The works are over, the order of post position draw has been determined, and after the trainer and owners choose their posts this evening there will nothing left but the waiting. OK, and the partying.
For horsemen, the only major decisions remaining after today are what time to arrive at Thursday's "press" party, and which restaurant to try to get into on Derby Eve. And for Bobby Frankel, deciding the best way to get Empire Maker into the starting gate as close to 100% on Saturday.
Frankel does not seem the least concerned Empire Maker will be in top shape for the Derby. He spent Wednesday morning on the track by the gap, and was as loose and jovial as ever.
Frankel walked the son of Unbridled for an hour this morning, and on the advise of veterinarian Ken Reed, he'll likely walk him again tomorrow, then jog the colt on Friday and Saturday.
"Dr. Reed recommended we walk him another day just to be on the safe side, and I might just do it," Frankel said. "I might gallop him the morning on the race just to sharpen him, but I haven't decided yet. If this wasn't the Derby, nobody would notice anything was wrong. These kinds of things happen all the time. If I was at Hollywood Park nobody would be paying attention to it. Remember, this horse jogged and walked the week leading up the Wood Memorial, and didn't have one gallop. So, why take him out and aggravate it if I don't have to? I'd rather send out a sound and short horse than sore and fit horse.
"This was probably meant to be, and it'll make him even more famous if he wins. This will be just another story that in 15 years will be exaggerated. Instead of him missing two days, he'd have missed two weeks. And he still won. It's just like the Bible. Everything is exaggerated."
Frankel said all you can do for a minor bruise like this is to tub the horse and poultice him, and give him Bute. Late Tuesday afternoon, Frankel had assistant trainer Reuben Loza jog Empire Maker on the gravel outside the barn, and the colt went perfectly. He was feeling so good, at the end of the jog he leaped in the air. Frankel said he won't know any more until they send him to the track and put weight on the foot. He won't decide whether to walk him or jog him tomorrow until he gets to the track. Frankel was scheduled to school both Empire Maker and Peace Rules in the paddock this afternoon.
On Friday, we'll have our final column, in which we summarize all our observations, breaking them down into three categories – works, gallops, and overall appearance. Combining that with a little handicapping and pedigree study, we'll narrow down our tops picks and how best to use them in the wagering.
Here is a rundown of the order of post position draw:
1. Offlee Wild
2. Funny Cide
3. Outta Here
4. Lone Star Sky
5. Buddy Gil
7. Empire Maker
8. Peace Rules
9. Indian Express
11. Ten Cents a Shine
12. Domestic Dispute
13. Eye of the Tiger
14. Ten Most Wanted
15. Sir Cherokee
17. Supah Blitz
It looks like two of the top closers – Ten Most Wanted and Sir Cherokee – will be breaking from the outside, unless the rail is open and their connections opt to choose it, which is unlikely, considering post 1 has been taboo in recent years. Of the contenders, Buddy Gil, Empire Maker, and Peace Rules, will come away with excellent posts. Scrimshaw, with his running style, may be the one hurt the most by the draw. Indian Express, the likely pacesetter will probably wind up outside the speedy Peace Rules, Brancusi, and Funny Cide, unless Bob Baffert decides to snatch up one of the inside posts if any decent ones are available by the ninth pick. He'll at least have the advantage of knowing where the other speed horses are before choosing.
No one was having more fun this morning than Buddy Gil's Desperado Stables crew -- longtime buddies, led by Donnie McFadden, who bred Buddy Gil and raised him at his Billingsley Creek Ranch in Hagerman, Idaho. This morning, Buddy Gil jogged a mile and galloped a mile under assistant trainer Amy Mullins, wife of trainer Jeff Mullins. The son of Eastern Echo is one of those who are thriving at Churchill Downs. He seems to have put on more muscle since we saw him at Santa Anita, and he's becoming more aggressive every day. This is one horse who should be sitting on a big effort.
Funny Cide, runner-up to Empire Maker in the Wood Memorial, was scheduled to board a 1 p.m. flight in New York, and is expected to arrive at Churchill Downs late this afternoon. Brancusi, runner-up in the Blue Grass Stakes, is still cloistered away at Keeneland and is not expected to arrive at the Downs until tomorrow.
Ten Most Wanted, as usual, was strong this morning, as he was accompanied to the track by trainer Wally Dollase, aboard his pony, Blackie. The son of Deputy Commander is really feeling good these days, and is showing all the right signs.
Peace Rules -- remember him? -- is back to his old ways, galloping strongly with his head down and into the bit. You won't find a more radiant coat on any of the Derby starters.
Outta Here, fourth in the UAE Derby, had a very smooth gallop this morning. He schooled in the paddock on Tuesday and was soaking wet, walking around the ring in the near 80-degree weather. He'll likely return to the paddock on Thursday.