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  • May 23, 2011

    Does the punishment fit the crime?

    [Posted by kris]

    Reading this article about the soft punishments in some fatal car crashes and today's news about the Rutgers gay suicide case make me wonder whether we should punish the action or the result?

    I completely understand the outrage over someone getting a ticket and a day in jail for killing someone with a car. But I also understand the "it could happen to anyone" feeling. If someone spills their coffee and as a result starts a car accident, that's a tragedy, but is it also a crime? If the exact same action could have merely resulted in a fender bender, should we take that into consideration?

    Likewise, the kid at Rutgers is clearly an asshole and his actions were despicable, but is it fair to punish him for the extent of someone else's reaction to what he did?

    The car accident question seems easier to answer, because I think we generally accept that some things really are just accidents or small mistakes.

    The suicide question is harder. Where do you draw the line? If, for example, a woman videotaped herself cheating on her boyfriend and sent him the tape and he viewed and then killed himself is she guilty of anything more than being a heinous bitch? Or what about someone that swindles someone out of their life savings and they then commit suicide? Or even just kids that cruelly make fun of someone on the playground. It's not easy to defend these people because they all basically suck, but what kind of punishment actually does fit their crime?

    Posted by kris at 01:16 PM | Comments (0)     
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    May 19, 2011

    2011 Preakness Pick

    [Posted by kris]

    Last year I wrote about the "fallacy of freshness in evaluating the Preakness. Basically, the vast majority of Preakness winners ran in the Kentucky Derby. If they didn't run in the Derby, they otherwise marked themselves as special with victories in other races.

    That last point is important as here's the list and accomplishments of the last ten Preakness winners:

    1. Lookin at Lucky: 2010 Champion 3-Year Old Colt
    2. Rachel Alexandra: 2009 Horse of the Year and Champion 3-Year Old Filly
    3. Big Brown: 2008 Champion 3-Year Old Colt
    4. Curlin: 2007 Horse of the Year and Champion 3-Year Old Colt
    5. Bernardini: 2006 Champion 3-Year Old Colt
    6. Afleet Alex: 2005 Champion 3-Year Old Colt
    7. Smarty Jones: 2004 Champion 3-Year Old Colt
    8. Funny Cide: 2003 Champion 3-Year Old Colt
    9. War Emblem: 2002 Champion 3-Year Old Colt
    10. Point Given: 2001 Horse of the Year and Champion 3-Year Old Colt

    That's one hell of a run. The point is that while the Preakness is clearly the red-headed step child of the Triple Crown, in the scheme of things it typically produces both the best race and the best winner. So what you have to really ask yourself is who is the best horse rather than who may have had the best strategy to get to this race.

    Of the newcomers to the field, only Concealed Identity won his last race. And while it was over the Pimlico course, it was a minor stakes race won in a relatively slow time. At this point, he's no Bernardini. From the non-Derby runners, I'm mostly interested in Astrology (because I think he's classy) and Mr. Commons (because I think John Shirreffs is a smart trainer), but neither has won a significant race this year and I just don't see the Preakness being their breakout.

    Looking at the field, I actually expect the Preakness to have a significantly faster pace than the Kentucky Derby because Dance City and Flashpoint should be up front along with Shackleford. With a faster pace, I think a deep closer like Dialed In has more of a chance. I'm a little afraid of Dialed In winning, but honestly, I think he's a nice horse, but I don't think he's a future champion. To me, the race comes down to Mucho Macho Man and Animal Kingdom. I think they're both flexible enough to lay off of a super fast pace or be closer to a moderate pace. They've both shown good acceleration when asked. Of the two, I just like Animal Kingdom a little bit more as I think he's better at a longer distance and I think he'll be better placed in the field. So, it's Animal Kingdom for the win.

    Who's your pick?


