Talk Derby To Me: TR Slyder Interviews the 2017 Kentucky Derby Horses

Talk Derby To Me: TR Slyder Interviews the 2017 Kentucky Derby Horses
Lawn jockey





Update with my picks

I am going after the exacta this year and casting a wide net to hit it. I’ll be using 10 horses in the following format. My 4 A Horses are: Irish War Cry, Gunnevera, McCracken and Hence. My 3 B Horses are: Practical Joke, J Boys Echo and Classic Empire. Lastly, my 2 C Horses are: Always Dreaming and Tapwrit. In other words, well, other letters and numbers:

A: 17, 10, 15, 8

B: 13, 19, 14

C: 5, 16

I’ll do a $2 exacta box with my A horses ($24). Then I’ll do a $1 exacta of all my A horses over all my B horses ($12), and another $1 exacta of my A horses over my C horses ($12). 


Since the Kentucky Derby is this Saturday, I interviewed all 20 horses entered in the big race.


Post Position #1: Lookin at Lee, odds: 20-1 by Lookin at Lucky; Trainer: Steve Asmussen, Jockey: Corey Lanerie


TR Slyder: I have two quick questions for you and then I’ll let you answer them and get out of your mane.

1. What would you say is your single biggest talent on the race track?

2. Does anyone ever tell you that your name reminds them of the “Oh hey, Lee” scene from Family Guy?

Lookin at Lee: I’ll answer the second question first. Actually that happened the other day, when it was your girlfriend telling me that it reminded her of that Family Guy scene. It made me pretty upset, and all I almost asked her to leave the shower.

But in terms of what my biggest talent it is, that’s easy. It’s coming from way, way back in the field and then showing a lot of stamina and grit to get up to finish second, third or fourth. I have a proven, literal, track record of that. Once I know I can’t win the race, it just really excites me and then I start passing horses like crazy.



2. Thunder Snow, 20-1, by Helmet; Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor; Jockey: Christophe Soumillon

TR Slyder: So, here you are, Thunder Snow. You are quite the mystery. You are a foreigner, so we don’t have much information on you, and on top of that, you are the first crop from a new sire, who is also foreign.

If Austin Powers was the International Man of Mystery, you are very much the International Horse of Mystery, if you will. What can you tell us about yourself so that we can get to know you a little better?

Thunder Snow: Well, I think the biggest misconception people have about me is that they think I can finish in the the exacta on Derby Day. If I get some racing luck I can crack the superfecta, but that’s about it.

TRS: That really clears things up, thanks, Thunder Snow.



3. Fast and Accurate, 50-1, by Hansen, Trainer: Mike Maker; Jockey: Channing Hill

(Clicking the above link for Fast and Accurate’s dad, Hansen, will take you to my interview with him when he was in the 2012 Kentucky Derby).

TR Slyder: Your owner said that you will be sent to the lead in the Kentucky Derby, yet your breeding indicates that you will abhor the mile-and-a-quarter distance. That seems like a recipe for a disastrous showing on Saturday.

Fast and Accurate: I get it. Our thinking was that since I don’t really want to run such a long distance, I’m not likely to be running down horses late in the race. We thought it’d be more likely that I could get out to a comfortable lead and then hold off the late-running horses. If you’ll notice, this chart, by TimeFormUS, in my last race, the Spiral, had the fastest opening fractions of any Kentucky Derby prep all year and I sat just a length or two off that pace and managed to win that race.

If there isn’t too much traffic upfront, I think I have a chance.

TRS: That makes one of us.

Fast and Accurate: So you agree that I’ll be fast, but thinking I have a chance isn’t accurate?

TRS: Exactly. I think Fast and Accurate will be Fast and Not Accurate.

Man, that pun was philosophically kinda deep….

Fast and Accurate: No, it’s not. I’m a three year-old horse and didn’t find it deep at all.



NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 25: Untrapped #2, ridden by Ricardo Santana, Jr, Risen Star Stakes race on Risen Star Stakes Day at Fair Grounds Race Course on February 25, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jarrod Monaret/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)

4. Untrapped, 30-1, by Trappe Shot; Trainer: Steve Asmussen; Jockey: Ricardo  Santana Jr.

TR Slyder: Hey man, how’s it going?

