Derby Remix: Danza's Derby Day went speeding past

Profile Picture: Nicolle Neulist

Nicolle Neulist

July 31st, 2020

"Sometimes I get so sad

Sometimes you just make me mad

It's a sad and beautiful world

It's a sad and beautiful world"

Stripped down and contemplative, "Sad and Beautiful World" by Sparklehorse is the perfect soundtrack for remembering an exciting and promising Kentucky Derby (G1) moment that still feels like an unfinished story.

Think back to 2014 and a chestnut glint named Danza.

Even when assigned by Todd Pletcher, someone who knows as much as any person on earth how to get a horse into the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the Arkansas Derby (G1) seemed a monumental task for Danza.

He had raced just three times, only once at 3, and never at two turns. He faced Ride On Curlin, who danced every dance. He faced Bayern, who was making only his third start but was the dangerous-by-nature Bob Baffert shipper to Hot Springs.

Danza saved every inch of ground, glided between Bayern and the fence turning for home, and galloped clear to win by 4 3/4 lengths. Time and distance were enough to bring him into the spotlight.

"Sometimes days go speeding past

Sometimes this one seems like the last"

The Kentucky Derby sped past, of course. It always does. And Danza kept up well enough to prove the Arkansas Derby was no fluke. Though he couldn't beat California Chrome, few horses could in 2014. Danza came from off the pace, a different dimension than he showed in the Arkansas Derby, and finished third, only three lengths behind the eventual Horse of the Year. His future looked as bright as anyone in the Derby.

Two weeks after the Derby, questions surfaced. Danza didn't come back a hundred percent out of a work and was ruled out of the Belmont Stakes (G1). The rest of his 3-year-old year slipped by. He was pointed to the Donn H. (G1), then didn't make it there. After more than a year of waiting, Danza's beautiful Kentucky Derby became sad — his last race-day moment. He retired to stud, leaving us all to wonder what he could have been, and whether his foals will ever make his story feel complete.