The sun returned to the Bluegrass State Sunday and the rain gear dried out by Monday morning with plenty of time to reflect on another memorable edition of the Kentucky Derby.
The 144th running of the Derby will be remembered for many things – the rain, the impressive performance by Justify, the rain, a gallant run by runner-up Good Magic, the rain, a disastrous trip by Mendelssohn, the rain, a big crowd, the rain and record handle. Did we mention the rain?
This week’s recap includes a feature on the Derby runner-up, handicapper’s report, steeplechase action, By the Numbers, Worth Repeating and more. Enjoy, and see you in Nashville or Baltimore, or both.
Chad Brown remained on the rain-soaked racetrack well after his colleagues – at least the ones that didn’t stay under cover and went out in the elements – after the runners were unsaddled following Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
He kept his focus on an infield television monitor showing the replay of the Derby, occasionally looking away to make eye contact with one of the members of the media or fixing his gaze on the winner’s presentation for Justify and his connections. Good Magic, Brown’s trainee who finished 2 1/2 lengths behind Justify in second, was well on his way back to the barn area with Baldo Hernandez and other members of Team CB.
The rain continued to fall, soaking Brown’s short hair and running off his raincoat, as the small group of reporters fired off questions. He didn’t seem to mind the rain, much like Good Magic didn’t shy from the mud of back down from the challenge of the final half-mile of the Derby.
“It’s disappointing, we’re in this to win these races,” Brown said. “You can’t help but be so proud of his horse. It’s one of those years. I’m not the only trainer that’s walked away with a second-place finish that’s probably good enough to win several Derbies, just not this one.”
Good Magic, last year’s champion 2-year-old male and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, might have been good enough in just about any other year.
The early pace of the Derby was fast – the opening quarter-mile of :22.24 was one of the fastest in history and the half of :45.77 also ranks among the swiftest in the 144-year history of the race.
The first eight Derby runners were separated by less than 6 lengths after a half-mile and were, in order, Promises Fulfilled, Justify, Flameaway, Bolt d’Oro, Good Magic, Firenze Fire, Noble Indy and Free Drop Billy. At the finish six of the eight were deep in the field with Firenze Fire faring the best in 11th.
The third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishers all came from well back, leaving Justify and Good Magic as the only two who did any significant work early still around at the finish.
“There was a point in the stretch where I thought we had a really, really good chance,” Brown said. “Given the fractions up front and Justify was doing a lot of the heavy lifting up front, I felt that by the eighth pole maybe this horse will come back to us. He can come back to us if he’s not a super horse, but he proved to us that he is a super horse. He had another gear and found more and was a clear winner.”
Good Magic’s runner-up effort ended what Brown called a very uneventful Derby Week and even longer stretch of the spring. The son of Curlin spent a significant amount of his Kentucky stay at Keeneland, where he won the Blue Grass April 7 and turned in his penultimate pre-Derby breeze April 21, and that too went off without a hitch.
Justify rightfully deserves the accolades as the winner, running his record to 4-for-4 and giving Bob Baffert his fifth Derby win. Good Magic came close to providing Brown with a second classic to go with Cloud Computing’s Preakness victory last year. Close, just not quite good enough in this year’s Derby.
“It’s a work in progress, I feel I’m still a student of this race, I’m trying my best to show good leadership in my staff and in my owners to develop a horse to get here and win,” Brown said. “They all did a great job with this horse. We all did what I felt were the right moves, we wouldn’t change anything but you always leave here learning something. What it takes and all the different curveballs that get thrown at you, with weather and what not. I have to tell you, it was very uneventful going into this race, horse trained perfect, he handled the track, he had a good post, he had a good trip. Sign me up for my next four Derbies if everything goes that smooth. Win or lose.”
By the Numbers
25.88: My Boy Jack’s final quarter mile when fifth in the Kentucky Derby, fastest of the field.
26.85: Derby winner Justify’s final quarter.
40: Victories for leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez at the Laurel Park winter-spring meeting that ended Sunday.
52: Wins at the Laurel meet for leading jockey Jorge Vargas Jr.
53.19: Final half mile for Justify in the Kentucky Derby.
157,813: Attendance for the Kentucky Derby Saturday, eighth highest in track history.
$149.9 million: Record wagering from all-sources on the Kentucky Derby, an
increase of 8 percent from the previous record of $139.2 million set last year.
$225.7 million: Record all-sources wagering for Kentucky Derby Day program at Churchill Downs, up 8 percent from last year’s previous mark of $209.2 million.
“And Elliott, they sent me this horse. Elliott cost me a Triple Crown. So this is his way – you are off the hook, Elliott.”
Bob Baffert to WinStar Farm’s Elliott Walden, who trained 1998 Belmont winner and Real Quiet’s Triple Crown spoiler Victory Gallop
“You cost me a Derby.”
“Given the opportunity, there’s no telling what this horse can do.”
Mike Smith on Derby winner Justify
“It’s pale and drinks a lot.”
Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones giving description of Ireland’s Mendelssohn prior to the Kentucky Derby
“Love, love, love his heart.”
Keith Desormeaux on Derby fifth My Boy Jack
“We’ll be back.”