    Who will win the Preakness Stakes?
    Astrology
    Norman Asbjornson
    King Congie
    Flashpoint
    Shackleford
    Sway Away
    Midnight Interlude
    Dance City
    Mucho Macho Man
    Dialed In
    Animal Kingdom
    Isn't He Perfect
    Concealed Identity
    Mr. Commons
    None of the Above because The Rapture will happen before post time
      
    pollcode.com free polls

    Posted by kris at 11:23 AM | Comments (4)     
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    May 15, 2011

    The Generations of Harry Potter

    [Posted by kris]

    I got really annoyed reading this article about James Tate and his connection to Harry Potter. I thought it was a lazy attempt to get pageviews by simply mentioning "Harry Potter" that didn't actually even talk about the many real ways that the Harry Potter series does question authority, which would actually make an interesting article.

    In the series, typical authority figures like parents or the government (the Ministry of Magic) are either absent or so ineffectual as to not deserve respect. The heroes constantly break the rules and rebels like the Weasley twins are completely glorified. I didn't even have to look at her Wikipedia page to know that J.K. Rowling was a member of Generation X - that viewpoint is just so obvious throughout the series.

    Once I thought about Harry Potter in terms of generations, it was so fun & easy to analyze. I'm fascinated by the Generations series by Neil Howe and William Strauss. The gist of their books is that:

    American generations follow a cycle that produces four generational archetypes: artists, prophets, nomads and heroes. The "Silent Generation" of my parents (born between 1925-1942) as well as today's toddlers (2001-present) are the artist archetype. The Baby Boomers (1943-1960) are prophets. Generation X (1961-1981) are nomads and the G.I. "greatest generation" (1901-1924) and Millennials (1982-2000) are heroes. According to Strauss & Howe, each archetype has a persona and endowments:
    • Artists are about pluralism, expertise and due process
    • Prophets bring vision, values and religion
    • Nomads most value liberty, survival and honor
    • Heroes are all about community, affluence and technology

    According to Howe & Strauss, times of great crisis tend to happen when Prophets are the rulers and Heroes are the foot soldiers. Knowing that, isn't it easy to break down the Harry Potter characters into their respective generations?

    Dumbledore & Voldemort are clearly Prophets, representing opposite ends of good and evil.

    There aren't too many artists in the series, but I think Molly & Arthur Weasley fit the bill. They're not rash like the Nomads. They're going to get things done, but would, frankly, prefer to work through the system to do so.

    Harry's parents and their friends like Sirius Black and Remus Lupin are our Nomads. Rule breakers as kids, now as adults they're quick to join up to defeat Voldemort.

    And obviously, Harry, Hermione, Ron and friends are the Heroes. What's interesting is that since the book was written by a Nomad we have this conflict between Harry wanting to just get things done on his own like a Nomad would and his need to involve others in his quest like a Hero should.

    It's funny how many "hero journey" tales like this follow this same generational pattern. In Star Wars, for example, it's easy to see that Luke is the Hero, Han Solo is a Nomad, Obi Wan is the Artist and the Emperor is the Prophet. It must be literary satisfying because it literally makes sense, huh?

    Posted by kris at 08:58 AM | Comments (0)     
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    May 13, 2011

    Essential Summer Songs - 2011 Version

    [Posted by kris]

    It's that time again! I'm ready to add another 25 summer songs to the list. Check out our past lists of top summer songs and then see what's new to the list this year. One of the problems with summer songs is that you rarely know what's going to be popular this summer until you're in the middle of it. Because of that, this list is a little 2010 heavy.

