LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Good afternoon and hello from Churchill Downs and Happy Derby Day! We have a beautiful day here in Kentucky and an overflow crowd is expected to enjoy the weather and the ponies for Kentucky Derby 141. Temperatures are in the mid-70s and it couldn’t be a better day for the 18 contenders to run for the roses.
It will be the smallest Derby field since Smarty Jones captured the first of his two Classic wins in 2004.
If today’s crowd is anything like yesterday’s record-breaking crowd we could set a new attendance record under the Twin Spires. The Oaks day attendance was 123,763, battering the previous mark of 116,046 established in 2010.
We’ve already had some drama here at Churchill Downs with the announcement this morning of the scratch of 12-International Star. Reports out of the Ken and Sarah Ramsey barn confirm that it was a foot issue, that will keep International Star out of the Derby.
In related news, the Ramseys scratched four of their other horses entered on the undercard, including the likely favorite in the Woodford Reserve Turf, Stephanie’s Kitten. “That’s an issue between me and (trainer) Chad Brown. I won’t get into that in the press but none of the three in the Woodford Reserve will be running in our colors today,” said owner Ken Ramsey.
With the scratch of 7-El Kabeir yesterday afternoon coming well after the 9 a.m. deadline, keeping also-eligible Tale of Verve out of the gate as advance wagering on the Derby commenced at that time. All of the horses will move out one gate from the rail and the #1 and #20 stalls will be left open. The program numbers in the paper do not change.
Through the first four races the main track was listed as fast and the turf course firm and it is expected to remain that way for the remainder of the afternoon. There also have been a large number of mint juleps that have been served.
Trainer Larry Jones and owner-breeder Brereton Jones combined to win their third Oaks title yesterday afternoon when Lovely Maria ($14) took over at the eighth pole and rolled home to victory. My story on the Oaks also includes the $1 will-pays for the Oaks-Derby double. The Jones tandem won the Oaks with Proud Spell (2008) and Believe You Can (2012). Kerwin “Boo Boo” Clark won his first Oaks and second Grade 1 aboard Lovely Maria. How can you not love a jockey named Boo Boo?
I was fortunate to watch the race with trainer Steve Asmussen whose filly All Shook Up was 26-1 when the 3-year-old fillies entered the gate. She finished second taking advantage of an inside position, a spot that Asmussen made a point to make to me that was a “perfect” spot to be in based on how the track was playing yesterday.
My Derby pick is 8-Dortmund in this morning’s print column, I’ll be using him with 15-Frosted, 6-Mubtaahij and 10-Firing Line in the exotics. We’ll keep you up to date through the afternoon as to changes on the Derby odds board posted here in the press box at Churchill Downs.
Yesterday at Buffalo Raceway, I was on live from Louisville on the AM 1270 Rich Gaenzler Show, you can check the podcast here if you'd like to hear the interview and my thoughts on Derby 141. You can also wager today at the Raceway in Hamburg and receive on-track odds as well as any of the many Western New York OTB locations. Be sure to get there early as lines will start getting longer as the afternoon moves along.
The most successful jockey in the race is Gary Stevens (20-3-2-1, Firing Line), unfortunately Calvin Borel is out after the scratch of El Kabeir and can not seek his fourth Derby win.
We'll carry you along the five graded stakes races leading up to the Woodford Reserve Turf starting with Race 5, so stick around, check back and I'll keep you updated on what's going on at Churchill Downs.
Hat Man outside the gates this morning with Barbaro pic.twitter.com/Kd0qAaYqha
— Gene Kershner (@EquiSpace) May 2, 2015
12:10 p.m.: The first stakes race on the card is the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile on the dirt for 3-year-olds and up. This race was renamed for the Hall of Fame jockey and traditionally was held one week before the Derby as a late prep race. The former Derby Trial was moved this year to Derby day to enhance today’s card with another big stakes race. My top pick in the Pat Day is 5-Lord Nelson, a Bob Baffert-trainee who rallied like a freight train in his last effort in the G3 Bay Shore at Aqueduct to finish second after a horrid start. I’ll key him in a $0.50 trifecta over 2-Gimme Da Lute, 6-Competitive Edge and 4-Hillbilly Royalty to get the day going. We’ll also get a Pick-3 started using Lord Nelson and Competitive Edge.
12:45 p.m.: Pletcher/Velazquez combine to win the Pat Day Mile with Competitive Edge. The son of 2010 Derby winner Super Saver took over at the top of the retch and held off long shot 7-Pain and Misery. Competitive Edge paid $4.60 for the win.
1:00 p.m.: Race 6 is the 24th running of The American Turf (G2) for 3-year-olds traveling 1 1/16 miles on the turf. I’m aboard 4-Royal Son, a Todd Pletcher-trainee who I saw schooling in the paddock on Thursday afternoon. He looked tremendous then and I’m looking for a big effort for the son of Tiznow. I’m looking at a four horse $1 exacta box keying Royal Son with 1-Luck of the Kitten, 8-Conquest Typhoon, 9-Firespike and 11-Divisidero (cost $8). Conquest Typhoon, an Ontario-bred colt, was on the Derby trail for trainer Mark Casse and could be a colt we see down the road in the Queen’s Plate. Divisidero is my long shot play here, a lightly-raced Kitten’s Joy who will be making her third career start.
1:47 p.m.: Boom! Divisidero scores at 8-1 and pays $19.20. He came down from his 20-1 morning line, but still paid handsomely. He was coming out of a similar race at Gulfstream Park where he closed late to finish third in the G3 Palm Beach Stakes.
Divisidero wins the American Turf pic.twitter.com/oYyfYQpiNI
— Gene Kershner (@EquiSpace) May 2, 2015
Race 7 is the 29th running of the Humana Distaff and the top two in here look imposing in the seven-furlong race. 8-Judy the Beauty and 3-Dame Dorothy look to have the most class in the race. Not much value in betting this race unless you can catch a bomb underneath these two. Let’s use 5-You Bought Her and 2-Thank You Marylou on the bottom of a trifecta. The$1 trifecta play: 3,8/3,8/2,5. Cost: $4.
1:51 p.m.: We're live in the Pick-3 to 3-Dame Dorothy ($72) and 8-Judy the Beauty ($43), so fingers crossed here before we get to the late Pick-4 into the Derby. Current Derby odds show American Pharoah at 3-1; Dormund at 4-1; Carpe Diem at 7-1; Firing Line at 8-1 and Frosted at 9-1.
There's no letdown if you're looking for fashion friendly folks in the paddock today. I ran in to these two gentlemen before the stakes action geared up. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Gronk is in the house.
Rob Gronkowski is all ready for the Kentucky Derby. (via Tom Brady/Facebook) pic.twitter.com/sVlKcGFzRO
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 2, 2015
2:17 p.m.: Yessir. Hello 3-Dame Dorothy ($7.20) who edges out 8-Judy the Beauty at the wire for trainer Todd Pletcher who has won two of the first three stakes races on the card. Owner and restaurateur Bobby Flay gets the win and Javier Castellano gave the daughter of Bernardini a brilliant ride. She outdueled Judy the Beauty and won by a neck. Moonlit Stroll completed the trifecta.
The eighth race is the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes, a one-mile race on the turf course for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up. This one looks wide open and we’ll try to catch a live longshot 11-Water Hole, who is running first time on lasix for trainer Chad Brown. Hall of Famer Gary Stevens is in the irons. We’ll go $5 across the board on this Irish-bred filly. Here's our late Pick-4 if you'd like to play along: 4, 5, 8, 11, WT, 2, 4, WT, 9, 10, 11, WT, 8, 15.
3:10 p.m.: 3-Tepin takes them around in a circle at 9-1 in the Distaff Turf Mile and scores for trainer Mark Casse. She held off the late closing 5-Coffee Clique, 8-Sandiva, who just couldn't find running room and 4-Lady Lara. Julien Leparoux, an excellent rider on the grass, had the ride on the son of Bernstein who returned $20.20 to his backers for the win. My horses run 2-3-4. Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug.
3:15 p.m.: The Churchill Downs Stakes, kicks off a late Pick-3 into the Derby and features the return of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner 2-Bayern for trainer Bob Baffert. Many horseplayers will be keying Bayern in the late Pick-3, but I would suggest including 4-Private Zone and/or 5-Pants on Fire in your horizontal wagers. I’m sitting this one out as the three likely candidates should fill the trifecta.
I’m heading to the paddock for this race and to get a look at last year’s Classic winner. We’ll see if this is the start of a big day for trainer Bob Baffert. Retooled my late Pick-3 as follows: 2, 4, 5, WT, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, WT, 8, 15.
4:10 p.m.: It’s 4-Private Zone ($7.40) in the Churchill Downs over 7-Nate’s Mineshaft who put up a game fight in the stretch. Our Pick-3 is still alive and we live to fight another day. If Bayern’s performance is any indication of how Bob Baffert’s day is going, look out in the Derby. He didn’t fire at all in the race and didn’t take to the Churchill strip per jockey Martin Garcia.
"He broke really sharp. He didn’t have the kick that usually he does. He was done after a half a mile," said Garcia. “He did not handle the track at all. The first five jumps he was good, but then not at all. He didn’t like it.”
Private Zone winner of The Churchill Downs pic.twitter.com/jldbw3R9Bh
— Gene Kershner (@EquiSpace) May 2, 2015
Race 10 is the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, to be run for the 29th time. With the three Ramsey horses scratching, this field is down to nine horses 1 1/8 miles on the turf course. It’s still a salty crew even without the filly, Stephanie’s Kitten in the field. My top selection is 11-Slumber, a Chad Brown trained 7-year-old bred in Ireland. We’ll be using him with 9-Seek Again and 10-Chocolate Ride in the exotics. In the Pick-3 we also added 3-Umbiyo (AUS) and 7-Jack Milton.
I’ll be signing off now to go watch the Woodford and stake out my place on the rail in the winner’s circle for the Derby. I’m sticking with my top three selections, using Dortmund in a variety of exactas and trifectas. If he wins, I win! Good luck, everyone. Check tomorrow’s print edition for my commentary on Kentucky Derby 141.