05/03/2011 3:57PM

Kentucky Derby: Twinspired looks to live up to name

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Patrick Lang/Lang Photography
Twinspired will be making his second start on dirt in the Kentucky Derby.

Jimmy Shircliff and Harvey Diamond were inspired one day when staring at a particularly historic part of the Churchill Downs architecture when they came up with a name for a horse they owned. A gray colt by Harlan’s Holiday became Twinspired.

“We said, ‘He’s going to be an important horse, so he needs an important name,’ ” recalled Diamond, a Louisville physician. “Little did we know.”
Of course, the odds were astronomical that Twinspired would actually make it to the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby, and yet when 20 horses break from the gate Saturday and pass by the famed twin spires for the first time, Twinspired will be one of them.

Twinspired, trained by Mike Maker, was one of the last Derby runners to arrive at Churchill after being vanned the few miles westward from the Trackside training center on Tuesday morning. Although he ran a terrific race to be second by a nose in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes on Polytrack at Keeneland in his last start, the colt will be one of the longer-priced horses in the field, partly because his only attempt on dirt from eight career races resulted in a poor performance last fall at Remington Park.

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“We’re just hoping he maintains his good synthetic form,” Diamond said.

Three ownership groups own Twinspired: Skychai Racing, headed by Diamond; Alpha Stables, headed by Daniel Johnson and Shircliff; and Sand Dollar Stable, headed by David Koenig. An upset by the colt surely would make for one of the more unwieldy winner’s circles in Derby history.

“There are about 20 individuals involved, and then you have all their families and friends,” Diamond said. “It’s been pretty crazy.”
Diamond said about 1 percent of Twinspired’s earnings for the rest of his career are being donated to Second Stride, a local racehorse retirement program.

Maker, the former longtime assistant to D. Wayne Lukas, also has a second starter with a good name for the race: Derby Kitten, who made the field Tuesday with the defection of Toby’s Corner. Derby Kitten, owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, won the April 23 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

Before he knew Derby Kitten made the race, Diamond said with a laugh: “We’re happy for Mike and the Ramseys if they get in the race, but he’s got a great name for the Derby, too, and we’re a little worried about him stealing our thunder.”

Derby Kitten also shipped Tuesday from Trackside.