Oaks Day: Celebrities and Weather

Oaks Day: Celebrities and Weather
Photo: Jeffrey Snyder
Horse and racetrack owner Richard Duchossois
With all of the contender for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) having undergone their final preparations, it was a relatively quiet day on the backside of Churchill Downs the morning of Friday, May 2.

The Derby horses did go to the track to “stretch their legs” during training hours, which were cut short to 6-8 a.m. so the track could prepare for the day’s racing card that features the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and five other stakes races.

Among those in the stable area Friday morning were actress Bo Derek, a Derby week regular, and her sisters.

One backside visitor, horse and racetrack owner Richard Duchossois, said he was returning to the Derby this year after an absence of several years. Casually dressed and inconspicuous, Duchossois took in the stable area and stopped at the backside “media” center for coffee and donuts.

Duchossois, whose family is the largest single shareholder of Churchill Downs Inc., explained that the Derby conflicts each year with opening day Arlington Park, the track he runs but which is now owned by Churchill Downs.

Duchossois lamented that an ongoing dispute between jockeys and horsemen was a distraction from this weekend’s Arlington opener. The issue is about money, Duchossois said, adding that the riders and no one else identify any new sources of money.

Another casually dressed Chicagoan on hand at Churchill was Charles W. “Stormy” Bidwill Jr., a director emeritus of Churchill Downs who is president of National Jockey Club that owns Sportsman’s Park racetrack.

Back to celebrity sightings, chef Bobby Flay was making the rounds in the stable area before going across the 3rd Street to Wagner’s Pharmacy, which has a breakfast-lunch counter frequented by prominent owners, trainers, jockeys, and locals.

Once at Wagner’s, Flay taped a cook-off with the store’s regular cook, Pam (aka "Mama"). With both cooks preparing Southwestern omelets, Flay declared that Pam’s was better than his. She agreed.

Louisville skies were mostly cloudy as the day dawned, with sun breaking through at mid-morning. If the National Weather Service forecast is accurate, however, the sun will be short-lived. The forecast is for afternoon thunderstorms, winds from 15 to 25 miles per hour, and a high temperature of 76 degrees.

Even stronger thunderstorms, with the possibility of hail, are expected to continue overnight, with an 80% chance of precipitation. The rain is forecast to end early Saturday and clearing to reveal sunny skies by Derby time.

Anyone planning to attend the Oaks or Derby should not plan to bring umbrellas to the track. Umbrellas are not permitted and will be confiscated at the entry gates.

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