Untrapped: I’m good, thanks. How are you?

TRS: I don’t necessarily feel good pointing out the obvious but you haven’t won a race other than a maiden race, and no one thinks you’ll win

Untrapped: Was that a question?

TRS: No. But this is: Speaking of pointing out the obvious, do you know what you call someone who points out the obvious?

Untrapped: No. What?

TRS: Someone who points out the obvious.



Florida Derby Day

5. Always Dreaming, 5-1, by Bodemeister; Trainer: Todd Pletcher; Jockey: John Velazquez

(Clicking the above link for Always Dreaming’s dad, Bodemeister, will take you to my interview with him when he was the favorite in the 2012 Kentucky Derby).

TR Slyder: I hear you have been rambunctious in your morning gallops and people think that if you can’t be controlled a little better on quiet mornings, you won’t be able to be controlled during a race with 18 other horses and a crowd of about 100,000 people.

Always Dreaming: Should the Kentucky Derby second-favorite look lethargic on his morning gallops or something?

TRS: No, and that’s a good point. One could argue that your Kentucky Derby resume is the cleanest. No one’s is unblemished, yet yours is the only resume that shows you are unbeaten after your first win. (Irap technically qualifies for this distinction, but you won two more races after breaking his maiden, so I don’t consider those achievements to be equivalent).

Always Dreaming: No need to put that last part in parenthesis as far as I’m concerned. But I think I deserve to be the favorite because once I learned how to win, I haven’t been touched. Like, at all. My dad was the Kentucky Derby favorite (and didn’t win), and I want to avenge his loss, and I have the talent to do it. Even if you don’t think I’ll win, you should include me in your tickets just to be safe.




6. State of Honor, 30-1, by To Honor and Serve; Trainer: Mark Casse, Jockey: Jose Lezcano

TRS: Some people say that you are the best value in the race with your morning line odds at 30-1.

State of Honor: I thought my odds were a little unflattering, I’m glad others agree.

TRS: I know I do. You figure to be one one of the few speed horses in this race and I felt like your jockey zapped a lot of your energy from nearly choking you to prevent you from taking the early lead in your last race, the Florida Derby, yet you still had a lot of energy in reserve and were closing at the wire.

State of Honor: I know you didn’t come here to kiss my horse buns. What were the negative points you are going to mention in your blog?

TRS: Whaatt? Me? Negative?

State of Honor: Yes. You can just get to it.

TRS: If you insist. There is a lot of doubt that you can get the 1 1/4 mile distance and frankly, it looks like you aren’t that interested in winning races, which is probably why your odds are so long.

State of Honor: Oh my God! I was just joking about the negative stuff. You’re an a**hole.

TRS: Sorry! When I interview horses I’m in more of an analytical state of mind. I guess I wasn’t in mental State of Honoring you, if you will…..

State of Honor: I won’t. And now you’re an a**hole who makes awful puns.

TRS: What do you mean “now”? Anyway, I’ll show myself out of the barn.



7. Girvin. 15-1, by Tale of Ekati; Trainer: Joe Sharp; Jockey: Mike Smith

TR Slyder: Hey man. I mean, horse. How is the quarter crack in your hoof doing?

Girvin: Oh, that’s behind me now. You can just focus on my recent works.

TRS: You know what they say about betting horses who have foot issues, don’t you?

Girvin: Isn’t something like “Never ever ever bet them under no circumstances ever. No matter what”?

TRS: Exactly.



8. Hence, 15-1, by Street Boss; Trainer: Steve Asmussen; Jockey: Florent Geroux

TR Slyder: I think you are the biggest wild card in this race. You had a nearly-ideal setup in the lowly-touted Sunland Derby, but you ran your eyeballs out en route to one of the more visually impressive Kentucky Derby preps. That win earned you a Beyer Speed Figure of 97, and at that time it looked like you didn’t beat anyone super impressive. But then Irap went on to shock a very stout field in the Blue Grass a month later, which totally flattered you. So based on you beating Irap and him winning the Blue Grass, you could make a case that you’re the best horse in this race. But then one could argue that you DID beat a crummy field, and Irap just got lucky to get loose on the lead and surprise superior competition.

What would you say to the people who think you are a one-hit wonder, who got lucky to get a perfect set up in a weak field?

