LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Good morning from historic Churchill Downs where we wish you a Happy Derby Day! It’s been sunny all morning after the Louisville area was the recipient of severe overnight storms. The main track has already been upgraded from “sloppy” to “muddy” and the Matt Winn Turf Course is currently listed as “good.”
My meteorologist friends tell me that the National Weather Service forecast for Louisville calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high near 85 and a 50 percent chance of popup precipitation (between a tenth and quarter of an inch). There will be a west wind between 3-5 mph. We’ll try and keep you updated throughout the day as to track conditions and the ever-changing weather here at Churchill.
We had a historic result in yesterday’s Kentucky Oaks, as Rosie Napravnik became the first ever female jockey to win the Run for the Lilies in 138 years of the race. There were over 112,000 patrons on hand on Friday to see Rosie’s big win, today’s crowd could approach 165,000 according to Derby organizers.
The Derby is shaping up to be quite a race with any of a number of horses capable of wearing the roses by day’s end. I landed on Daddy Knows Best in today’s paper, but have really been warming up to Take Charge Indy over the past week. We’ll also keep you updated on the Derby odds throughout the day and have some fun with some of the undercard races. Some of the horses running at Churchill today include Breeders’ Cup (BC) Sprint champion Amazombie, BC Filly and Mare Sprint champion Musical Romance and Preakness champion Shackleford, to name a few.
Bodemeister is listed as the current favorite at 4-1, as Derby advance wagering opened up on Friday at 9 a.m., at that time My Adonis was scratched from the also-eligible list and was shipped to Pimlico to run in a stakes race today. If you’re a numbers geek like me, check out my Derby spreadsheet complete with all kinds of interesting information to help you make your Derby pick.
12:15 p.m.: The graded stakes start with Race 6, the Grade 3 Turf Sprint, which features Todd Pletcher's 4-Bridgetown (6-5), who took his tack over to Great Britain's Ascot race course last year. Before we get to the graded stakes portion of the card, however, is a 7 furlong $75K optional claimer in Race 5.
If you like hoops, and we are deep in hoops country here in Kentucky, the exacta hunch play is Big Blue Nation with Jimmer (named after former BYU star and current Sacramento King Jimmer Fredette). On a more serious note, I'm looking at boxing BBN, Seven Lively Sins and Mile High Magic with my first play of the day.
Speaking of sports celebrities, the place is teeming with them. Yesterday, my colleague Mike MacAdam from the Schenectady Daily-Gazette and I ran into a couple of NHL coaches, Chicago's Joel Quenneville and Florida's Kevin Dineen. I'm guessing they'd rather be at a different venue today, but I'd say it's the next best place to be at!
12:46 p.m.: 10-Macho Macho ($17.00) took the fifth at 7-1 over second timer 6-Thermal Cat. Corey Nakatani completes a $121 double and we're ready for some multi-race wagering.
We're ready for our first graded stake of the day. As the day grows on, the time between races will start to lengthen in order to accomodate the large crowd an afford them the chance to get to the windows. The 5-furlong sprint on the dirt track is the 18th running of the Turf Sprint. I went with 2-Great Attack, 4-Bridgetown and 10-Great Mills (who I really like) in the first leg of a Pick-3. We'll update you on the next two legs should we get through.
Time for lunch, looks like some type of turkey with succotash dish. Interesting. We'll give you a Top Chef type update after consumption.
1:30 p.m.: Not bad. Hopefully you boxed those three in a $2 exacta and you'd be $32 richer. Our Pick-3 is off and running with 4-1 shot 2-Great Attack ($10.80) who closed like a freight train on 4-Bridgetown to win the Turf Sprint! We're live 4x5 (1,3,4,6 with 3,4,5,9,10) in our first Pick-3 play of the day. It's best to spread as much as your bankroll can on big race days like this, as there is plenty of dough in the pools today.
