Vacation over

As Slim Pickens said in his immortal role of Taggart in the Mel Brooks film “Blazing Saddles,” while riding up to a group of men working like dogs to lay railroad track: “Break’s over, boys.”

People sometimes write to me in June and July, after I’ve written something off the beaten path, and say, “Must have been a slow news day.” Hell, yes, it was a slow news day. Listen, as I type this, ESPN’s Baseball Tonight is introducing its “Battle of the Bands” and here’s Peter Gammons playing a Bo-Diddleyesque rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” That is, if Bo Diddley had been a old white guy with considerably less talent. So you see, we all do some reaching during the summer.

These are not the fastest news months. But there’s one thing in my experience that will get news breaking like nothing else — scheduling a vacation.

So allow me to catch up on a few back issues before launching back into the column on Tuesday:

Rick Dutrow finally talked (was there any doubt he would?) in the wake of Big Brown’s Belmont meltdown, and, surprise, he blamed jockey Kent Desormeaux. Jockeys are the easiest people to blame, but anybody who watched the first quarter mile of that race and thought Big Brown was the same horse he had been in the Preakness and Derby was kidding himself. Dutrow didn’t like the ride Desormeaux gave Big Brown, but that’s not the way he had been talking for five weeks. I distinctly remember Dutrow saying that any jockey could ride this horse to victory, he was that “push button.” Turns out, however, that the first time Big Brown had to have his buttons really pushed, he didn’t like it. The Belmont was the first time in his career that Big Brown had a race that didn’t fall into his lap, and he responded like it. He also ran like a horse that had missed too much training leading up to the race. From not being well enough conditioned to not reacting well to Desormeaux’s handling, the issues Big Brown displayed looked to me to have more to do with training than riding. For more on Desormeaux’s response to Dutrow, see Jennie Rees’ piece from the C-J web site.

— By the way, my vote for best Belmont column? Norman Chad for The Washington Post — Pay the man, Shirley.

Mailbag:

Hello…! This is Derrick Jasper’s mom. I wanted to write to tell you Thank You
for the wonderful article you wrote about him on June 4. I’ve read it a number of
times and each time it touches my heart. Derrick did give his all to his team, as a
mother I was sooo proud to watch him play for the Wildcats at Rupp Arena. I am
sad to have him leave, but hopeful for his future.

Once again, thank you. I’ve enjoyed reading a lot of what you have written over
the last few years and just wanted to express my appreciation. ~Sue Jasper~

— Is it just me, or is the college football landscape a bit subdued around here? There’s certainly some sense of trepidation around the University of Louisville fan base, those who think Tom Jurich’s recent “rebuilding” comments are sandbagging notwithstanding. UK fans have perhaps more reason for optimism than many realize, but questions at quarterback and wide receiver never make for an abundance of hype entering the season. I’ll knuckle down on some early football buzz in the next week or so. Honestly, I think we’ve had a lot more chatter between the camps in past years — even last year, when the game wasn’t going to be played until Week 3. Of course, that gave us a whole summer to chatter about the moving of the game itself. In some ways, though, this is as crucial a year as we’ve seen in some time at both UK and U of L.

— So Derrick Caracter shows up in the winner’s circle after Curlin wins the Stephen Foster Handicap and tells Rick Bozich that he’s back in school, that Louisville is where he wants to be, even after U of L coach Rick Pitino has awarded his scholarship to someone else and declared him to be gone for good. (Click on the photo at right for a larger version, then do a “Where’s Waldo” type search for Bozich and Caracter.)

We haven’t seen denial like this since the days of Brandon Bender, but best of luck to Caracter if he is going to make one more legitimate run at it. This could, however, make for an interesting situation once the season comes around, with Caracter just following the team around in his off-the-rack Cardinal jersey, looking for the occasional run. Has anyone ever declared for the NBA Draft, then wound up having to pay his own way to come back to school as a result?

— A belated Welcome Back to Rick Reilly, whose debut with ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com came last week. Reilly is one of the best in the country, and I’m hoping that ESPN continues to foster his work in print as much as it does his on-air presence. Also a shout-out to former C-J columnist Pat Forde, who got almost as much face time as Tiger Woods during the U.S. Open today while shadowing El Tigre around the course. He filed this look at Tiger for the dot-com. Forde, also, is one of the best in the country. I’ll throw this out there — if asked for one columnist to handle Reilly’s old back-page gig at SI, Forde would be my nomination.

— ESPN called last week’s Celtic comeback against the Lakers “the largest Finals comeback in recorded NBA history.” I wasn’t aware the NBA was up and running during prehistoric times.

All right. That’s enough to get my feet wet for the week. Back to the grind tomorrow . . .

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