Hence: Well, it wasn’t a perfect setup. I broke last in a field of 12, which most people wouldn’t consider perfect. The pace scenario was favorable for a closer (which I was that day), but that pace is also likely to be about how fast the pace will be in the Kentucky Derby. So between breaking poorly in a big field, and a fast pace to run into, I feel like that will be pretty similar to the conditions on Derby day.

And to top all that off, I run pretty well in the mud too (my maiden victory was in the slop), and we are expected to be a little muddy on Saturday.

TRS: Hence, why you are so confident, Hence.

Hence: Dude, that pun wasn’t even close to original. Do you think I DON’T hear that pun all the time?

TRS: *sigh of resignation,* That’s fair. I should have guessed you hear it a lot. My bad.

Hence: I thought my morning line odds would be around 20-1 or 25-1, then I’d go off closer to 15-1, which would be truer value. But my morning line was 15-1, so I appreciate the respect. Without an overwhelming favorite in the race, I think people will look for value, they’ll see I’m 15-1, the grandson of AP Indy, and I won my last race as impressively as anyone else’s last race, and I beat Irap, who beat 5 solid horses in this field, hence I think I might even go off closer to 10-1 before the gates open Saturday.

TRS: Wait a minute, Hence! You just said it wasn’t original when I said “hence”, but you just said it!

Hence: I know, but I’ve been saying it forever, so when you started saying it just now, it wasn’t original. Its only original when I say it since I was the first to say it.



9. Irap, 20-1, by Tiznow; Trainer: Doug O’Neill, Jockey: Mario Gutierrez

TR Slyder: So do you actually rap?

Irap: I do.

TRS: Seriously? Can I hear some?

Irap: No I don’t rap, you idiot. I’m a horse!

TRS: I probably should have seen that coming. Anywhoozer, you are a real wild card in here. Your connections (owner, trainer, jockey) know a few things about winning the Kentucky Derby, winning in 2012 with I’ll Have Another and last year with Nyquist, and your dad was the first and only horse to win two Breeders Cup Classics…

Irap: ……So you’re saying I’m the best horse in the race?

TRS: You didn’t let me finish. ….But you’ve won only one race. I’ll grant that you beat some heavy-hitters that will be in the Kentucky Derby (McCracken, Practical Joke, J Boys Echo, and Tapwrit), but that race was just flukey.

Irap: Why? Would it really be shocking if my connections won another Derby?

TRS: In 2017? It wouldn’t be shocking, but I think you are likely to be poor value at the betting window. You got away with a :48.34 half mile in the Blue Grass, and stole it on the front end. There is no way you’ll get a pace anywhere near that in the Kentucky Derby and even with that slow pace, you barely held off a rusty McCracken, and both Tapwrit and J Boys Echo had rough trips.

Irap: What about Practical Joke? I beat him in that race too. Do you have an excuse ready for him too?

TRS: Not really. He made a nice, sweeping move on the far turn and you squirted away and then looked like your dad in the 2001 Classic and gutted out a tough one. You were the best horse in that race and won it “on the square” as they say. But again, you have to know that the leader in the Kentucky Derby won’t be getting away with anything close to a :48.34 half mile, and you won’t have has much gas left in the tank to hold off the closers, and the closers are likely to be tougher than the 20-1 Practical Joke.

Irap: If it will make you feel better, I’ll concede it was a fluke. Just like I’ll Have Another’s Derby victory was in 2012 for my owner, trainer and jockey, when he won at the flukey price of 15-1.



10. Gunnevera, 15-1 by Dialed In; Trainer: Antonio Sano; Jockey: Javier Castellano

(Clicking the above link for Gunnevera’s dad, Dialed in, will take you to my interview with him when he was the favorite in the 2011 Kentucky Derby)

TRSlyder: There is plenty to like about you, Gunnevera. Along with Lookin at Lee and the favorite, Classic Empire, you lead the field with 6 starts in graded stakes races. In those races you have three wins, a second, a third and fifth place. You seem to run pretty well in the slop, and your most recent race was the Florida Derby and I felt like your jockey didn’t really give you a chance to win that race as you were placed WELL behind the leaders and then made a huge move at the end but you just had too much ground to make up.

