1987: Alysheba

Sunday, May 03, 1987

ALYSHEBA WINS ‘DEMOLITION DERBY

By Maryjean Wall, Herald-Leader Racing Writer

Alysheba, who nearly fell to his knees after getting into trouble in the stretch, scrambled to a miracle recovery and won the 113th Kentucky Derby yesterday.
“I thought I was gone,” declared jockey Chris McCarron, who almost went flying from the saddle when Alysheba clipped the heels of Bet Twice and stumbled, losing his balance.  The incident happened just as Alysheba, owned by Dorothy and Pamela Scharbauer and trained by Jack Van Berg, was challenging Bet Twice for the lead about three-sixteenths of a mile from the wire. Bet Twice suddenly veered in front of him, but Alysheba recovered. Then he narrowly missed another collision when Bet Twice veered again. Alysheba finally wrestled the lead from Bet Twice near the 16th pole, winning by three-quarters  of a length.
Avies Copy was third, 2 1/4 lengths behind those two and a neck in front of Cryptoclearance in the 1 1/4-mile race, timed in  2:03 2/5.
The 113th Derby wasn’t particularly fast and didn’t come close to threatening Secretariat’s record of 1:59 2/5, set 14 years ago. Yet it was a troubled Derby, fraught with traffic problems and a number of unfortunate
incidents:
* Demons Begone, the favorite, bled from both nostrils, did not finish and was removed by horse ambulance. He appeared to cool out at his barn in good condition but will undergo tests.
* Capote, last season’s juvenile champion, who had not won this year and had started only twice since recovering from illness in December, was eased.
* War, Tom Gentry’s recent winner of the Blue Grass Stakes, nearly went
over the rail in tight quarters on the first turn.
* Masterful Advocate got banged around in the first turn and lost all chance early.
* And Alysheba was pinched and bumped in tight quarters at the start.
“How he won today, I just can’t believe,” marveled McCarron, 32, after winning his first Kentucky Derby. The jockey is just beginning a comeback after recovering from a broken leg that kept him out of work for  five months. He inherited Alysheba about a month ago from Pat Day, who chose to ride Demons Begone through the Triple Crown.
Van Berg also won his first Derby yesterday. The Hall of Fame trainer, 50, said he could hardly see the race and was largely unaware of mishaps in the stretch.
“I saw that horse duck in front,” Van Berg said, “but I didn’t see how serious it was.”
Bet Twice returned to his barn with cuts where Alysheba had “clipped,” or run up on, his heels.
Bet Twice ducked both times under left-handed whipping, although his jockey, Craig Perret, was switching sticks from left to right to left through the stretch. McCarron said he “absolutely” would have claimed  foul if Bet Twice had won the race.
But there was no need because Alysheba recovered and rallied to pull ahead. His Derby victory was the first for an offspring of Alydar, who ran second to Affirmed in all the Triple Crown races in 1978. And winning  the Derby put an end to speculation that Alysheba might be a hard-luck colt who had trouble running straight.
He lugged in during two races in California this winter, then lost the Blue Grass Stakes on disqualification after jumping tracks made by the starting gate and nearly knocking Leo Castelli off his feet.
“It’s a great thing today to have the luck turn around,” said Van Berg, who was so emotional  he could barely talk.
Alysheba had to recover from throat surgery this spring, to remove a membrane that had entrapped his epiglottis. Van Berg said the entrapped epiglottis, which blocked the colt’s air when he raced, apparently was responsible for so many losing efforts. Alysheba had won only one race, other than his Blue Grass disqualification. In many races he loomed boldly, but didn’t win, apparently because he couldn’t get his wind.
There was no stopping him yesterday after he got clear about a sixteenth of a mile from home. But he had to overcome many difficulties to get that far.
Alysheba was pinched and bumped at the break before he found room on the rail going by the stands for the first time. He was running 14th in the field of 17. McCarron kept Alysheba hard by the rail around the  first turn, though he had a scary moment when he saw War get in trouble a few lengths in front.
War was squeezed nearly sideways against the rail, almost toppling over it. McCarron, in tight quarters behind him, recalled thinking, “If he goes, I go.” But War held his balance.
McCarron could see that Demons Begone, to the outside of him around the first turn, was not pulling against the bit and not trying to run.
Then Demons Begone backed out, and Alysheba went around and in front of him into the backstretch. Alysheba began picking up speed, making a run on the outside that had him passing horses with nearly every stride.
Pace-setter On The Line, who gave up the lead briefly to Capote, got it back from his stablemate in the backstretch. They raced together until the final turn, when they began to falter.
On The Line dropped back to second and began to fall steadily back, while Capote began to ease.
Bet Twice, coming from about five horses back, took the lead approaching the turn and drew out by about a length nearing the stretch. His trainer, Jimmy Croll, said he thought Bet Twice had the race won turning  for home.
But Alysheba was coming, and Avies Copy was not far behind. Alysheba was just ready to challenge Bet Twice for the lead about three-sixteenths of a mile from the finish when Bet Twice veered out.
“I was riding my horse at that spot,” said Perret, the rider on Bet Twice. “I hit my horse left-handed and he kind of came out a little bit, but I don’t think that is when Alysheba got to me. I think it was before  that. I straightened my horse up, and he went on and run. If he came in and bumped, I couldn’t tell at that point. I was just concentrating on my horse. He wanted to look at the crowd on the inside, and I wanted to  keep his mind on running.”
Avies Copy, who ran wide on the final turn, closed to within 2 1/4 lengths of Bet Twice at the finish. Cryptoclearance finished a neck behind Avies Copy.
Behind these were Templar Hill, Gulch, Leo Castelli, Candi’s Gold, Conquistarose, On The Line, Shawklit Won, Masterful Advocate, War, Momentus, No More Flowers, Capote and Demons Begone.
Alysheba, lightly regarded by the crowd of 130,532, paid $18.80, $8 and $6.20. Bet Twice paid $10 and $7.20. Avies Copy, part of the mutuel field, paid $6.80

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