04/29/2013 2:54PM

Hall of Famers McCarron, Day share Kentucky Derby tales with student jockeys


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.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

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.