Gunnevera: I appreciate the benefit of the doubt with that last race. I almost feel like my trainer and jockey didn’t even want me to win that race and just wanted me to get used to making one, big, late run and to learn how to pass tired horses at the end of a race.

TRS: I thought the same thing! I didn’t think the result was indicative of your ability or, particularly flattering for you. I love that you’re battle-tested and you’ve raced against many o these horses, you always show up fit and ready to compete, you race against the best and you figure to be running late.

Gunnevera: While we’re tooting my horsey horn, did you also see that my final 3 Furlongs in the Florida Derby was faster than any other horse’s final 3 Furlongs in their last, and that according to the formula posited in this Ron Flatter article? I can argue I have the best chance to win on Saturday.

TRS: I did read that article, and I’m glad you mentioned that! I’ll be using you in all of my exacta tickets and I’m excited to watch you run again, Gunnevera.




11. Battle of Midway, 30-1, by Smart Strike; Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer; Jockey: Flavien Pratt

TR Slyder: I like that you have been competitive in your last two races, but your Beyer Speed Figures are pretty low and the main criticism of your chances to win the Kentucky Derby is that…

Battle of Midway: ….that I’m just not fast enough? Well the truth is that I am not fast enough to win the Kentucky Derby, so I won’t take up any more of your time. You should probably go interview some horses with an actual decent chance to win.

TRS: Wow, I appreciate the honesty and your consideration of my time.




12. Sonneteer, 50-1, by Midnight Lute; Trainer: Keith Desormeaux; Jockey: Kent Desormeaux

TR Slyder: Have you accepted that you won’t win on Saturday?

Sonneteer: You know what? I have.

TRS: Ohhhhh good. Well good luck to you out there. And for what it’s worth, I think you are the best looking horse in the field.


J Boys Echo, under Robby Albarado, wins the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack on March 4, 2017.

13. J Boys Echo, 20-1, by Mineshaft; Trainer: Dale Romans; Jockey: Luis Saez

TR Slyder: What’s up, J Boys? Can I call you “J Boys”?

J Boys Echo: Sure.

TRS: Thanks, J Boys. You are flying under the radar a little bit. Your Gotham Stakes was great. You stayed behind the leaders who were running at a pretty fast clip, you made your move on the far turn and inhaled them all and won easily. But in the Blue Grass, you had a cartoonishly slow pace to try to run down, and on top of that, you got hit by something during the race that left you with a swollen eye the next morning.

J Boys Echo: Yeah, I appreciate you noticing that. Clearly, that wasn’t the trip I was looking for.

TRS: It sure wasnt, J Boys. But I’d imagine you’ll get a much faster pace in the Kentucky Derby, and the leaders will be a lot more tired when you make your run at them. I think you’ll be a live longshot on the first Saturday in May, J Boys.

J Boys Echo: Thanks man. Why do you keep calling me, “J Boys”?

TRS: Have you seen The Hangover? The part when Mr. Chow is leaving the guys in a lurch….

J Boys Echo: Yes…..oh God…..

TRS: Well, on the way out I was gonna do my Chow impression, but instead I’d say, “So long, J Boys!” Get it?!

J Boys Echo: Unfortunately yes. Ok, this interview is over.

TRS: So long, J Boys!



14. Classic Empire, 4-1, by Pioneer of the Nile; Trainer: Mark Casse; Jockey Julien Leparoux

TRSlyder: The 4-1, favorite himself: the half brother to the immortal American Pharoah, and all-around bad boy, Classic Empire.

Classic Empire: That’s me.

TRS: It’s hard to find something negative to say about you. Your breeding is great to win the derby, your trainer and jockey are as good as you could hope for, and you even broke your maiden in the slop. So even if the track comes up muddy or sloppy, you still figure to be the horse to beat. If the Kentucky Derby were awarded to the horse with the best resume, it’d be you.

Classic Empire: Thanks. But I’ve done like 89 interviews this week. They all start like this, then after the flattery they all ask either, “What happened in your recent works where you just refused to work out and seemed completely disinterested in racing?” and then they say, “Your resume is sooo good, so what happened in your only loss, where you got third in the Holy Bull and were beaten by Irish War Cry and Gunnevera, and you just came up empty?”.

