In the 130-year history of the Kentucky Derby, husband and wife teams have become common. It's hard to imagine top owner Bob Lewis winning his two Kentucky Derbys without his wife, Beverly, by his side. Or John Ward winning with Monarchos without his longtime partner, Donna, also basking in the Derby glory. The names Markey, Firestone, Keck, Taylor and many others bring fond memories of formidable husband-wife Derby partnerships.
The name Mullins may not be far behind. Jeff and Amy Mullins are once again in Louisville, this time with Fog City Stables' Buzzards Bay, their fourth consecutive starter in the first jewel of the Triple Crown.
Buzzards Bay won the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) as a 30-1 outsider, giving Mullins his third consecutive victory in the event, the only trainer to accomplish the feat.
"I want to win it," Amy Mullins said of the Run for the Roses. "I hope we get a shot every year. I hope it's not greedy to say that or want that, but it's true."
Mullins can't help but think of how far she and her husband have come - from their humble beginnings together in Arizona to rubbing elbows with racing's elite during the past four Kentucky Derbys.
"I remember when we were first married, we had six horses in the port-a-pens at Turf Paradise," she recalled. "I remember just having horses at all and being excited. Our big mare at the time we just leased and she won four races for us. We got, I think, 70 percent of what she earned."
Life has changed dramatically for the Mullins family since those days nearly 15 years ago, though Amy's role in her husband's bustling Thoroughbred racing business hasn't. Now a top national operation based in swanky Southern California, the quality of runners Mullins trains has increased steadily over the years, as have the spoils from being successful on a lucrative racing circuit.
But just as she did when they were first together Amy gets to the barn before dawn six days a week and gets on several of her husband's charges. She's exercised all but one of their Derby starters, never picks favorites and is the go-to girl when it comes to troubled or problematic runners.
"Amy often times gets the projects," says Jeff. "She's always the one who finds a way to get along with them."
Though she takes great pride in her role as top gallop girl for her husband, Mullins finds her most important job is mother to Jeff Jr., 6, and Justin, 4, as well as to step-daughter Jessica, 17. She's also content in the background, where she was a quiet yet staunch supporter during her husband's recent troubles with the media. That stemmed from controversial remarks Mullins made to a columnist in March after he was found to have started a horse that ran with an excessive amount of sodium bicarbonate in his system.
"I wouldn't want all the responsibility he has," Mullins said. "When he had all that drama I just stayed quiet, sat back and listened to him," Amy Mullins said. "When he felt like opening up and talking about it, he did. And I told him, 'We've just got to keep winning races.' I clearly do believe that when he said some of those things he was only talking about that specific person. He has so many friends and clients who are big-time gamblers. There's just no way he thinks that."
Though winning the Kentucky Derby has become a mini mission for Amy Mullins, she's more than happy to return to her quiet Southern California life, raising her family and assisting her husband in continuing forward with his successful business.
"The whole (Derby) experience is, like, wow!" she said. "It's always so exciting to go. I never imagined we'd ever be here once let alone four times. But even if we don't ever win we'll appreciate every minute we've had getting there."