Racing's Holy Grail--The Epic Quest for the Kentucky Derby--Chapter 4

Editor's Note: Steve Haskin is an award-winning turf writer and senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse. During his 29 years with the Daily Racing Form, Haskin became known for his insightful coverage of the Triple Crown races. Haskin won the Red Smith Award for Kentucky Derby writing in 1997, 1999, and 2000.and received the David Woods Award for best Preakness story in 1997. In 1999, he co-authored "Baffert: Dirt Road to the Derby" with trainer Bob Baffert and wrote the books, "Dr. Fager" and "John Henry" for Eclipse Press'"Thoroughbred Legends" series. In his latest book, "Racing's Holy Grail - The Epic Quest for the Kentucky Derby," Haskin takes readers behind the scenes and into the trenches as he examines what it takes to win the world's most famous horse race. He plumbs the secrets of successful trainers, the common pitfalls that hinder so many others, and the enigmatic nature of the race itself. The following excerpt is from Chapter 4:

Chapter 4 -- Derby Dynamos

...the ability of Zito, Baffert, and Lukas to win the Derby and send live horses there year after year is about all they have in common. Each has completely different training styles, yet all manage to attain the same objective.

Lukas rides a pony in the morning. Zito and Baffert don't. Zito washes down his horses himself after training. Lukas and Baffert don't. Baffert uses a two-way radio to keep in constant contact with his exercise riders. Lukas and Zito don't. Lukas and Baffert wear cowboy boots and jeans. Zito wears work shoes and trousers. Zito is a wine connoisseur and rarely orders off a menu; Baffert likes Diet Coke and fast food, as well as a fun night out at a good restaurant; Lukas is content with a hamburger and a glass of milk from room service.

Although they might work their horses differently Derby week, all three have their horses fit and ready for the big day. Baffert's two Derby winners, Silver Charm and Real Quiet, each had three workouts at Churchill Downs prior to the Derby, and of the six works, five were bullet moves, or the fastest work on the tab. The only one that wasn't was Real Quiet's six-furlong work in 1:12 2/5, and that was second only to Baffert's other Derby starter Indian Charlie, who worked out before Real Quiet when the track was freshly harrowed and playing faster.

Lukas' four Derby winners, on the other hand, did not have a single bullet work among them, although they usually were solid works -- in the 1:13 to 1:14 range for six furlongs, and 1:00 to 1:01 for five furlongs. Zito, however, worked Go for Gin five furlongs in a slow 1:04 3/5 and six furlongs in 1:15. Strike the Gold breezed five furlongs in a pedestrian 1:05 and a half-mile in :51 2/5, but did throw in a bullet five-furlong work in 1:00 flat in between.

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