We decided to take a little break from the continuous diet of college basketball in the NCAA Men’s Tournament which began Thursday morning and lasted all that day, all day Friday and Saturday. We wanted to watch the three-year old thoroughbred sensation Rule run in the 2010 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in Hallendale Beach, Fla.

And the easiest way to accomplish this mission was to travel 15 minutes to Delta Downs in nearby Vinton to watch the race simulcast at the Delta racetrack late Saturday afternoon.

We usually don’t run over to watch a simulcast race very often, but we were at the track back in November when Rule showed up at Delta Downs for its million dollar racing night when the total purses for the 11-card racing program totaled more than a million bucks.

This kind of purse money attracted thoroughbreds from all over the country. The featured race that November night was Boyd Gaming’s $750,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes in which Rule’s world renowned trainer Todd Pletcher quietly placed his then two-year-old in the field of hopeful entries.

Apparently not many of the nearly full house picked up on a super horse entered in the one mile Jean Lafitte Stakes race because Rule went off at 8-1 and not only won the event the first time he had even seen the track at Delta Downs, but he broke the track record for one mile that had been set way back in 1975 by several seconds with his blazing 1:37.15 effort.

Pletcher decided to bring Rule back to Delta Downs a month later for another million dollar program and the son of Roman Ruler won Boyd Gaming’s $750,000 Delta Jackpot Stakes (Grade III) which stamped his ticket to a possible appearance in this year’s Kentucky Derby on May 1.

As a three-year old this year Pletcher entered Rule in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs last month and he won it handily, setting the stage for Saturday’s running of the Grade I $750,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

But the word was out on Rule as he went out as the 5-2 favorite in the 11 horse field that also included Lentenor, a full-brother of the late 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, who was favored and also won the 2006 Florida Derby.

Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito had a couple of longshot hopefuls—Ice Box and Miner’s Reserve—entered in the 1 1/8 mile race.

Rule got out of the starting gate quickly and jumped to the lead, like he normally does. He led for about the first mile before Ice Box and another longshot barely beat him at the finish line. 

It appeared to this Korner that the extra eighth of a mile was just a bit too much for the pace that Rule set. Pletcher will need to correct that before the Kentucky Derby.

We stayed for the final running of the 91-day stand of the 2009-2010 Thoroughbred Season at Delta Downs on a rainy, cold Saturday night. 

The first race was a 6 1/2 furlong $10,000 maiden claiming race for three-year olds. Everything seemed rather normal until the horses hit the final turn before the 660- foot home stretch.

The No. 6 horse Lydfirst stumbled and fell forward, throwing jockey Janaris Landry over the head of the horse. A couple of other horses also became involved and only four horses with riders on finished the race. On horse stopped completely while a couple of others finished without their jockeys. Lydfirst limped onto the trailer and was whisked away.

To make matters worse, in the five furlong Maiden Special Claiming third race, the same thing happened right at the turn before the home stretch when No. 2 Gold Dawn took a spill right near the rail and No. 5 Adam’s Choice couldn’t avoid the fallen horse and also went down. It appeared from our vantage point that Gold Dawn had to be put down right on the track.

Adam’s Choice is a four-year old that was bred in Louisiana by Orange resident Benis G. Lee and is owned by Horace Toussaint.

Track officials gathered at the site of both incidents and inspected the track. After a lengthy delay the remainder of the race card was canceled, which meant the final night of the 2009-10 thoroughbred season ended prematurely due to weather-related track conditions.

Word filtered around the grandstands that the jockeys balked at continuing the program due to the unsafe track conditions. These were the third accidents to occur at Delta Downs in a 24-hour period. Friday night in good weather a horse that was leading the race by four lengths slipped and hit the rail not far from the finish line and threw its jockey on the rail.

This Korner has been to enough races in rainy weather in which everything went perfect. Why in a 24-hour period did three similar accidents in which a horse loses its footing occur?

We spoke with longtime thoroughbred owner Ray Dal Sasso of Orange who indicated that Delta Downs is a very safe track and is also baffled by the rash of accidents that occurred last weekend.
Hopefully the racing officials at Delta Downs will correct whatever problem exists with the track before the 2010 Quarter Horse Season begins later this year.

KWICKIES…The Lamar Lady Cardinals fell behind early and never could catch the talented West Virginia Mountaineers Sunday night in the opening round of the 2010 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament played in Austin. The third-seeded Mountaineers jumped out to a 12-0 start and never looked back as the Lady Cards lost 58-43. It was their first appearance in the NCAA since 1991 when they went three rounds deep into the bracket.

Equally disappointing were the Texas Longhorns who started the season 17-0 and were the No. 1 team in the nation until they hit the skids. The Longhorns’ inability to hit free throws came back to haunt them in Thursday night’s first round as Damion James missed a free throw with 9.9 seconds left in regulation, and 90 per cent free throw shooter J’Covan Brown from Port Arthur missed two in overtime and Gary Johnson missed two with 10 seconds left before Wake Forest hit the game-winning shot and won 81-80.

This Korner thinks it’s about time the NFL is taking some action to change the sudden-death overtime rule that allows the team winning the coin flip to score a field goal without the other team even touching the football. Although it will only pertain to playoff games, the NFL owners will discuss at their meetings this week the NFL competition committee’s recommendation that a team yielding a field goal on the first series of the extra period will get a possession. If that team scores a touchdown, it wins. If it fails to score it loses. But if also kicks a field goal, the game continues under the current sudden-death rules. Statistics show that since 1994, teams winning the coin toss win the game 59.8 per cent of the time. The team that loses the toss wins the game 38.5 per cent of the time.

One of our favorite PGA Tour members, Jim Furyk won last weekend’s Transitions Championship at Palm Harbor, Fla. by one stroke over K. J. Choi. The victory, Furyk’s first since the 2007 Canadian Open, broke the longest winless stretch since he joined the tour 16 years ago.

And while on the topic of golf—You hit down to make the ball go up. You swing left and the ball goes right. The lowest score wins. And to top it off, the winner buys the drinks.

Former Texas Tech head football coach Mike Leach said he is chomping at the bit to get back into college football. But until he either resolves or drops his lawsuit against Texas Tech over his dismissal on Dec. 30, he may be in for a long wait.

JUST BETWEEN US….With the Texas Longhorns getting bounced out of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in the first round along with Houston, UTEP, North Texas and Sam Houston State and the Texas Aggies losing in overtime 63-61 to Purdue in the second round, the only Texas team to make the Sweet 16 is the Baylor Bears. The 2 million ESPN bracket entries went along with President Obama’s choice of top-ranked Kansas which took the gas as Northern Iowa upset the Jayhawks 69-67. The Sweet 16 has No. 12 seed Cornell, No. 11 seed Washington and No. 10 seed Saint Mary’s in the field competing for the national championship along with No. 1 seeds Duke, Syracuse and Kentucky. This Korner is sticking with our choice of Duke to win it all.