From the editor: I first met Nathan Gottlieb, the Knicks beat writer for the Star Ledger of Newark who covered racing during the off season, in the Yonkers Raceway press box, circa 1981. I was the raceway’s publicist, handling the press corps for the major races like the Sheppard Pace, Yonkers Trot and Cane Pace, all with purses which had ballooned to the half-million dollar mark under Tim Rooney, Sr. during my tenure.
Little did I know that around three years later in 1984, I would accept the position as Knicks director of communications, and Nathan and I would share our passions for racing, basketball, great food and high-quality vodka as we hop-scotched across the country at NBA arenas and the Garden. The beat writers in those days were: Sam Goldaper, New York Times, Harvey Araton, New York Daily News, Kevin Kernan, New York Post, and Gary Binford, Newsday, (Filip Bondy of the News was the Nets beat writer but also doubled-up on the Knicks, and Jim Corbett was at home games for Gannett-Westchester newspapers). Head coach Hubie Brown’s starting lineup had Rory Sparrow and Trent Tucker at the guards, Bernard King and Louis Orr at forward, and Pat Cummings at center.
Today, he is a boxing writer for HBO.com and author of the Frank Boff series of mystery novels.
Enough basketball, here a tad more of Nathan’s racing history, followed by his thoughts on Saturday’s Kentucky Derby:
Nathan Gottlieb is a former Newark Star-Ledger sportswriter who covered horse racing in addition to the Knicks, Nets, Yanks, Mets and much more.
He’s a long time addict of Triple Crown Races. Among his big Triple Crown scores was Alysheba in 1987 Derby ($18.80) and the exacta with Bet Twice ($109.60); Unbridled in the 1990 Derby ($23.60), and Lemondrop Kid ($61.50) in the 1999 Belmont Stakes.
His Derby Picks in order: Exxagerator, My Man Sam, Fellowship, Suddenbreakingnews
Here’s his takes on the major preps he saw. Putting emphasis on the closers, which defies recent logic that front running horses and stalkers win:
By Nathan Gottlieb
Arkansas Derby: I know Creator made monster move from dead last, but more impressed by Suddenbreakingnews who closed like freight train 15-wide in stretch to get 2d and was getting to the winner. Another 1/8th of a mile and that horse can be more patient in stretch and win.
Florida Derby: Fellowship made huge move heading for far turn to get third. Nyquist was drifting to middle of track. Another 1/8th mile and Fellowship woulda caught him. Drifting bad sign for likely Derby favorite. He was all out. Might have left his best race in Florida.
Santa Anita: Exaggerator made an Arazi-like move from the half mile pole home, just waltzing by the others as if they were standing still. After the finish line, Exaggerator galloped out still dancing on his toes and bucking his head. Plenty left in the tank and almost hand ridden all the way to wire. WOW. And this was on typical speed-favoring Santa Anita track. Track was wet that day and it had been rolled, making it like wet sand—a highway. Tough to close on track like that.
Rebel Stakes: Whitmore with Pleasant Colony grandpa closed stoutly in middle of track that was favoring rail. Then finished third in Arkansas Derby.
Louisiana Derby: Gun Runner had perfect trip in 2nd spot, was all out to win but by several lengths. Jock used whip a lot but maybe he felt the horse needed more work to get ready for Derby?
Wood Memorial: Trojan Nation made huge late move in Wood to finish second.
Blue Grass Stakes: My Man Sam with monster move from dead last for 2nd!