Emotions Run High at Trainers' Dinner

The annual Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders' trainers' dinner in Louisville brought out a mixture of memories, tears, and honors to deserving conditioners and owners that have made an impact on the sport of racing.

Held in the Hyatt Regency ballroom in downtown Louisville, the post-dinner interviews with trainers of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) hopefuls brought some insights into the running of Derby 133 on Saturday.

The emcees for the evening were Paul Rogers and New York Racing Association announcer Tom Durkin, who was filling in for the absent Chris Lincoln.

The most notable award of the night went to John and Debby Oxley, who raced 2001 Derby winner Monarchos. The honor, named the W.T. Young Humanitarian Award, was bestowed upon the couple for their great contributions to racing, including donations to help save the Calumet Farm racing trophies and the building of educational institutions.

"Anybody in this room that was blessed to know W.T. Young knows that this is quite an honor--thank you," said Debby Oxley.

The highlight of the night was a video presentation honoring trainer Michael Matz, who saddled the late Barbaro to win last year's Derby. The video tribute included moments from Matz's Olympic experience, to his heroic actions in a plane crash, to winning the roses last year. 

"(Matz) is an unusual, remarkable human being," said Darley USA president Jimmy Bell, who presented the award. "He is a man of class, courage, and candor."

After a standing ovation for Matz, the 2007 Derby-bound trainers were brought to the stage to speak about their contenders for Saturday's race.

One of the most excited trainers on the stage was Bill Kaplan, trainer of Storm and May and I'mawildandcrazyguy, who found out only hours earlier that the latter horse had drawn into the race.

"I'm just happy to be here," said Kaplan, who recommended I'mawildandcrazyguy, who was originally given a feminine sounding name, be given a more masculine name and be gelded. 

Representing the absent trainer Barclay Tagg was Nobiz Like Shobiz' owner and breeder Elizabeth Valando, who put to rest the rumors that she turned down a substantial amount of money offered for the horse after his first race.

"I've never confirmed that, and I've been asked not to," said Valando, who was dressed sharply in a black dress and hat. "He was such a special horse. I think we all try to breed a horse like this, and I didn't want to part with him."