Aidan O’Brien waiting for Ryan Moore in the tunnel after Mendelssohn’s last-place finish
“I was leaking really bad. I was not liking this at all. I was preparing my wife for a loss. We were ready to head out the gate as long as they crossed the wire.”
Baffert on a string of losses at Churchill Downs during Oaks Day and Derby Day
“I just keeping using this word. I don't know why, he’s so above average.”
Mike Smith on Justify
“I was there for that.”
Starlight Racing’s Jack Wolf when told he was the first Louisville native to win the Derby since Hamilton C. Applegate with Old Rosebud in 1914
“He’s an A student, and I’m a C. We look at it different.”
WinStar Farm’s Kenny Troutt about being excited watching the stretch versus Bob Baffert being nervous after the fast fractions
“I was a C student.”
“He was 50‑1, Giacomo was, but I still thought he had a chance. Honestly, I really did.”
Smith on the 2005 Derby winner
“About midway through the card Barbara Banke sent me a video of Curlin winning the ’07 Classic at Monmouth on the sloppiest track I’ve ever seen or walked on, and it reminded me. Then I saw Hard Spun finishing second, his broodmare sire. She just said, ‘just remember, this guy’s bred for it.’ ”
Chad Brown on Derby runner-up Good Magic
The Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville tops this week’s jump action after a pair of meetings over Derby Weekend in the Mid-Atlantic with Sunday’s 40th annual Winterthur Point-to-Point and Saturday’s Virginia Gold Cup in The Plains.
Richard Valentine enjoyed a productive Gold Cup with a pair of winners, including the co-featured Grade 2 David Semmes Memorial with Maggie Bryant’s Personal Start, as Sara Collette’s homebred Zanclus won the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup 4-mile timber stakes.
Kieran Norris rode Zanclus, an 8-year-old son of Xenodon out of the Two Smart mare Jordani, for trainer Neil Morris. Zanclus won by 3 3/4 lengths from Le Chevalier with Super Saturday third in the field of six.
Valentine started his two-win day in the $45,000 allowance hurdle with Check Mark Stables’ Willow U, a 1-length winner over Deficit under Shane Crimin. Barry Foley rode Personal Start in the Semmes Memorial, winning by 8 1/4 lengths over Hardrock Eleven.
Kieran Norris, Neil Morris and Collette teamed for winner on the card, taking the $35,000 Virginia-bred or sired flat going 1 1/4 miles with Eryx.
Jockey Jack Doyle also doubled on the day, winning the $40,000 steeplethon 3-mile timber stakes on Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu for trainer Leslie Young and the $50,000 Secretariat Stakes going 1 1/2 miles on the flat aboard Marriebelle Stable’s Renown for trainer Elizabeth Voss.
The other winners on the Gold Cup card were Irv Naylor’s Warp Factor in the $40,000 Virginia Equine Alliance maiden hurdle for trainer Cyril Murphy and jockey Darren Nagle and Rosbrian Farm’s Sixty Five in the $40,000 allowance flat going 1 1/2 miles for trainer Ricky Hendriks and jockey Michael Mitchell.
The action shifted to Delaware Sunday for timber action at the Winterthur Races. Stewart Strawbridge’s Kings Apollo took the feature, the $40,000 Winterthur Bowl 3 1/4-mile timber stakes for trainer Sanna Neilson and jockey Gerard Galligan.
The other winners at Winterthur were Armata Stable’s Rudyard K in the $15,000 Isabella duPoint Sharp Memorial for trainer Todd Wyatt and jockey Mark Beecher, Morning Star Farm’s Carrickboy in the $15,000 Vicmead Place amateur apprentice timber for trainer Ricky Hendriks and jockey Archie Macauley and Gregory Hawkins’ Canaveral in the Middletown Cup amateur training flat for trainer Janet Elliot and jockey Eric Poretz.
The ST Handicappers produced moderate results, with each picking four winners at the two meets. Joe boosted his season-leading total to 20 by correctly tabbing Andi’amu, Renown, Eryx and Canaveral. Sean increased his total to 18 with Andi’amu, Renown, Sixty Five and Rudyard K. Tom broke into double digits with 12 winners thanks to Warp Factor, Andi’amu, Rudyard K and Canaveral.
Speaking of handicappers, we rolled out a team of five for Kentucky Oaks-Kentucky Derby Weekend and they also produced mixed results.
The Saratoga Special’s John Shapazian was the lone member of the quintet with the Derby winner and he nailed the trifecta and exacta in the process with Justify over Good Magic and Audible. Justify returned $7.80 as the favorite and keyed a $2 exacta of $69.60 and $2 trifecta of $282.80. Shapazian also picked Monomoy Girl in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks. The $2 Oaks-Derby Double paid $16.60.
Tom also picked two winners, Limousine Liberal ($10.80) in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs and Yoshida ($21.80) in the Grade 1 Old Forester Turf Classic.
Joe finished the weekend tied with Shapazian for three winners after tabbing Mia Mischief and Backyard Heaven Friday and American Gal ($7.80) in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff.
John Cox doubled up with Backyard Heaven Friday and Limousine Liberal Saturday. Sean got on the board Saturday with American Gal.
Looking ahead to next week’s Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness Weekend, Joe and Shapazian lead the way with three, followed by Tom and John Cox (2 each) and Sean (1).