TRS: Well, you don’t have many holes in your resume, so that is really all there is to be critical of. How do you answer those questions?

Classic Empire: I spent a few weeks totally disinterested in racing, and the Holy Bull was during that time. I had a sore hoof and back, but I was asked to train and race anyway and I just wasn’t feeling it. I guess maybe because I’m a horse you expect me to automatically love to wake up at 4:30 am and train. When was the last time you got out of bed two hours before sunrise so you could do some wind sprints?

TRS: Uhhh, I mean honestly, it was probably…

Classic Empire: Never. You’ve never done that. Why? Because it’s not all that awesome. But I got over it and my trainers got me healed up. Another big help was that we changed exercise riders in the mornings and now my head is in a much better place. It’s true I kinda stunk for about  month, but that month is over and I’m back to my usual winning ways. If you disagree, that’s totally fine- leave me off all your tickets and see if regret that after the roses are handed out on Saturday.

TRS: That makes sense to me.



15. McCracken, 5-1, by Ghostzapper; Trainer: Ian Wilkes; Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

TRSlyder: Congratulations on being awarded as the co-second-favorite (along with Always Dreaming) in the Kentucky Derby, man! That’s quite an honor.

McCracken: What do you mean that it was “awarded” to me, like it was some kind of gift? I earned that distinction.

TRS: Did you though? In your last two starts you raced against 6 horses that are in the Kentucky Derby: in your last race you lost to Irap (20-1) and Practical Joke (20-1), and you managed to beat J Boys Echo (20-1) and Tapwrit (20-1). The race before that you beat Tapwrit (20-1) by a length and a half, and you beat the 50-1, State of Honor by 2 and a half lengths. You were the favorite in both races, and you couldn’t crack the exacta in your last one, and got beat by two horses whose Kentucky Derby odds are way higher than yours.

McCracken: Way to look upon the hole and not upon the doughnut, Slyder. Did you also happen to notice that my third place finish in my last race was the only race I didn’t win? No one in the Kentucky Derby is undefeated, shouldn’t I get credit for going the longest without a loss? Always Dreaming lost to maidens TWICE, and Classic Empire lost by almost 9 lengths in his defeat. At least I kept my loss to less than four lengths. I don’t like to make excuses, but I wasn’t able to train sufficiently for that race because I was coming off an ankle injury that sidelined me from racing in the Tampa Bay Derby.

You may also know that my trainer doesn’t like his horses to “empty the tank” in prep races before a big race, during workouts prior to a big race. It’s possible we’ve been playing our cards a little closer to the vest than the other horses in this race. Oh, and did you know that I’m 3-for-3 at Churchill Downs?

TRS: Those are fair points. I don’t think you’re without your merits, but I am surprised you are the co-second favorite, and I think you’re poor value at 5-1.

McCracken: So you aren’t going to use me in any of your exactas or trifectas? Is that what you are telling me?

TRS: No, I wasn’t saying that. I’ll use you defensively on a few tickets, but I won’t have you on top of any of them.

McCracken: Well, good luck then. My morning workouts have everyone convinced I’m sitting on a huge effort on Saturday.

And remember: I’m only poor value if I lose. If I win the race or come in second, then I was great value.



16. Tapwrit, 20-1, by Tapit, Trainer: Todd Pletcher; Jockey: Jose Ortiz

TR Slyder: Your Tampa Bay Derby on March 11 was awesome and you won easily by 4 1/2 lengths. But four weeks later on April 8th in the Blue Grass, you got kicked in your equiney hiney, finishing 5th, beaten by 4 horses that you’ll face in the Kentucky Derby: Irap, Practical Joke, McCracken, and J. Boys Echo (in order from winner, to 4th place). What happened differently in the Blue Grass?

Tapwrit: I got pinched at the start and had to take back, which killed my momentum, as a result I got dirt kicked in my face while racing 4-wide the entire way around the track. This might surprise you, but that isn’t my ideal trip.

TRS: Fair enough. But the trip didn’t look all that terrible, and it’s hard to imagine you’d get a markedly better trip in the Kentucky Derby. In your last two races you’ve raced against five horses that you’ll face in the Kentucky Derby, and the only horse you finished in front of was the 30-1 (in the Derby), State of Honor.

