Uniform changes and Derby strikes


LITTLE ROCK — Almost 100 years old, the adage about a picture being worth a thousand words stands the test of time when it comes to updates of the Razorback brand.

In an e-mail, the UA release on the news topped 900 words. The next email was from the Razorback beat writer and contained more than a dozen paragraphs about the same topic, leading with the development of a secondary logo that is a forward-facing Razorback. The running Razorback remains the primary logo, but the No. 2 logo will be used, on the chest of the football uniforms, for example.

Trying in vain to describe the new look in a conversation overlapped a TV piece on UA athletes decked out for 2014 and a close-up of the head-on Hog evoked a spot-on description of “mean-looking” from the other person in the den.

Uniformity of uniforms across all sports is understood and, although I don’t cotton to the idea of retooling to attract 17- to 21-year-olds to the program, athletics director Jeff Long says that is the world in which we live.

Most fans will embrace the word that anthracite football uniforms are not an option in 2014 and there will be mixed reactions to the introduction of the secondary logo.

If the football team gets to a bowl, fans will show solidarity in support of the secondary logo. If not, there will be some sniping about the topic. Somehow, the emblem will be blamed for missed tackles.

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In Jon White’s world, two strikes is one too many.

The first on-air personality hired by the HRTV thoroughbred network a dozen years ago, he developed nine key factors in handicapping the Kentucky Derby and called it the Derby Strikes System.

I’m not much for going against an NFL team because the players had to travel across the country to play or jumping on an NCAA Final Four team in Arlington, Texas, because it won a Regional in a domed stadium or many of the other so-called trends espoused by analysts.

That said, White’s theories are sound and his conclusions difficult to ignore.

Last weekend, a soccer father who asked about the Kentucky Derby and the chances of Arkansas Derby winner Danza was referred to White’s research. White doesn’t try to pick a winner as much as he attempts to identify contenders. When there are 20 possibilities, eliminating half the field is helpful.

Since 1973, 35 of the 41 Derby winners have had one strike or none and five have had two strikes. The exception occurred in 2009 when Mine That Bird, with four strikes, won at 50-1.

At this point, Oaklawn Park will be represented by four horses in the May 3 Derby and none have more than two strikes. One of Danza’s strikes is that he lacks experience. White’s minimum is six starts prior to the Derby and the Arkansas Derby was Danza’s fourth race. Arkansas Derby runner-up Ride On Curlin’s two strikes include his lack of victory in a graded stake. One of the two strikes against Southwest winner Tapiture is that he has not finished at least third in a race of at least 1 1/8 miles. He was fourth in the Arkansas Derby at that distance.

Rebel winner Hoppertunity’s only strike is in White’s Category 8, which says the horse must race at 2. Hoppertunity’s first race was Jan. 4, three days after the birthday of all thoroughbreds in the Northern Hemisphere. Only Apollo has won the Kentucky Derby without having raced at 2 and that was 1882.

White listed nine contenders with one strike or less and excluded Hoppertunity because he puts so much stock in the value of racing at 2. Other than experience, 2-year-old racing means little when it comes to qualifying for the Kentucky Derby now that Churchill Downs employs a points system. Sooner or later, a Derby winner will be unraced at 2 as a result of the trickle down.

Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: hleonk42@gmail.com.