The next race is the 78th running of the $400,000 Grade 2 Churchill Downs going 7-furlongs. My top choice in here is 1-Smiling Tiger. Look for 3-Apriority closing late if there is a hot pace and I've included the BC champ 6-Amazombie and Preakness winner 4-Shackleford for good measure.
Quick lunch report: The turkey was delicious, as was the corn and shrimp concoction. I decided to steer clear of the succotash. (Top Chef grade - B+).
1:42 p.m.: Off the press bus this morning, I ran into Gary Stevens, who won the 1995 Derby for Baffert on Silver Charm. Working for the NBC telecast this afternoon, he hasn't wavered on his Derby selection since the televised prep races started in March. He favors 4-Union Rags in the big one.
2:00 p.m.: Updated Kentucky Derby odds: 4-Union Rags 9/2; 6-Bodemeister 7-1; 15-Gemologist 8-1; and 3-Take Charge Indy 10-1. The longest shot on the board currently is Prospective at 59-1. The track has been upgraded to "fast" and the sun is shining here in Louisville.
2:20 p.m.: Shack attack under the Twin Spires! The defending Preakness champion, 4-Shackleford ($5.60) gobbled up BC Sprint champ 6-Amazombie in a serious stretch duel. That, my friends, was a serious horse race. Can you tell my juices are flowing! As a bonus we're live to five horses into the 8th.
Race 8 is the 27th running of the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, the will-pays on my five horses range from $30 (3-Marketing Mix) to $95 (10-Hungry Island). Better than a sharp stick in the eye. I really like 4-Tapitsfly and 5-Daisy Devine (winner of four in a row) in this one, so may mess around with a little exacta play. The big guaranteed Pick-4 is up next.
2:30 p.m.: Joel Einhorn, the gentlemen who is this year's Derby Dream Bet contestant was just up in the press box. He has an opportunity to place a $100,000 win wager on the Kentucky Derby. When asked who he is going to bet, he would only give this clue, "If I win, I'll be a millionaire!" That means he's looking at a horse with odds over 10-1, pre-tax of course.
Two years ago, Glen Fullerton of Houston won $900,000 after placing his bet on Super Saver at odds of 8-1. Last year, Chicago's Dave Flores fell just short when Mucho Macho Man finished third in the Derby.
2:38 p.m. Just saw Bill Belichick on the local Louisville sports station being interviewed from the red carpet here. He actually knows how to smile. First time for everything, I guess.
Doc Hansen was just up in the CD press box handing out squeezy Hansen toys. I didn't get one. I spoke with him in the paddock on Thursday afternoon, he is really loving the limelight, but he is truly a passionate fan who supports the game with everything he has.
3:18 p.m.: All right then. We collect $94.70 on the Pick-3 riding Johnny V's coattails on 10-Hungry Island ($13.80) Woo hoo. In addition, I snuck another Pick-3 (roll 'em when you got 'em) in Race 7 and I'm live to three horses in the Humana Distaff up next. 5-Daisy Devine set a pretty quick pace and the closers Hungry Island and 4-Tapitsfly completed a $92 exacta. If you boxed my five horses in a $0.50 trifecta (cost $30) you'd have collected $157.70.
Next up is the $300,000 Grade 1 Humana Distaff, a 7-furlong race for fillies and mares, 4-years old and upward. We're live to 3-Sassy Image ($86), who has won five of six efforts, 6-Groupie Doll ($72) and 8-Musical Romance ($105). Let's see if we can keep this ball rolling. Groupie Doll has never missed the board at the distance and Musical Romance comes in third off the layoff and sports a BC F&M Sprint victory here last fall. A horse that didn't find it's way onto my ticket who is a threat is 7-Switch who comes off the bench for trainer John Sadler.