    1. A Town Called Malice, by The Jam: You know what can make any list of songs a little better? A little Paul Weller.
    2. Beach Baby, by Bon Iver: I know Bon Iver is usually all winter and stuff, but this song feels like the glimmer of the sun on the water.
    3. Born This Way, by Lady Gaga: The most obvious candidate for the summer song of 2011.
    4. Dancing In The Street, by Martha and the Vandellas: A classic.
    5. Dog Days, by Florence & The Machine: I know the song says "The dog days are over", but from the moment she sings "Happiness hit her like a train on a track" this song is pure summer exhilaration.
    6. Drunk Girls, by LCD Soundsystem: It's the anthem of summer stupidity.
    7. Freebird, by Lynyrd Skynyrd: This is a song only meant to be played while swaying barefoot in the grass.
    8. Friday, by Rebecca Black: I've always said that a great summer song is pretty mindless, and this one sure fits the bill.
    9. F*ck You, by Cee Lo Green: Cussing someone out never sounded so happy and fun before.
    10. Heavy Metal Drummer, by Wilco: To me, this song perfectly evokes a summer in the 90s and the guilty pleasures of classic rock in the grunge era.
    11. Holiday, by Vampire Weekend: Just a sweet & happy little song.
    12. I Don't Feel Like Dancing, by Scissor Sisters: A silly dance song that's perfect for summer nights.
    13. I-35, by Max Stalling: This is like the theme song for going up to the cabin:
      Barreling down I-35 with one thought on my mind
      Forget the race find an open space, leave that city far behind
    14. King Of The Road, by Roger Miller: I dunno, I think of hobos as summer characters and bums as winter characters, right?
    15. Lisztomania, by Phoenix: This is just a light-as-a-feather feeling dance song. It's refreshing!
    16. Locked Inside, by Janelle Monae: I love the chorus and the whole song is just easy and smooth.
    17. Me In Honey, by R.E.M.: You wouldn't know it now, but older R.E.M. songs are just filled with this kind of lazy, southern summer vibe.
    18. Money Grabber, by Fitz & The Tantrums: A fun throwback of a tune.
    19. Rock The Boat, by The Hues Corporation: Someday, someone is going to make an awesome mashup of this song and "I'm On A Boat". It will be liquid awesome.
    20. Sea Of Love, by The Honeydrippers: I prefer The Honeydrippers' version to the original. Despite all of his heavy metal Led Zeppelin credentials, Robert Plant has this amazingly romantic "leading man" voice that is just perfect for this song.
    21. Stand By Me, by Ben E. King: This probably has more to do with the movie (poor River Phoenix) than the song.
    22. Summer In The City, by The Lovin' Spoonful: This is number one on everyone else's lists of summer songs, so I figured I should include it.
    23. The Cave, by Mumford & Sons: This is all about the freedom of summer and raising your arms in the air through your moon roof.
    24. The Message, by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five: While the classic songs talk about "summer in the city", this is actually what it sounds like.
    25. When My Time Comes, by Dawes: Every summer song list needs that one song where everyone can join in on the chorus and sing along.
    Posted by kris at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)     
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    May 09, 2011

    2011 Kentucky Derby - Five Things I Learned

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2011 Kentucky Derby articles)

    1. I think my questions to help narrow the field are right on. Once again, a horse with a graded stakes win and two-year old performance wins. Also, I correctly predicted the moderate pace and, once pedigree was factored in, I had narrowed the field to five horses, including the longshot winner. However, what I haven't yet figured out is how to bet the Derby. I think in the future, in addition to making one official pick, I've got to cover all of the horses I narrow it down to for the win, at least in a small way.

    2. The clocker reports, particularly from Mike Welch at the Daily Racing Form, are an invaluable resource. While Animal Kingdom's pedigree screamed "turf", reports from the track were that he was handling the Churchill Downs surface beautifully. I ignored that and paid the price! Overall, Animal Kingdom, Archarcharch and Shackleford were the three horses who got the most raves in the morning.

    3. The only horses screwed by outside post positions are need-the-lead types (a la Sidney's Candy last year). The rest of the horses do just fine on the outside because of the long run to the first turn. This year's superfecta was filled out by 16-19-14-13.

    4. Don't get too caught up in surface differences. Animal Kingdom had never run on dirt and had a turf pedigree. but he won the Derby easily on conventional dirt. What I'm finding is that as more and more horses run on multiple surfaces, the difference between those surfaces seems to fade a bit. I'm not sure I'm even going to track what horses have never run on dirt next year.

    5. Don't fall in love with a horse. They'll only break your heart. I so fell in love with Uncle Mo last summer and while I'm disappointed he didn't run in the Derby, I'm absolutely devastated thinking that there might be something seriously wrong with him. The first horse I ever loved was Landaluce and I can't shake the feeling that Uncle Mo is going to suffer a similar fate. Let's all keep our hooves crossed that they can find out what's wrong with him and help him get better.

