Great article by our friend Steve Haskin about his preparation for the Kentucky Derby as the “big cheese turf writer.” He’s the best in the business.
There’s “18 and a butt” days till the Kentucky Derby. Here’s where the “butt” comes from:
As a plebe at West Point one always had to know the exact number of days until the Army/Navy game. If it was after 12 noon, you’d subtract one day and add a “butt” to the response.
Each day closer increases the fascination with the Derby and the horses in the Run for the Roses. The solid effort by Champion Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby changed things at the top of the heap. Always Dreaming will most likely go post ward as the solid second choice.
Always Dreaming will have one more work at Palm Beach Downs before flying to Kentucky about 12 or 13 days before the the first Saturday in May. His final work before the race will be over the Churchill surface about seven days prior.
Johnny Velazquez flew down to Florida Friday night after riding at Keeneland all day. Saturday morning he worked Always Dreaming at 7 am and by 9:30 am was on the way back to Kentucky for an afternoon of riding. No one works his “big horse” before the race!
Interesting story about West Point and Johnny V. In 1993, we claimed a gelding at Saratoga named Out of the Realm. The following year Johnny rode the horse six times for us. I remember seeing him come out of the jocks room one day at Belmont. He spoke very little English but looked hungry and talented. We did not win that day, but I do remember saying to myself, this kid might be alright some day.
That some day came soon enough – he’s now in the Hall of Fame. I’d love to see him win the Derby with his main supporter over the years, Todd Pletcher.
It’s gonna be a great next few weeks. Send me your questions relating to the Derby preparation.