3:25 p.m.: It's about that time to head downstairs for the ceremonial Mint Julep. Ready for a Cliff Claven-like little known fact? Did you know that more than 120,000 Mint Juleps are expected to be served at Churchill Downs over the weekend? Over the past 25 years, more than 2.6 million Mint Juleps have been served between Oaks and Derby Days at Churchill Downs. If we had burned out of that last Pick-3, a few more may have been added to the total.
3:59 p.m.: New track record for 6-Groupie Doll, who gives me back-to-back Pick-3's! She went off at 3-1; and my $0.50 Pick-3 pays $71.95. Sure hope my luck holds up through the Derby. This game can be humbling in a hurry.
The 26th running of the $500,000 Grade 1 Woodford Reserve is up next. A 1 1/8-mile race on the Winn Turf Course. I really love 2-Turallure with turf specialist Julien Leparoux in the irons, and included 10-Brilliant Speed in the second leg of a rolling Pick-3 that was started off by Groupie Doll.
4:05 p.m.: I just received some good news from Tom Law, Chairman of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association (NTWAB), as I was elected into the association in this weekend's bi-annual meeting. I'm looking forward to being a contributing member of the group and one of the benefits is that I will have an Eclipse vote at the end of the year.
4:41 p.m.: Let's go Turallure, we're deep in the Derby leg, so we could use our best bet of the day to come through.
4:55 p.m.: Oh well. You win some and you lose some. A day at the track is still better than a day at the office. Turralure had an awful trip and couldn't close in to the upset winner 1-Little Mike ($26.40) who wired the field with Jersey Joe Bravo in the irons. 5-Slim Shadey (GB) finished second and 10-Brilliant Speed got up for third and paid $6.40 to show.
The big one is next.
5:00 p.m.: The odds board still has 4-Union Rags (4-1), 6-Bodemeister (7-1) and 15-Gemologist (8-1) as the top three choices on the board, the 17 other horses are all greater than 10-1 on the board. We'll let you know if we see any large odds moves over the next 45 minutes or so.
5:07 p.m.: Speed has really been holding all day. I'm thinking that favors a fast horse with stamina like 6-Bodemeister. As long as the early fractions are honest and he holds off the pace it could be his race to win. I'm sticking with my picks for the paper, which incude him, and will be playing my four selections (10-Daddy Knows Best, 3-Take Charge Indy, Bode and 15-Gemologist) on top of trifecta and exacta wagers.
Will we see another big upset winner? Will there be a pace meltdown? Could Trinniberg get away like Spend A Buck in his first race stretching out to the mile and a quarter classic distance? We'll find out in about 81 minutes. OK, I have to stand as Mary J. Blige is singing the National Anthem.
5:11 p.m.: Wow, she's got some pipes. By the way, the over/under on National Anthems was three, so we had a push.
5:20 p.m.:Today's attendance of 165,307 has set a new Kentucky Derby record, breaking last year's attendance mark of 164,858. I'm going to head to the backside and walk over on the track with the horses, so I'll be back about 20 minutes to post for final comments before the Run for the Roses.
6:00 p.m.: Just back from the walkover, which is quite an experience. Over 165,000 fans cheering their favorite horses on the way over to the paddock. I walked with Pletcher and his two horses, 15-Gemologist and 16-El Padrino. They're in the paddock with 24 MTP and the excitement is starting to brew.It's still 4-Union Rags, 6-Bodemeister and 15-Gemologist leading the odds board.
Good luck everyone, we'll have a quick recap after the race!
6:52 p.m.: And it's 15-I'll Have Another ($32.60) in the Derby! He becomes the first horse ever to win from post No. 19. Jockey Mario Guttierez and trainer Doug O'Neill win their first Derbys, respectively. I'll Have Another wins at 15-1 after chasing down 6-Bodemeister who set blistering early fractions. The $2 exacta paid $306.60 and 5-Dullahan completed a $0.50 trifecta that paid $766.50. The winner won by 1 1/2-lengths.
That's a wrap from Louisville. Check for my post race commentary in tomorrow's paper.
-- Gene Kershner