They call it Chamber of Commerce weather. This year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) will be run on a beautiful day in Louisville, Ky. The sun is shining bright on Churchill Downs and the weather forecasters predict at post time for the 132nd running of the Derby, there will be mostly sunny skies and a temperature of 68 degrees.
A steady stream was ready to enter the infield when the gates opened at 8 a.m. Each paying $40 to be inside the historic track where the 20 horses will run later in the day for glory and roses, they were busy staking out spots amid the various tents and merchandise stands.
The previous day, also picture perfect weather wise, saw the second largest crowd in history to witness the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). The more than 108,000 was just 3,000 less than 2005.
No one is expecting a record Derby crowd, that mark being 163,628 to witness the 100th running of the race in 1974. But who knows ... there is a full field set to compete in a race that in recent weeks has many observers calling it as competitive a group as has run in the classic race in years. Don't forget, 156,435 were in attendance last year to witness Giacomo's huge upset on a day when the temperature reached 78.
The forecast for a cooler day Saturday should only encourage infield denizens who still might need sunscreen but will not be spending all day under a hot, hot sun.
As the infield crowd was streaming in, bands were tuning up for performances later in the day, and National Guardsman were seen practicing holding the rope that will cordon off the area where the winner will be paraded some time after 6 p.m.
Those that listened to the weather prognosticators earlier in the week and handicapped for an off track had to get back to work as Derby day approached. The forecast changed completely mid-week as the weather pattern changed ... for the better. Early reports called for a rainy Oaks day and Derby day with a chance of thunderstorms.
But the weather map in Kentucky this morning shows no chance of precipitation and a spring daybreak that guaranteed the greatest two minutes in sports will be telecast around the globe showing the Twin Spires and the entire Thoroughbred industry in their best light.
As for the favorite in the race, the public is having a hard time at that. When advance wagering closed Friday, the shortest price was 5-1 and it was not the horse that morning linemaker Mike Battaglia made the program pick.
Battagalia went with Brother Derek, but the public, at least so far, has wagered the most on Barbaro.
There are five supporting stakes on the Derby card, so the chance to see top-quality horse starts early. There are two other grade I races, the Humana Distaff for older fillies and mares going seven furlongs, and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, which has 10 males and one filly running nine furlongs on the grass.