    For the Preakness, let's hope that The Factor enters and that everyone gets to run their race. It'd be a lot of fun!

    Posted by kris at 08:51 AM | Comments (1)     
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    May 06, 2011

    2011 Kentucky Derby - Who's Going To Win

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2011 Kentucky Derby articles)

    I've had my say, so now tell me what you think:


    Who's going to win the 2011 Kentucky Derby?
    Archarcharch
    Brilliant Speed
    Twice The Appeal
    Stay Thirsty
    Decisive Moment
    Comma To The Top
    Pants On Fire
    Dialed In
    Derby Kitten
    Twinspired
    Master Of Hounds
    Santiva
    Mucho Macho Man
    Shackleford
    Midnight Interlude
    Animal Kingdom
    Soldat
    Nehro
    Watch Me Go
      
    pollcode.com free polls

    Posted by kris at 07:34 AM | Comments (3)     
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    May 05, 2011

    2011 Kentucky Derby Pick

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2011 Kentucky Derby articles)

    Every year, I try to use a series of questions in order to narrow the field and pick my Kentucky Derby winner. While I might not get the winner right, I hope these questions will be a good guide for the rest of you and help you pick a winner.

    Question 1
    Is there an exceptional horse in the race? Because the Derby usually has a large field, racing luck and pace tend to make the race. A truly exceptional horse, however, tends to make its own luck. If you think there's a potential Triple Crown winner in the field, pick him and skip to the end. If not, move on to question 2.

    Without Uncle Mo, this is a definite "no" this year.

    Question 2
    Who proved their early maturity with some good two-year old form?

    Since Apollo in 1882 (that's right, 1882), no horse has won the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two year old. Since 1993, only Charismatic, War Emblem and Monarchos won the Derby without a good performance at two.

    This year, horses with a good two year performance are:

    • Animal Kingdom
    • Archarcharch
    • Comma To The Top
    • Mucho Macho Man
    • Santiva
    • Soldat
    • Stay Thirsty
    • Decisive Moment
    • Master Of Hounds
    • Shackleford
    Note that Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude didn't even race at two and that the likely top two choices in the field, Dialed In and Nehro, don't seem to have the necessary precocity.

    Question 3
    Of the remaining horses, who has already proven their class with stakes wins? After backing too many horses that had potential rather than performance, I want a horse thatís proven he or she can win consistently. I've broken up with Potential and am interested in entering a relationship with Reality, who, I'm told does very well for himself.

    Since 1993, every Kentucky Derby winner except Giacomo had previously won a stakes race. Also, every winner except Giacomo and Funny Cide were graded stakes winners. Of the horses that passed Question 2, all but Master Of Hounds and Shackleford are also stakes winners (and Decisive Moment is the only stakes winner that isn't a graded stakes winner).

    Question 4
    How fast will the pace be? Check out the running styles of the field. If there's a ton of horses in the race that all like to be 4th or 5th throughout the race, then they all might plod around in the early part of the race, meaning that one of them will outkick the others for the win OR that a frontrunner might get loose on the lead and win. This is not a common scenario. More likely is the field with a few speedballs. They'll ensure a swift pace and cause those horses who want to be comfortable sitting off the lead to go faster than they want. This pace scenario usually results in a come-from-behind horse winning.

    So, to review, fewer speed horses mean the race sets up for stalkers OR for a lone speed horse. Lots of speed horses mean that the winner will most likely come from way off the pace

    As I said before, I expect the pace to be pretty normal and I'm looking for a winner out of the stalkers and closers (but not deep closers). Of our remaining contenders, these horses still fit the bill:

    • Animal Kingdom
    • Archarcharch
    • Mucho Macho Man
    • Santiva
    • Stay Thirsty

    Question 5
    Will it rain? On some tracks, it doesn't seem to matter if it's muddy. At Churchill Downs (the home of the Derby) it does matter. It's the track comes up wet, look for horses with some history of success in the mud. Extra bonus points if his mother was a mudder. Additionally, who has dirt, rather than synthetic, form. Some horses love synthetic tracks, some only perform on real dirt.