Tapwrit: Well, yeah. Why do you think I’m 20-1? Look, I’ve got the genetics, and the jockey to win this, and my trainer isn’t all bad either. I’m going to be great value and if I can get a little racing luck, I wouldn’t surprise anyone if I made it into the trifecta.

TRS: I think that’s a fair assessment. Anything else you’d like to add?




17. Irish War Cry, 6-1, by Curlin; Trainer: Graham Motion; Jockey: Rajiv Maragh

TRSlyder: I’m excited to watch on Saturday! You are the only horse in the Kentucky Derby field with two triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, and your style seems to be great for a Derby winner: you like to stay within 1-3 lengths of the leader then your make your move on the far turn and gut it out to the wire.

Irish War Cry: Thanks, man. That’s the plan, at least. Being in the 17th post isn’t super helpful, since I’m hoping to be a length of two or three off the pace. I’m hoping I don’t end up going 7-wide on the first turn, so we might need a bit of racing luck.

TRS: I kinda think that if every horse has their best race possible, that you will win. So with that said, the only question I wanted to ask you is, what is an Irish War Cry?

Irish War Cry: I’m not sure. I always assumed it was something like, “Oh no! Not only are we at war, but we only have 17 kegs of Guinness for the 3 of us!”




18. Gormley, 15-1, by Malibu Moon; Trainer: John Sherriffs; Jockey: Victor Espinoza

TRSlyder: I can’t seem to make up my mind about your chances in the Kentucky Derby. On the one hand, I don’t think you’re very likely to win, but on the other hand, I can’t deny your talent, and think you can certainly factor into the trifecta.

Gormley: And if the track is wet…

TRS: Good point, if the track is wet, I think you probably benefit the most. You ran your career highest speed figure while winning the Grade III Sham in the slop. I also like that you won the Santa Anita Derby, which had a really fast pace, which is similar to what the pace in the Kentucky Derby is expected to be.

Gormley: Go on….

TRS: Unfortunately, I don’t think I can. I mentioned just about all of your positive aspects.

Gormley: Oh. I see.

TRS: Sorry man, it’s nothing personal, and I think you’re a very talented horse. I will have you in a lot of my exactas, but I just can’t support you as a win candidate.





19. Practical Joke, 20-1, by Into Mischief; Trainer: Chad Brown; Jockey: Joel Rosario

TR Slyder: Duuudddeee….

Practical Joke: Does that mean you kind of like me, but can’t back me to win because I just haven’t won enough and you don’t like any horses that came out of the Blue Grass?

TRS: Yes.

Practical Joke: I get that a lot of people are pooh-poohing the Blue Grass, but  I’m the best horse of all of them. I’m Chad Brown-trained and you know he’ll get his first Kentucky Derby win eventually.  Plus,  I love this distance and I always figure into the exactas of big races. My speed figures aren’t too far behind anyone else’s, either and I have every right to figure into the Derby exacta.

TRS: Do you feel like maybe your name lends itself to not taking you seriously? And maybe that’s why you are 20-1, despite having a really solid resume, and again, you’re trained by Chad Brown.

Practical Joke: No. I just think people are wrong about me.

TRS: Oh, ok. Also, you are trained by Chad Brown.

Practical Joke: Is my trainer the only thing you like about my Kentucky Derby chances? Because you’ve mentioned him three times already.

TRS: No, that’s true at all. Even though you are trained by….you know who…..Ok, fine, it’s Chad Brown.




20.Patch, 30-1, by Union Rags; Trainer: Todd Pletcher; Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

(Clicking the above link will take you to my interview with Patch’s dad, Union Rags, when he ran in the 2012 Kentucky Derby )

TR Slyder: Hi Patch.

Patch: Hi there.

TRS: Some handicappers think you have no chance in the Derby.

Patch: And what do you the other handicappers think?

TRS: That your chances to win are putrid.

Patch: Do you agree with either of them?

TRS: Before I answer that, I should probably make a quick trip to my car because I…. forgot… to…. get something….*sprints out of the barn*-


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  • Wow, Wilbur, I'm impressed. (I think you're too young for that old geezer reference.)

    How about NEIGH!

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    Thanks Keezus! I'm glad you liked it.

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