05/04/2013 10:26AM

Derby Day at Churchill Downs

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Good Kentucky Derby Day morning from Churchill Downs, where showers began just after 9 am, and temperatures are holding in the low 60s.

Of course, the weather, and its potential effect on racing conditions, is a big topic here. We are going to get rain. The big question is, will it rain hard enough, long enough, to turn a track that is currently fast into something worse? For what it's worth, one local meteorologist said it will turn nasty here around 3 pm with heavy rain.

So, it's important to keep an eye on the weather, not only for what it might do to the track (not to mention turf course), but also for any possible track bias the rain might produce. I'll check back in later.

11:42- You know when Atigun is battling for the lead, the pace is slow. But the fractions in the third race won by Atigun weren't that slow, so it seems the rain hasn't yet affected the turf course very much. That's back-to-back winners for trainer Ken McPeek. The Derby exacta box of McPeek trainees Java'a War and Frac Daddy might be a hot mover right now!

12:50 - Can't stop Ken McPeek today. You can't even hope to contain him! McPeek wins his third on the card as Bellarmine holds off a late charge from heavily favored Code West. Code West, who was a fringe Kentucky Derby hopeful and who had been spoken of as a possible for the Belmont Stakes, did have a tough trip. Still, trip or not, Code West should have won this race if he was as good as he is supposed to be.

12:55 - It was just announced that the main track will be sealed and its condition is downgraded to good. The turf course condition has also been downgraded to good.

1:04 - That was a pretty short stay at "good" for the main track. It is now labeled "sloppy," and is, of course, still sealed.

2:22 - Aubby K took a bit of a late punch and fell from 5-1 to close as the 7-2 favorite, but her determined victory was still a thoroughly formful result. That said, man, does this division miss Groupie Doll.

It was just announced that the turf has been downgraded to yielding.

3:12 - I think the first three finishers in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile all ran well. Stephanie's Kitten did some serious running late to outfinish Hungry Island because Hungry Island has a potent late kick when on her game, and she was on her game today. And though it was a ways back to Daisy Devine, she was game considering she used an off-the-pace running style that isn't her thing, and how wide she was on the far turn.

In Derby win betting, Revolutionary remains the 5-1 favorite over Orb and Goldencents, who are both 7-1. That's with over $14 million in the win pool. The Calvin Borel constituency in the general public is an amazing thing.

4:54 - Wise Dan is just SOOOOO good, and a win from him in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic became a fait accompli when Point of Entry was a late scratch because of yielding course conditions that aren't his favorite. But Wise Dan has no course or surface preferences. All he does is show up, runs, and wins, which he has now done 15 times in 22 starts.

I'm a Point of Entry fan. I thought he was without question the best when second in the Breeders' Cup Turf last fall, and if he won that race, he might well have been turf champion, and Wise Dan might not have been Horse of the Year. Yet even speaking as a fan, Point of Entry would have had big trouble with Wise Dan Saturday.

In the previous race, the Churchill Downs Stakes, Delaunay proved he is indeed a monster right now with an overwhelming victory, his sixth straight and eighth score in his last nine starts. It's one thing to own Gantry, which Delaunay had done in listed stakes at Fair Grounds in his last three starts. But it's quite another thing to crush a much better group in a graded event as was the case this time. As a result Delaunay has now earned a current ranking as of one of the best sprinters in the country.

On to the Derby!

7:08 - Despite the sloppy track and even with a favorable pace scenario, Orb's victory in the Kentucky Derby was thoroughly conclusive. Very simply and without question, Orb was tons the best, rallying six or seven wide on the far turn, inhaling the leaders with every stride once he got rolling, and, with a newfound habit that makes him only a more dangerous horse, putting his opposition away by pulling away late. Orb learned how to draw off last time out in the Florida Derby. It's clear now that this is something he likes to do. That is not good news for the rest of the 3-year-olds.

And how hot is Joel Rosario? He's making every right decision, and here the confidence Rosario showed in Orb by letting him drop back as far early as he did was just right.

You also can't help but be happy for trainer Shug McGaughey. McGaughey is a great trainer, and has been for a long time. He's in the Hall of Fame, too, but he is also a great, great trainer, if you get my meaning. I am very happy for Shug.

One other point. I think Normandy Invasion, who finished fourth, was second best. I think Normandy Invasion's move to the lead into the stretch might have been a touch premature. It did not cost him the victory, but it might have cost him second money.

That's a wrap for Derby Day. Thanks for reading.

Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
Ok all you Normandy fascinators, what are you going to say when he actually WINS a race. No doubt it will be against lesser because he's come up short very consistently this year. Sure his move was too early blame the jock on that one. And on the derby overall, can't remember seeing a more exhausted field a 1/16 before the wire. Not a stellar class this year.
John More than 1 year ago
Mike, Shug is a "great great trainer". We all know what you mean. There's no need for cameras in his barn.
Lori Schwartz More than 1 year ago
Happy for all the connections of Orb. They are making all the right moves, and their horse is coming into his own and just the right time. Dare we dream...Triple Crown?
horseplayerphil More than 1 year ago
How did u do for the day mike? Great blog!
Matthew Martini More than 1 year ago
Despite the bad weather, it was great to see the athletes. But the P3 and P4 leading into the Derby was chalky. As a horseplayer it was tough. The race featuring Wise Dan was a "free square," but there was no value in the horses that won around him. Orb is a very nice horse. Normandy Invasion? After the race, there was nothing that indicated to me that he is better than the rest of the field against which he ran (and I used him on top in the trifecta with Orb). It is an even bunch this year. We learned a lot about some of the contenders' limitations today. I'm looking forward to seeing a horse named Crop Report, who may be in the Belmont. He is young and green, but talented.