homepage logo

Thoroughbreds — not hats or celebrities — most important at another Kentucky Derby

By Staff | May 6, 2016

It’s the first Saturday in May. It’s time for another 20-horse field in the Kentucky Derby, the one thoroughbred attraction many Americans watch and then return to their other avocations for the remainder of the year.

Entrenched in the lore and bravado of the Kentucky Derby are the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs, the garland of roses wrapped around the neck of the winner, mint juleps, the song “My Old Kentucky Home,” the variety of hats worn by those wearing the finery of money, celebrities of all stripes and worth . . . and the greatest thoroughbred of them all, Secretariat.

It’s the 142nd “Run for the Roses”. And despite the tens of thousands of college students tumbling through the sardine-packed infield… and the 120,000-plus fans pulsating through the grandstand and paddock areas, the star attractions of the whole show are the thoroughbreds — some power-laden and handsome, some more lithe and athletic, some already worth millions…and all more visually brilliant than the thousands of sunsets and sun rises ever to come to Louisville and Churchill Downs.

Twenty starters are probable. But late scratches come yearly.

This year’s favorite with the bettors will be unbeaten Nyquist, last seen winning the Florida Derby in the mud by nearly three lengths. A jinx of sorts follows Nyquist, a bay son of Uncle Mo whose breeding rights are already owned by Darley America, which will stand him at Jonabell Farm In Lexington, Kentucky.

Nyquist won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for two-year-olds. And no winner of the Juvenile has ever won the next year’s Kentucky Derby.

Of the other 19 entries, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby — Exaggerator — has the eye of some looking for the main competition for Nyquist. The Santa Anita Derby was run in the slop, the same as the Florida Derby. Exaggerator almost flew past the competition moving toward the stretch and won easily by much daylight. He’s had nine starts, but just four wins.

Others searching for an option opposite Nyquist point to once-beaten Mohaymen, Pennsylvania-bred Mor Spirit, Louisiana favorite Gun Runner, Brody’s Cause, Japanese invader Lani, or Arkansas Derby champion Creator.

Some will like the colors of the silks or the cleverness of the thoroughbred’s name.

They can choose among Outwork, Destin, Danzing Candy, Suddenbreakingnews, Oscar Nominated, Shagaf, Whitmore, Tom’s Ready, My Man Sam, Majesto, Trojan Nation and Mo Tom.

Secretariat’s record-shattering performance in 1973 will be shown by NBC television in its lead up to the race itself. Secretariat could be logically called “Mr. Kentucky Derby.” And he could also be called “Mr. Preakness Stakes” and “Mr. Belmont Stakes” as easily, so dominant was he in his three-year-old season where he broke the track record in all three legs of the Triple Crown series. None of Secretariat’s records have since been broken.

Secretariat was thoroughbred racing’s all-time icon and super horse.

It’s been 43 years since he gave horse racing the kick in the pants it needed then . . . and still needs today.

On Saturday, the Kentucky Derby shines for a day. The “fastest two minutes in sports” is upon us. And Secretariat, the chestnut colossus, is still the King of the Sport of Kings.