Only thoroughbreds are Derby royalty
Chestnuts with splashes of white on their faces. Those with almost-black withers and light brown runners with long strides. Noble heads, muscular backsides and feet with white stockings. Tails that sail in the breeze, ears that are pricked. A competitive spirit bred into them.
It’s Kentucky Derby week, and the stars of the race are the 20 entries ready to contest the mile-and-a-quarter distance.
Twenty thoroughbreds. All of them owned, trained, primed, prized and sent racing by a coterie of people trying to push themselves forward, to be recognized as the most favored of this late afternoon, but always failing and falling behind the dashing thoroughbreds.
None of the surgeries, perfumes, wide-brimmed hats or high-heeled shoes can hold a candle to the thoroughbreds.
A few of the 20 should be entered in other races, not the Kentucky Derby; the 10-furlong distance is too much.
But even those who will lag behind and be covered in dirt are draped in more glory than those social climbers watching them from a safe distance.
Who are the most recognized of the 20 thoroughbred icons of this Kentucky Derby?
There’s lightly raced Justify, a burnished chestnut who did not race at all at age two. He’s the Santa Anita Derby winner. His sire is Scat Daddy, who died in 2015 but also has three other sons – Flameaway, Mendelssohn and Combatant – in the field.
The fashionable Curlin, a large-boned chestnut with Hollywood good looks, sired another three entries – Good Magic, Solomini and Vino Rosso – in this year’s race. Good Magic won the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and was the 2017 Juvenile champion at last year’s Breeder’s Cup races.
The deep, chocolate brown vision that is Magnum Moon is unbeaten in four career starts, including the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby. Like Justify, Magnum Moon did not race at age two.
Can Audible be the toast of this year’s Derby? He won in Florida in the late winter, taking both the Holy Bull and Florida Derby in hand.
Bolt D’Oro and Enticed are the sons of Medaglia D’Oro and have wins in the San Felipe and Gotham Stakes as subdued credentials.
Some Cajuns and Creoles down in Louisiana will try to sell you on Louisiana Derby champion Noble Indy, but his winning would be an upset worthy of finding crayfish pie on butter pecan ice cream in the Sahara Desert.
My Boy Jack and Instilled Regard could quietly be left alone on the odds board, and then roar through the long Churchill Downs homestretch to win the hearts – and dollars – of longshot players.
The understated Hofburg has the now-white Tapit as his sire and a rising star jockey, Irad Ortiz, as his heady rider.
Outside post positions will ruin several of the featured thoroughbreds’ chances. And the bumping and jostling that occurs soon after the uncommonly large field leaves the starting gate will compromise the hopes of others.
Racing luck is always lurking behind some concession stand loaded with mint juleps. No matter all of the race’s incidentals, the royalty of the afternoon will again be the untarnished thoroughbreds and their will to run all day.