Yep, it comes up ever so often. About as often as somebody in/or/from Georgia, or has passed through the state comes up with a good-looking three-year-old, or even owns a piece of one.
Look out, Kentucky Derby, here we come again. The closest anyone with a Georgia connection has come to winning this thoroughbred classic was in 1990, when Summer Squall was runner-up to Unbridled. And even then, we had to stretch beyond our state line.
Cot Campbell was a Georgian, and Atlantan, but had moved his Dogwood Stable operation to Aiken, S.C. But we haven’t forfeited our claim to him, and we really exercised it when Summer Squall renewed our passion when he moved on and won the Preakness.
Then we followed that up when Jack Wolfe came along with Harlan’s Holiday, a few years later. Jack operated as Starlight Stable, name of the street on which he lived. Harlan’s Holiday went off the Derby betting favorite by a smidgen, but even then we were fudging.
Jack was from Kentucky, grew up in Louisville, and as his stable muscled up, he moved his connections back to Kentucky. Starlight Stable soon lost its Georgia accent.
Well, we’ve got another one now, and this one they can’t take away from us — yet. Dean and Patti Reeves are majority owners of a colt named Mucho Macho Man, and they live in Suwanee, which is about all I know of them. They’re nice people and have put The Man in the care of a female trainer named Katherine Ritvo, a novelty as Kentucky Derby trainers go.
Mucho Macho Man shook up the insiders when he won the Risen Star Stakes in New Orleans, then finished third in the Louisiana Derby, but with an excuse — he threw a shoe. And that’s about where we stand with Mucho Macho Man as the Derby approaches. He’s a gamer, they say in Horse Player magazine, which is aimed at the betting class. Ten hot registered members of the betting society pick their top 10 Derby prospects. Only one passes over Much Macho Man. On the other hand, one rates him second, and there you are.
The winter book favorite, Uncle Mo, 2-year-old champion, had his balloon punctured when he finished third in the Wood Memorial, a launching pad for Derby contenders. But Secretariat also finished third in the Wood on his way to becoming the greatest champion of his time.
All that said, what bothers a lot of us is, as another contender happens to flicker across our screens in Georgia, we have the usual pari-mutuel wagering crowd coming out of the weeds crying that it’s time to legalize thoroughbred racing in Georgia, which means racetrack wagering.
Knowing well that it will never be, that this trial balloon has been sent afloat before and never gotten above ground. When Frank Stronach, the esteemed racetrack and stable owner, came to the state with a plan to open a spacious racing program, he barely got past the door.
Forget it, for heaven sake, it hasn’t a chance in Georgia.
And it’s no time to infringe on Mucho Macho Man’s parade by bringing it up again. In other words, selah to pari-mutuels in Georgia.
Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.