Saturday Morning Line at Churchill Downs
Updated: Thursday, May 11, 2006 10:19 AM
Posted: Saturday, May 6, 2006 9:57 AM
4:40 p.m.John Williams
is sitting in a box on the third floor that reads "Wolfson Family." The Wolfson family would be Louis
and Patrice Wolfson
, breeders and owners of Affirmed, the last Triple Crown winner in 1978.
Williams thinks Lawyer Ron
will win the Derby.
He reports that he's just off the phone with Patrice, who is in Bal Harbor, Fla., where she was "handicapping the race as we speak."
Former Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown Jr.
climbs the stairs to his box seat on the third floor just past the finish line.
"I just met the owner of Brother Derek
, and he said he's going to run good," he reports.
Brown says, however, he'll be backing Sweetnorthernsaint
and Point Determined
Leaning up against pillar on the second floor concourse is horseman Keith Asmussen
. He's flanked by a pair of crutches.
"I had an ol' wore out knee that gave up on me, and I had a new one put in," he says.
The legendary Texas horseman says he's been to about 15 Kentucky Derbys. None particularly stand out in his mind. This year's running might, though.
His son, trainer Steve Asmussen
, has two runners in this afternoon's main event: Storm Treasure
and Private Vow
From Across the Pond
The British-bred Milk It Mick
is 8-1 on the morning line for the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, the race before the Kentucky Derby. Owner Paul Dixon
is soaking up some sun on the second floor balcony overlooking the paddock after the sixth race.
Dixon, an Englishman, is making his first trip to Kentucky.
"It's fantastic scenario," he says. "You can see all walks of life here. We've been very well received and very well looked after."
How did the horse get his name?
"We named him after a very good friend of ours," he says. "And he's by Millkon."
The horse will face a stiff challenge today.
"He's got a good draw (post 4 of 11)," he figures. "It's a tough race, but (trainer) Jim (Cassidy) says the horse is doing good."
Oddly enough, the morning line favorite is English Channel
He's Taking the Lead...
Trainer Carl Nafzger
knows how to call the Derby. He made television history in 1990 while he was taped watching the race with owner Francis Genter. Their Unbridled was making up ground on the turn and into the stretch.
"Here he comes," he shouted as he kept one eye on the field and one on her. "He's taking the lead. He's gonna win. He's gonna win the Kentucky Derby. You just won the Kentucky Derby, Mrs. Genter. I love you."
Put a chill up my spine that day. Still does.
Nafzger has a box on the third floor for today's Derby. How would he call this one?
"I like (trainer) Michael Matz
' horse, Barbaro
," he says. "And A. P. Warrior
, Lawyer Ron
, and Steppenwolfer
"They're all trained by guys who have let the horse bring them here to the Derby and not the other way around."
Underneath the eaves of the grandstand stands Jean Cruguet
. He knows his way around Churchill Downs -- he piloted Seattle Slew to victory in the 1977 Derby and then went on to win the Triple Crown.
He's taking a break from today's gig, signing posters out by the paddock. He watches the second race on the monitor. Menasah, at 6-1, pulls away in the stretch. We're both disappointed in the outcome.
A man behind him asks, "Mr. Cruguet, who do you like in the Derby?"
"Five-eight," he says. "I like five-eight. Point Determined
(No. 5) and Barbaro
Seattle Slew is one of five horses to win the Derby while undefeated and the only unbeaten horse to win the Triple Crown.
Barbaro is one of two horses in the race to have a chance to join the club.
The national anthem is performed in the infield and it's piped through the public address system.
Everybody stops and stands at attention.
It won't be last time everyone will be on their feet today.
A Classic Start to the Day
In the main press box, several gather around a monitor to watch the Two Thousand Guineas from Newmarket. The favorite, George Washington
, pulls away impressively to win the first classic of the British racing season.
George Washington was bred in Ireland by Roy
and Gretchen Jackson
's Lael Stables. The Jackson's bred and own current Derby favorite Barbaro
and own fellow unbeaten starter Showing Up
The possibilities of this day for the Jacksons is unbelievable.
Best Seat in the House
8:50 a.m.Michael Dixon
has one of the best seats in the house, but he won't be watching today's Kentucky Derby.
The 24-year-old Dixon is a member of the Kentucky National Guard. His position, as part of the security here at Churchill Downs, is on the ground level, Section 116, right on the finish line. However, during the running of the races, he'll be turned around, watching the crowd.
"It was pretty nice yesterday," he says about Oaks day. He's not expecting any problems today.
Dixon doesn't know how many National Guard members are on detail today, but there are 25 from his military police unit from Olive Hill, Ky.
Yesterday, he was an usher up on the third floor -- Section 321 to be exact--and today he's trackside, checking the entry point to Section 116. Even though he got up at 3:30 a.m. to get here, Jared Yates
, 18, is ready for the day. A gold nametag with the Churchill Downs logo is pinned to his green Churchill Downs windbreaker.
How was your Oaks day?
"At first it was slow, but later in the day, around 1 or 2, people were standing just everywhere," he says. "Today, it will be even more crowded. The guy said he's expecting between 3,000 and 3,500 people coming through here today."
His detail is part of a fundraising effort for North Hardin High School. There are 36 of them working Oaks and Derby day.
The Royal Treatment
The gates opened at 8, and it's only 8:30, but Ann Delchambre
has already sold her first couple of drinks. A couple of Bloody Marys. "Breakfast drinks."
Ann is working in a high traffic area, in the open air area facing the paddock beneath the famed Twin Spires. She's working the bright purple and gold Crown Royal booth.
For $8, Ann will serve up a Crown Royal and Coke, some drinks made with Smirnoff vodka, or a Jose Cuervo margarita.
"I don't know how many we sold yesterday, but we threw a whole lot
of alcohol over the counter," she says of Oaks day. What about the Derby?
"Today's going to be a good day; a fast day."
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