Wendie Malick (right) of the TV show "Just Shoot Me" made an appearance on the Churchill backside Friday.

Wendie Malick (right) of the TV show "Just Shoot Me" made an appearance on the Churchill backside Friday.

Mike Corrado

Last Chance for Face Time...Roker, Malick At Churchill

Hat hoopla started early Friday with Tony Offutt's mechanized table-sized hat. Offutt, who won Churchill's hat contest on opening day this spring, convinced the local FOX affiliate to give him some face, or hat, time, so he was on Churchill's backside mugging it up. Offutt said last year's creation had moving horses. This year he had two balloons which go up and down, including one in the shape of a bourbon bottle, a BMX bike jumping a hill, a bobbing Belle of Louisville, and three horses on his hat track. Offutt, a resident of New Albany, Ind., said he feared this year he went a little overboard. The hat looks like a creative engineers' project--actually, Offutt is a taxidermist who "yanked his kids toys apart," paired them with remote controls and duct tape, and got functional headwear.

Offutt attracted the attention of the backside's most popular man this morning, Al Roker. Let's amend that...the most popular man besides Bob Baffert. Roker was on site for his live weather updates for the "Today" show and had Offutt and his creation on camera with him.

Before the "Today" broadcast began at 7 a.m., Roker visited the local affiliate's morning folks, then talked on camera with Baffert and NBC commentator Tom Hammond. Roker's counterpart Willard Scott hosted Thursday's Pegasus Parade for the 20th straight year.

Also in the barn area Friday morning was Wendie Malick from NBC's "Just Shoot Me." Considering she was still on California time, Malick looked surprisingly put together in a sand-colored sweater, matching jeans, and cheetah print mules. She is expected to be among the guests at this evenings Mint Jubilee. Also expected in are model Kylie Bax and the Sopranos' Michael Imperioli, both as guests of the NTRA, and possibly the head of the fictional mob family, James Gandolfini.

This afternoon ESPN Classic presented its Road Show live from just outside Churchill's paddock. Among the guests who survived the sweltering heat with hosts Steve Cyphers and Suzi Kolber were jockey Jerry Bailey, artist and singer Tony Bennett, football Hall of Famer Paul Hornung, former jockey Julie Krone, sportscaster Jack Whittaker, and trainer Nick Zito.