    Since it has rained in Kentucky for the last two weeks, most of the horses have trained over the sloppy Churchill Downs track. Of our final six, I'd move Animal Kingdom up on a wet track and move Santiva down and reverse it if the track is fast. Addtionally, even though he doesn't have the necessary two-year old form, Brilliant Speed should also be moved way up on a wet track.

    Question 6
    Can he go the distance? One common misconception is that horses who come from behind are stayers. This isn't necessarily the case. You still need to find a stretch runner with a pedigree that doesn't scream "sprinter".

    Of the remaining six, I think Archarcharch and Stay Thirsty have the pedigree to go long. Animal Kingdom is bred up and down for turf and Santiva and Mucho Macho Man have distance questions.

    Question 7
    Horses prep all around the country and many never race against each other before the Derby. Therefore, it's useful to rank the regions. If, for example, the Florida horses are much the best this year, that gives you a reason to take a Florida stretch runner over one who stayed in California.

    I'm not sure that this is too important of a question this year. My only note is that The Factor made his races in California and Arkansas look more like a typical Kentucky Derby from a pace perspective. So, you might want to look at horses like Nehro, Archarcharch and Comma To The Top with the knowledge that they've at least dealt with some Derby-like pace in the past.

    Question 8
    Are any of the remaining horses trained by Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas or Nick Zito or riden by Calvin Borel? Savvy handicappers are known to take out "Lukas insurance". That is, they'll place a small wager on Lukas-trained horses even if they don't really believe that they have a chance. History shows that you ignore Lukas, Baffert & Zito at your own peril.

    Well, Zito has Dialed In, Baffert has Midnight Interlude and Borel is riding Twice The Appeal. I'm not really considering any of those horses for the win, which means that one of them will probably win :)

    Question 9
    Who do the Derby gods want to win? Really. The Derby gods are a sentimental bunch. If there's some octogenarian owner who has waited his whole life to win the Derby or a small-time better looking to make the score of a lifetime, he probably will. Good stories win.

    Two of our main contenders, Archarcharch and Mucho Macho Man, would make for huge human interest stories.

    Question 10
    What do the clockers say?

    The clockers at Churchill Downs are typically pretty good at spotting horses doing well before the Derby. This year, they've really keyed in on Archarcharch & Shackleford as horses doing very well on the grounds.

    The Pick
    Other than the post position and my heart, Archarcharch meets every criteria I set forth for a Derby winner. Beyond that, he's another one of those Kris S. line horses that are just spectacularly beautiful.

    My heart and my soul wanted Uncle Mo to win and I'll this Derby has a hole in it without him, so I will officially pick Archarcharch, but honestly, I care about 100 times less about the race without Mo in it.

    As for the rest of the ticket, as I wrote last year, ponder the plodders. I don't like them for the win, but I'm interested in Dialed In and Brilliant Speed in the exotics. If I'm putting together a six horse exacta box (if I do get to the OTB, I'll post some pics of the official tickets), I'm thinking it's:
    Archarcharch, Brilliant Speed, Dialed In, Nehro, Santiva & Mucho Macho Man.

    Posted by kris at 10:59 PM | Comments (4)     
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    2011 Kentucky Derby - Pace Makes The Race

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2011 Kentucky Derby articles)

    I've been playing with the Daily Racing Form's awesome formulator past performances for the Derby and trying to figure out the race's likely pace scenario. I know everyone thinks it'll be a super fast pace, but I do have my doubts, just because the only really fast paced prep races were because of The Factor, and he's not here. Anyway, to help, I've decided to classify the field with the likely early positions and try to figure things out.

