The best drama in Louisville today takes place in the racing office on the backside at Churchill Downs. It's the pill pull to see what order post positions will be drawn later this afternoon in the made-for-television post position show on ESPN.
Trainer Nick Zito is holding court with a ring of media members outside his barn. The two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer has two starters for Saturday's running: Cool Coal Man and Anak Naktal. Zito is talking about the subject of the year: synthetic surfaces. We have a feeling he's not a big fan.
Richard Migliore bounds through Barn 45 at Churchill Downs at a few minutes past nine. That's late for a racetracker, but the jet-setting jockey has a valid excuse. He just got into town.
Mike Barnes is a big LSU fan. He can't help but hide it. The exercise rider's helmet has the distinctive "LSU" logo that adorns the Tiger's football helmets. "I bleed purple and gold," the Louisiana native says. "I've been a fan since birth."
It's baaaack. Starting Sunday, April 27, and running daily through Kentucky Derby day, May 3, The Morning Line returns to bloodhorse.com. The feature, first unveiled during the 2006 run up to the Kentucky Derby, offers a behind-the-scenes look at the participants and players of Thoroughbred racing during racing's major events.
No American knows more about the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) from personal experience than Jim Cornes. The Dubai Racing Club official and former assistant to four-time Dubai champion trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has witnessed all but one of the previous 12 runnings of the world's richest race and will be there Saturday to see if Curlin can join the elite group of winners.
As racing fans and participants from around the world gathered at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse on Thursday for "Breakfast with the Stars," there was one name that seemed to be on everyone's lips: Curlin. People from Australia to Europe to South America to Asia all wanted to see the American Horse of the Year with their own eyes, to gauge how good he might really be before he races for the $6 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) on Saturday.
American Horse of the Year Curlin was standing in the wash rack in his barn in the quarantine area of Nad Al Sheba Racecourse when the unmistakable sound of an explosion split the air. "We were lucky he was in the wash rack because we could have had a problem if I was walking him," assistant trainer Scott Blasi said of the startling noise.
A day after his last workout for the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), Curlin was ready to do more, said Scott Blasi, who has spent the last month tending only to Curlin, satisfying the colt's every need and keeping him focused on the task that lies ahead.
The connections of Horse of the Year Curlin are determined to give the prepossessing chestnut a chance to create his own legend in racing. His quest for such glory begins this year in Dubai, where he will try to win the world's richest race, the $6 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), as a leap toward shattering Cigar's career earnings record of $9,999,815. Michele MacDonald -- who is covering her 10th consecutive Dubai World Cup -- shares the most intimate moments of this Middle Eastern sojourn, focusing on the people closest to Curlin and the exceptional colt himself, as well as offering a magic carpet ride through the land of Dubai.
Gerald Errichetti, Laura Von Glahn, and Connie O'Connell stop by the clubhouse dining room to inquire of the guest list. Volunteers with the Breeders' Cup VIP Escort Team, they're getting their assignments straight.
On the chute, trainer Graham Motion is on his pony, circling his John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) runner Better Talk Now. They're waiting to go onto the soggy turf course for a last-minute tune-up.
Manning the Otis Elevator that serves as the stewards elevator at Monmouth Park is Ed Thayer. He knows the equipment....he's been operating the elevator for the past 11 years.
It's 10 a.m. Time for the first group meeting of the "Big Event Team" put together by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. In all 22 agents are prowling the backstretch of Monmouth Park 24/7 looking for evil doers.
After the post position draw, which clocked in right at one hour to introduce all the dignitaries and draw 11 races, trainer Todd Pletcher takes a seat at table. He's quickly surrounded by a circle of cameras, tape recorders, and notebooks.
Walking in through the main gates at Monmouth Park, it's amazing the transformation that has taken place here. We take in a deep breath. What's that familiar aroma? No, it's not New Jersey...its fresh paint.
Starting Monday, Oct. 22 and running through Saturday, Oct. 27, The Morning Line returns to bloodhorse.com. The feature, now in its second year, offers a colorful, behind-the-scenes look at the participants and players of the Thoroughbred industry during racing's major events.
Standing outside his barn on the Oklahoma side of Saratoga, Bob Baffert holds court with the media and smiles. He talks about Midnight Lute's victory in the Forego (gr. I). About how rewarding it is to win a race like that at a track like this. About how good it feels to be back.
The gates at Saratoga open promptly at 7:00 a.m., and five seconds later the picnic areas are flooded by a rush of running fans. WIth limited space, the sections fill up quickly, and the mad dash to claim a table or a section of lawn looks like the beginning of a wild frat party.
Carl Nafzger walks across Clare Court with Street Sense striding beside him. The colt is alert, but relaxed; he walks confidently, as if he owns the track. Once over the Clare Court training track, he stops and pricks his ears. Lifts his head. Looks for cameras. Definite pose.
