Will there be an off track for the Derby?

Will there be an off track for the Derby?

Anne M. Eberhardt

Derby Day: Chance of Off Track; Pack the Poncho

With a 60% chance of rain in Louisville today, patrons going to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) would be well advised to pack a poncho. But leave the umbrella at home because that is one of the items banned from being brought into Churchill Downs.

With all 20 of the Derby horses OK Saturday morning and ready to go, the weather was the big topic on the backstretch.

The National Weather Service forecast is for a high temperature of 75 degrees and chance of showers throughout the day.

What effect the precipitation has on the track remains to be seen. Track superintendent Butch Lehr told the Courier-Journal that the track could dry out and be fast as long as the rain stopped before racing begins.

To ward off the effects of overnight rains, track maintenance personnel used equipment to “seal” the track, essentially packing the top surface so water rolls off rather than penetrating the dirt.

An “off” track –- one that is labeled sloppy, muddy, or good – would be more preferable to some Derby starters than to others. A review of the previous form for the 20 starters shows that a large number of them have no off track experience.

Three horses who appear to benefit from an off track are Hard Spun, Scat Daddy, and Teuflesberg.

In his lone start over a sloppy track, Hard Spun romped by five lengths in a stakes race at Delaware Park last November.  In his first career start, Scat Daddy rolled to a 5 ¼ length triumph in the mud at Belmont Park in June 2006. Last December, Teuflesberg posted a 2 ¾ length victory over a sloppy track in the Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds.