Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Sport of Kings

This Saturday marks the 131st running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. I am so pumped. For the last three years, I've been holed up in a library on Derby day, so I fully intend to enjoy this race.

There are currently 20 horses in the field, although there are typically one or two scratches before the race. Post positions aren't selected until later today.

So much of the Derby and horse racing in general is about the story behind the horse - the owners, the trainer, the jockey. It's why horses like Funny Cide get people excited - everyone loves a story about a bunch of high school buddies buying a horse and making a run at the Triple Crown all while riding around in a yellow school bus. Who wouldn't want to root for a Funny Cide or a Smarty Jones over a War Emblem or Darth Steinbrenner's Bellamy Road (the favorite to win this year)?

The number two choice for the morning odds is Afleet Alex, who has some cool owners and a bittersweet story about how his breeder has outlasted his cancer prognosis with the hopes of seeing the horse win the Derby. Read about it here. I'll probably root for him, although it's hard to not respect a horse like Bellamy Road, who won his last race by 17.5 lengths.

And the celebrated trainer Nick Zito has five potential horses running on Sunday. I have a lot of respect for Zito - the man knows his horses, although it's tough to root for a guy who represents all the super rich people in racing today. I always have a soft spot for the little guy in racing. It's the Seabiscuit syndrome.

Of course, my favorite thing about horse racing has always been selecting a long-shot across the board. Stuff like that doesn't happen too often in a race like the Derby, but if I do make a wager on this weekend, I think I'll bet across on Wilko. His trainer is spunky and he's raced a lot more than the other three-year-olds.

Expect more Derby coverage in the coming days. I'm pretty obsessed and I love seersucker and mint juleps.

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