D. Wayne Lukas pauses from his morning duties to give his view on the Travers. The well-spoken Hall of Fame trainer has, as always, an insightful opinion on the race.
Fans are trickling into Belmont Park through the grandstand entrance. Out back by the picnic area, there are a few spots still available, but there won't be for long.
On the third row of Section G on the third floor of the clubhouse sit two yellow plastic bags. Labeled Adelman's Deli, the bags are stuffed with pastrami sandwiches, knishes, latkes, and pickles.
The paddock opens at 11:30 for schooling. One of the first to arrive is Belmont (gr. I) entrant Tiago. Trainer John Shirreffs, his stepson David Ingordo, and Frankie Herrarte, a member of his crew, follows the Pleasant Tap colt, who is led by Frank Leal.
Preakness starters walking the shedrow Saturday morning as the big moment is on the horizon, a bright and sunny one at that.
Baltimore and Pimlico ready to turn into the Calvin Borel show.
The autograph hounds were on the prowl Thursday morning at Pimlico, with Kentucky Derby winning trainer Carl Nafzger signing an oversized print of Street Sense to benefit a Pennsylvania charity.
Standing outside the Gold Room on the sixth floor of the clubhouse of Churchill Downs is Lisa Underwood. Underwood is the executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority.
Trainer Forrest Kaelin is moving quickly through the second floor clubhouse section. The local legend has seen a lot in his years training under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs.
The scene at the racing office is pretty quiet. Only jockey agents Steve Bass, Joe Ferrer, and Jerry Hissam are present, chewing the fat with retired rider Bobby Ussery.
The pill pull at the racing office for the Derby is one of the most dramatic moments of the week.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas holds court for an assembling of media in front of his spotless barn. He's the only trainer without a Derby horse who can still provoke a good half-hour worth of questioning.
When I hear about the Yumfecta and Yum! Brands, I suddenly have an urge for a Root Beer Float...
The weather today in Louisville couldn't be better. A good-sized crowd has amassed under the Twin Spires.
If I had to watch Bernardini get beat, this was the way to go.
All of the credentialed photographers are gathered around the winner's circle, receiving their locations to shoot tomorrow's races. It's their views to the thrill.
The great Laffit Pincay Jr., now retired but still the world's all-time leading jockey (and winner of eight Breeders' Cup races), is at Churchill Downs to introduce the nominees for the Race Track Chaplaincy's White Horse Award.
Right before the draw of the Breeders' Cup races takes place on the fourth floor of the clubhouse at Churchill Downs, Lisa Underwood surveys the scene. She's not eating breakfast from the buffet, but that's not to say she doesn't have a lot on her plate.
Rev. Ed Donally is standing outside Barn 36 with an armful of new halters, watching as Lava Man cools out from his morning gallop. Donally, with the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, is in from California to coordinate the White Horse Award Luncheon.
Academy Award-winning actor Joe Pesci is the guest of honor at the Breeders' Cup Luncheon, but he's not here to talk about his movies.
A bronze statue of Pat Day is unveiled in the garden near the paddock at Churchill Downs. John Asher cracks a joke that it will allow Day to live out his dream of being five feet tall since the statue is just slightly larger than life.
By Evan I. Hammonds - I don't recall the meeting when it was first discussed, but I remember volunteering. Looking for new avenues of coverage for racing's big events--the Triple Crown, the Breeders' Cup--on bloodhorse.com, the idea of a "blog" came up. "Blog," short for "Web log," is a relatively new concept and is still subject to debate for its actual purpose and application.
By the grandstand entrance off the paddock, a crowd gathers. They're flocking around Penny Chenery, the owner of Secretariat, the most famous Belmont winner of them all.
Back at Barn 10, home of trainer Tom Albertrani, is Irene and Joseph LaCombe. The LaCombes bred and own Belmont Stakes (gr. I) starter Deputy Glitters.
I've been waiting since the Derby to write "The Morning Line" from the Morning Line, the backstretch kitchen at Belmont Park.
Morning Line returns this week as Evan Hammonds pokes around and peaks under the covers at the site of the third leg of the Triple Crown classics.
At the hospitality tent at the stakes barn, they're getting ready for the Preakness celebration party. Gold streamers are going up at one end as they set up the bar. At the other end, there is a huge, three-tiered cake.
The blue and white Brook Ledge van pulled up to a receiving area near the stakes barn at Pimlico at 2:35 p.m. Elvis has entered the building.
In the day's fifth race, Armed Brat, a 3-year-old running under an $8,000 tag, breaks his maiden in gritty fashion while between horses. The winning jockey is 18-year-old Kyle Kaenel.
The Morning Line continues this week, with an insider's view of all things Preakness.
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