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Hall of Famers McCarron, Day share Kentucky Derby tales with student jockeys
By Byron King
Most people’s recollections of school field trips involve museums and much yawning.
The young men and women from the North American Racing Academy were treated to something far more engaging Monday. On the Churchill Downs backstretch while awaiting the works and morning training of Kentucky Derby and Oaks competitors, they listened to retired Hall of Fame jockeys Chris McCarron and Pat Day recount their Derby experience from 1987.
Even people not in the NARA group stopped by to listen, taking in the comments of the two Derby-winning riders.
McCarron, NARA’s executive director, was explaining how his winning mount that year, Alysheba, wasn’t even his to begin with. It was Day’s mount, he said, and he only got the opportunity to ride the horse when Day committed in the spring to ride Demons Begone, who would become the Derby favorite.
At the time, and for much of the spring, Alysheba had developed a reputation for flattening out late in his races, McCarron said, a problem that was solved when trainer Jack Van Berg had surgery performed on the colt to correct a breathing issue.
In the Derby, Demons Begone would be pulled up by Day, having bled profusely, while Alysheba and McCarron, in an amazing display of agility and balance from both horse and rider, would recover from clipping the heels of runner-up Bet Twice, who drifted immediately in front of them in the stretch.
More than 25 years later, Alysheba’s victory is still etched in the minds of those who witnessed the race as one of the most thrilling renewals of the Kentucky Derby ever.
Although some, if not most, of the students listening to the two riders weren’t alive to see the race, they got to hear about it firsthand Monday in a field trip the group is unlikely to forget.
That was an exiting derby and a great horse (alysheba) to this day I still remember how shocked I was watching the Belmont unfold.....I don't think anybody expected what happened BET TWICE who ALYSHEBA had beat in both the derby and the Preakness despite almost falling to his knees in the stretch was out there winging it like he was the 2nd coming of Secretariat he just kept opening up and the most asked question in America that day was where is alysheba...Any horse can be beat but it was the way it unfolded that was perplexing BET TWICE simply crushed alysheba and the rest of the field winning by 14 lengths that day...BET TWICE never replicated that race although he did beat alysheba again in the Haskell by a short margin and ALYSHEBA went on to be one of the great racehorse of his generation winning the super derby and fighting the previous years derby winner and horse of the year FERDINAND to a tight photo in the breeders cup.
I had a substantial win bet on Alysheba in that derby...I was watching ESPN and Chris Lincoln was interviewing McCarron who had his leg in a full cast from a spill in October or so...Lincoln asked him if he was going to ride the derby and Chris Mc said yes..Ill be getting this cast off soon and my horse is is coming back from surgery as well...his name is Alysheba and we will be in the Blue Grass stakes...which they won but were disqualified....and then to the derby at 14 to 1...i was all over them.....
Two favorite jockeys of mine.....similar in style with those kind hands.....a joy to see ride.
Many thanks Byron for relaying the story. It was great seeing the interaction between our students, Chris and Pat! I know it was a morning our students will not soon forget. Remi Bellocq Executive Director BCTC / NARA
Fantastic race, and I kept following Bet Twice over the next two years and cashed many a ticket on him. By the way, I still feel Alysheba shold have been taken down in the BC Classic that year, I was on the finish line that day at HP and felt BOTH Day and CJ's horses should have come down and Cordero's horse was actually the best, but no DQ in first BC Classic. Still to this day, it's a bad call, by lazy CA officals
I've bet the derby every year since Alysheba....I've never had one hit the board....no kidding. My choice this year is Normandy Invasion
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