Jim O'Donnell: Run for the Roses or hold your noses as Kentucky Derby creeps on to NBC stage?

  • Medina Spirit, right, was stripped of its victory in last year's Kentucky Derby, and Mandaloun, second from right, was declared the winner by state racing stewards.

    Medina Spirit, right, was stripped of its victory in last year's Kentucky Derby, and Mandaloun, second from right, was declared the winner by state racing stewards. Associated Press

Updated 5/3/2022 10:45 PM

FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS, the Kentucky Derby has devolved into less and less ado about an increasingly devalued event soaked in a hollow cask of unhappy endings.

The happiest enders might be the most fervent, rooting for nothing but continued bad karma related to any horse racing matter that the traveling track wreckers of Churchill Downs Inc. take on.



• In 2019, first-place finisher Maximum Security was disqualified and dropped to 17th. Less than a year later, displaced trainer Jason Servis was indicted in a sweeping federal probe concerning horse doping. He awaits trial.

• In 2020, The Limp for the Roses was moved to Labor Day weekend because of the pandemic. No paying spectators were allowed. Outside of Churchill Downs, a group protesting the police murder of Breonna Taylor drew significant attention.

• Last year, silver-maned Derby wingfoot Bob Baffert won with Medina Spirit only to be DQ'd days after the race when the colt tested positive for a banned substance.

That takedown was made official in February. That was of no consolation to backers of eventual winner Mandaloun, who got to throw away their tickets on Derby Day.

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BAFFERT HAS SINCE BEEN banned from all CDI tracks for two years. But his stable will have two of Saturday's 20 scheduled starters -- Messier (8-1) and Taiba (12-1) -- running under the unabashed banner of assistant trainer Tim Yakteen.

NBC Sports will devote five hours of coverage to the event, apparently because no USFL games are available.

Some serious handicappers insist it is a "wide-open race" that "any one of 12 colts" could win.

Some of those same serious handicappers also still insist that Kentuckian John Breckenridge and not Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 presidential election.

THE 2022 KENTUCKY DERBY looms as an event perfectly tailored to the times.

With pastels by Kroger's of Shelbyville, it panders to yahoo sentimentalists and the growing cadre of social sheep who list primary hobbies as vacuously "debating" national politics and throwing money down scoop 'n run legalized gambling channels.


Any non-insider who seriously bets the race is a stooge.

Anyone who finds any semblance of significant redemptive value in it should Zelle some cabbage for a gen-u-ine Mitch McConnell travel mug.

STREET-BEATIN': Accentuating the positive, Olin Kreutz's alleged attack on colleague Adam Hoge at a Monday staff meeting of CHGO Sports is the most publicity the startup has gotten since its local launch this past winter. Hoge reportedly is seeking a restraining order; the volcanic Kreutz could easily move on as Designated Attacker for any upstreaming media group looking for some free pub. ...

Proving Roger Goodell without a top college QB to introduce is no Joe Burrow, viewership for the first night of the NFL draft (10M) was off 22% from last year and 34% from the pandemic shut-in 15.2M who set a record in 2020. Close to 320M Americans did not tune in to the glorified administrative event. ...

Crispy kitsch moment of the draft came when Wayne Newton and Marcus Allen came out to announce the first pick of the Las Vegas Raiders. Newton's face was right out of a Clutch Cargo Kit by Hasbro, so unnatural and stiff looking it gave embalming a bad name. ...

The first phase of the Cubs-Sox "City Series" Tuesday left a wound-up media confronting two listing teams trying to play baseball in Edmund Fitzgerald weather. Unconfirmed report that NBC Sports Chicago, in case of a delay, had a new animated series about Tony La Russa set to go -- "Noddin' with the Sleepy Senor." (With narration by Ozzie Guillen.) ...

One of the best things about the announcement Marquee Sports Network will air at least 16 Chicago Sky games this season is that Stephen Bardo -- a broadcast basketball nugget -- will be involved. One of the worst things is that Mike McCarthy and his struggling Marquee Sports Network will be involved. ...

And veteran Chicago racing exec Gary Duch, on the state of the thoroughbred industry as Derby Week '22 stalks into view: "If you like historic jurisdictions torn to shreds, no consistent oversight and mysteriously manipulated odds, this game's for you."

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears three times weekly, including Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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