    Fast Front Runners: These are horses that need the lead and can actually throw out some quick fractions, let's say then can run that first quarter in around 22 seconds. These are the ones that would produce any suicidal pace:

    Decisive Moment
    Comma To The Top

    Slow Front Runners: Horses that typically need the lead in order to perform but haven't actually run that fast of fractions. They may be able to adjust and stalk in the Derby or they may be complete tosses:

    Soldat

    Potential Stalkers: Horses that usually run on the lead but have had some success in stalking trips and could lay off a fast Derby pace if necessary:

    Pants On Fire
    Shackleford
    Uncle Mo

    Classic Stalkers: Horses that have performed well from just a few lengths off of the pace:

    Twice The Appeal
    Stay Thirsty
    Master Of Hounds
    Santiva
    Mucho Macho Man
    Midnight Interlude
    Animal Kingdom
    Watch Me Go

    Closers: Closers who've shown an explosive move, typically hitting the lead nearer to the top of the stretch:

    Archarcharch
    Derby Kitten
    Twinspired

    Plodders: Horses who are getting up in the final strides or just missing in their prep races:

    Brilliant Speed
    Dialed In
    Nehro

    My gut tells me that we're in for a more moderate pace and that the winner is going to come from the stalkers or closers, not the plodders. Comma To The Top and Decisive Moment just don't strike me as the Old Trieste, Songandaprayer or Spanish Chestnut type.

    There's still more work to go in order to get to a winner, but the pace scenario is a big step in the right direction (I hope!).

    Posted by kris at 09:50 AM | Comments (1)     
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    May 04, 2011

    2011 Kentucky Derby - Post Positions

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2011 Kentucky Derby articles)

    I'm watching online as they fill out the Kentucky Derby field. They're drawing the first ten and then taking a break, so I'll post the top half and then complete the rest. Here it is:

    1. Archarcharch
    2. Brilliant Speed
    3. Twice The Appeal
    4. Stay Thirsty
    5. Decisive Moment
    6. Comma To The Top
    7. Pants On Fire
    8. Dialed In
    9. Derby Kitten
    10. Twinspired
    11. Master Of Hounds
    12. Santiva
    13. Mucho Macho Man
    14. Shackleford
    15. Midnight Interlude
    16. Animal Kingdom
    17. Soldat
    18. Uncle Mo
    19. Nehro
    20. Watch Me Go

    Posted by kris at 04:20 PM | Comments (11)     
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    May 03, 2011

    2011 Kentucky Derby - The Derby Gods

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2011 Kentucky Derby articles)

    As I wrote last year:

    I believe that somewhere in the great beyond lives a group of men, women, horses, cats & goats known collectively as the Derby Gods. These past icons of the sport, at their capricious whim, help determine the Derby winner.

    Last year, the Derby wasn't decided by pace, post position or the rider. The winner was determined the second that the slightly schlumpy Glen Fullerton put his $100,000 bet on Super Saver. The Derby Gods were determined to give the Texan close to a million dollars. You can't fight the Derby Gods.

    Last year, we couldn't predict the Fullerton Factor, but who might the Gods favor this year? There are a few contenders:

    • A victory by Pants On Fire would make Anna Napravnik the first female jockey to win the race, which I think the Gods would appreciate.
    • Archarcharch is ridden by Jon Court, who won the Arkansas Derby last year on Line of David and then was promptly replaced with a bigger name jockey. He's trained by Court's father-in-law "Jinks" Fires, the kind of old-time trainer the Gods would probably like to reward.
    • Mucho Macho Man would make his trainer, Kathy Ritvo, the first woman trainer to win the Derby.
    • Likewise, Watch Me Go would make his trainer, Kathleen O' Connell, the first woman to win.

    So there's nothing super compelling about any of the entrants. I feel like Calvin Borel (riding Twice The Appeal) has lost the favor of the Derby Gods due to his fight at last year's Breeders Cup and that Todd Pletcher (trainer of Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo) may feel the wrath of the Gods for his own Breeders Cup failure with poor Life At Ten.

    Or maybe, just maybe, the Derby Gods are going to throw all of the human interest stories out the window this year and just let the best horse win and maybe even take us on another magical ride toward the Triple Crown.

    A girl can dream.

    Posted by kris at 09:26 AM | Comments (3)     
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    May 02, 2011

    America!

    [Posted by kris]

    We interrupt this preview of the Kentucky Derby with the following message.

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