTER OF HOUNDS TO CROSS THE LINE FIRST. Editor's note: Kenny picked at 6:05 p.m. ET.

LIKE ZENYATTA'S (YOU CAN GOOGLE HER) TRAINER JOHN SHIRREFFS TOLD ME A FEW WEEKS BACK, "WE NEED TO STOP LAMENTING THE FACT THE GAME ISN'T AS POPULAR AS IT ONCE WAS BUT KEEP IN MIND IT'S BEEN GOING FOR FIVE OR SIX HUNDRED YEARS. WE'RE STILL GOING."

THAT WE ARE. WITH RULER ON ICE THE WINNER OF THE 143RD BELMONT STAKES. NEXT YEAR WILL COME THE WINNER OF THE 144TH BELMONT STAKES. MAYBE HE'LL HAVE WON THE TRIPLE CROWN. MAYBE SHE'LL HAVE DONE SO.

I'LL WATCH IF I AM THE LAST ONE.

TRADITIONALIST.

BALTIMORE -- With no TV to do this week, I spent a lot of time around the Preakness Stakes barn. There was plenty of information to be had. The difficulty, of course, was determining which of it to use.

I am walking out of the track in better shape -- not financially. I don't have to tell my wife to choose plastic for flooring when we move, but neither are we paying for upgrades with any investments made Saturday.

I am doing better thanks to the trainer of Mr. Commons, John Shirreffs. He took pity on my limp Friday (an arthritic condition from a fracture-dislocation, plus eight surgeries) and brought me into his barn. First he applied some liniment (just like I was a slower and smaller version of Zenyatta), then he brought out the magic machine -- not "a machine." Those are illegal horse zappers. This was for therapy only. And it worked. God knows what it does but I trust John Shirreffs. Something about electrons and cells. I think he said that. I took it for the night and walked it back to John trackside at 6 a.m. Saturday. Walked it back pain free.

Pain came later.

Back at the barn mid-card, I checked in with Dale Romans. "I'm alive on the pick four," I told him. "Your horse is a single, right?"

The pick four is simple as it sounds: Pick four winners in a row. The favored way is to single a horse (or more) along the way, leaving money management space to play multiple horses in other legs and catch a large price.

So, I asked Romans if his horse was good enough to be a single choice. I was speaking, of course, of heavy favorite Paddy O'Prado in the 11th race. But Romans responded "Shackleford?" And he didn't seem to be kidding. He didn't seem to be kidding at all when I asked, "Are you kidding?" I knew that because he said, "No."

That's the kind of information I like to use. In stories. Later. Long after it would have made me 12-1 money.

I was already using the obvious animal. The Derby winner Animal Kingdom made sense and missed by a half-length. Mucho Macho Man seemed logical but was good only for sixth place. All week I was looking for a bigger-price horse and Romans had given it to me, singly. He was the only one who said it quite that way. But he did nothing for my ankle. Shirreffs doesn't enter Grade 1 races to get his name in the paper. Certainly not for the mere Internet. He had to be here for a reason. I mean, how did he know my ankle sucked? I played his horse a bit. He came home in eighth place.

I'm going home with a wealth of knowledge. We can take money out of a machine and feel better about how some of mine was distributed to others.

Pain free, guilt free, I am walking out of here -- in the direction of Belmont Park. Even Dale Romans can't say that for sure.

Trash and treasure

May, 7, 2011
05/07/11
8:53
PM ET
You want to end your day filling out forms. The government kind. Always bring your Social Security card to the track because you'll need it to cash trifectas and superfectas like the ones from today's Kentucky Derby.

But I was filling out forms at 9:30 a.m. I'd hit the front end of the Oaks/Derby double, thanks to Bob Baffert's Plum Pretty on Friday. Minutes later, I wanted to brag to Hank Goldberg of my position in racing except I had no ticket to show. It was in the garbage, I believe, under plates of press box food. My pal Rolly Hoyt slyly moved the can around the corner and out of view of the scribes so I could dig through. Having worked in the garbage industry in my youth, I liked my chances. As I pulled tickets from the inside of ham sandwiches, I felt no humiliation. In fact, the only embarrassment was that I'd worked on the can away from the other members of the working media. Each and every one of them would have dug through a landfill in order to secure a ticket with a chance at being worth something north of $1,000.

Before any pride surfaced I learned there's a way to recover a lost ticket other than digging through a garbage can away from the view of people who would also dig through that same can were they alive to five horses in the Kentucky Derby. The good people of Kentucky informed me a visit to Guest Services would begin the process toward recovering my investment. Only the Guest Relations office had closed.

At 9:30 it was wide open. Forms filled, I was nearing complete recovery. Master of Hounds, Mucho Macho Man, Midnight Interlude, Soldat and Nehro were my five. When once I was deep into a barrel of trash, I was now just nine hours from world domination, a winner of the Oaks-Derby double.

Johnny Velazquez was low Friday as well. Not trash bin low, but low. His runner, Uncle Mo, the runaway winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile here at Churchill last November, had scratched. This was a horse many once believed to be a true Triple Crown threat, something not accomplished since Affirmed did so in 1978. Uncle Mo hadn't looked like that 2-year-old phenom this spring and now an unexplained illness had Velazquez without a mount.

But longshot Animal Kingdom needed a rider. Robby Albarado was injured this week and the Animal Kingdom connections called on Velazquez to step in.

This Derby had been described as being wide open. Just like a bunch of them. Just like the one in which Barbaro won by 6½ lengths. But this time people meant it. The players didn't seem to know what to make of it because by the time the gates opened, it seems the fans had voted more than wagered. The female jockey, Rosie Napravnik, good as she is, had drawn all sorts of support from people who like female jockeys. Pants on Fire, once 20-1, closed at 8-1. Calvin Borel, good as he is, and winner of three of the last four Derbys, took action to make his 20-1 horse Twice the Appeal an 11-1 proposition as well.

Animal Kingdom received support, I guess, because of the TV show, Animal Kingdom. Wait, that was Wild Kingdom.

He moved from 30-1 to 20-1 at the close. This was his fifth lifetime start and his greatest accomplishment to date had been a Grade 3 win at Turfway Park, close by Northern Kentucky Airport, if you ever miss a flight. But other than that there was little to recommend. Animal Kingdom had never raced on dirt. Turf and fake dirt, sure. But not the kind of dirt God had intended animals to run on while humans gambled. Stupid, digging-through-garbage humans.

One of my five was Nehro. And turning for home it appeared the trash experience and the time spent filling out the 1040-style Customer Services form was well worth it. Corey Nakatani had my horse moving toward the lead in deep stretch. Five times the $2 Oaks/Derby double would be mine, to say nothing of complementary plays in the exacta and trifecta arenas.

But John Velazquez had no interest in any of that. Johnny V had never won a Kentucky Derby, and he'd lost his best chance to date at winning one when Uncle Mo scratched. But now he had Nehro measured. He had my tickets in the trash, something that'll be long forgotten at Pimlico in two weeks. For, as Nick Zito often says, "you can't even lose if you don't enter." He did, with the favorite, Dialed In, and finished eighth. But then, Dialed In only won the Florida Derby.

Animal Kingdom won the damn Spiral at Turfway Park. Plus there was that TV show. To say nothing of Johnny Velazquez, whose Friday was long forgotten on Saturday.

Me? I'm about to throw more tickets in the trash. There's no shame in betting the 12th and 13th races after the Derby. I'm fully entered in this Triple Crown. The Preakness is just two weeks away.

ESPN broadcaster Kenny Mayne visits Green Bay to meet the shareholders who have been swindled by the Packers: