Of all the great sports events, the Kentucky Derby has a unique knack for producing as its winner the entrant with the most compelling storyline.
Call it the Genter Factor.
You remember 1990, when Unbridled stormed through the stretch to make his 92-year-old owner Frances Genter a Derby winner.
Who will ever forget the television tape of trainer Carl Nafzger "calling" the race for the elderly Genter, whose poor sight did not allow her to see her horse.
"He's gonna win! He's gonna win! He's a winner! He's a winner! Look, Mrs. Genter, there he is. He's a winner!"
Such heartwarming tales are as much a part of the Derby as mint juleps.
That sets one to thinking.
When it comes to picking a winner of this wild, wide-open 128th Kentucky Derby, why not cease being blinded by "science"?
Why not ditch Dosage (after Charismatic and Real Quiet, every one pretty much has), dump "dual qualifiers," skip the "speed figures"?
Instead, be a reporter. Find the best story. Go with the Genter Factor.
So it has to be Harlan's Holiday.
What a tale that would be. One of his owners, Jack Wolf, is a native Louisvillian. If his horse wins, Wolf would be getting the Kentucky Derby on his 53rd birthday.
The trainer is Kenny McPeek, who grew up in Lexington and set aside a career in finance to follow his love of horses.
To get where he is today, McPeek worked his way up from the lowest rungs of racing, once had an owner at Turfway Park stop paying him and leave him with "15 very slow, very untalented horses" to feed.
On Saturday, he sends out the likely favorite in the race he's been dreaming about since he was child.
So, using the Genter Factor, it has to be Harlan's Holiday, right?
Not so fast.
His trainer, one Shug McGaughey, is a native Lexingtonian for whom winning the Derby would be the ultimate.
An old-school horseman, McGaughey has not brought an entry to this race since 1989, when his heavily favored Easy Goer had his heart broken by Sunday Silence.
How much would it mean to McGaughey to finally get his Derby?
Then look at Saarland's owner. Cynthia Phipps has her own heart-tugging tale.
Her father, Ogden Phipps, was one of the giants of American horse racing. The former chairman of The Jockey Club owned such champions as Personal Ensign and Easy Goer.
But Ogden Phipps died April 22 at the age of 92, having never won the greatest American race of all.
What a warm story it would be should the daughter capture the race that the famous father never did, only two weeks after his death.
So, by the Genter Factor, it has to be Saarland, right?
Don't be too fast.
Consider Essence of Dubai.
Now, you may not think a $2.3 million yearling owned by a pair of billionaire sheiks from Dubai raises the "heart-warming" meter real high.
But in the first Kentucky Derby run since Sept. 11, there would be something starkly compelling about Middle Eastern interests winning this Derby.
Having seen with tragic consequences last September how small the world now is, perhaps a victory by the Maktoum brothers could remind people all over the planet that different cultures can come together in peaceful coexistence for at least one day.
If that lesson stuck with only one person in each country, it would produce the most significant Derby "heartwarming" ever.
Using the Genter Factor, make it 1) Essence of Dubai, 2) Saarland and 3) Harlan's Holiday.