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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Under the Twin Spires

Our Kentucky trip concluded with a visit to the Twin Spires to complete the Keeneland-Churchill exacta (hat tip to Saratoga Spa) and enjoy the opening day of Churchill Downs' spring meet with the big days six and seven days away, respectively. There's nothing like Opening Day, whether it's baseball season, the first day of the Masters, the first NFL Sunday in September or the first day of a track's meet. I'll get to pull the opening day Churchill-Toga double this year, a proud accomplishment and a new notch in the belt.

It was a glorious day, a nice breeze blowing through the park all day long. We arrived a tad early from Lexington, so we decided to spend some time in the Kentucky Derby museum. Unfortunately we missed the Barbaro statue unveiling by a day. This was all we could see of the 1,500 lb statue:

Pretty sweet picture, huh? The museum (see building in background of awesome statue photo) had a very cool 15 minute movie in surround sound, with a ribbon-like screen that you could stand up and watch the different panels circling the room. We enjoyed our time spent in the museum which is jam packed with Derby artifacts, trivia and mementos. A special section on the current standing Derby champion, Big Brown was on display as well as a nice Barbaro tribute section. I enjoyed the jockey section the most and the whole experience was very educational and worth the $11.

I hadn't been to Churchill since Barbaro's Derby win in 2006, but the place is ginormous and brought back wonderful memories of a terrific weekend with the Saratoga Resident and crew. It was the Space Gal's first journey to Louisville and she was pretty overwhelmed with the size of the joint. We had awesome seats in Section 317H, right off the finish line in a box ($15!). You can imagine how much these will go for next week at the same time (A quick look at has them somewhere between $2-$4K). Mark Johnson was behind the mike and sounded great all day long (a little loud for the Space Kid's ears), I'm looking forward to his Derby call next Saturday.

We had a real nice view of the winner's circle and what I would give to be here next week at this time! The place was abuzz all day. Lots of talk of the morning workouts and the status of Quality Road and what will happen in the next few days.
The ushers and door folk were so nice and everyone in this part of the country just exudes hospitality and friendliness. I could get used to this someday. Don't believe what people tell you about the South, we actually were served faster in the restaurants we ate in down here versus New York. It won't ever replace Saratoga, but man, it wouldn't be a bad place to retire to.

I really didn't invest too much during the trip, I spent most of the time taking in the sights and sounds of the racetrack and loved watching the people come and go. I got down to the paddock a few times to listen to Jill Byrne's picks and watch them parade around the paddock. I hit one Pick 3 early in the day and other than that my day went into the red after losing on the anchor leg of a Pick 3 to my single, a 2/5 favorite Keep the Peace who tired in the stretch to second in the 9th race, after having a 5-1 and 2-1 in the first two legs.

Here's Cash Refund, a nice gelding who won his second straight career race facing winners for the first time. He faced some tough ones in the 8th, including Unbrided Express, who looked great in the paddock. He last won at Churchill in 2006 as a 2yo beating a horse named Street Sense when breaking his maiden. It was his second back after a 3 year layoff (?) and had finished 3rd in the Hopeful (G1) back in '06 behind Circular Quay and Scat Daddy. After being bet down to the favorite, he unfortunately finished eighth of nine.

The feature race of the day, the Derby Trial Stakes (G3) was won by the undefeated Hull and I'll leave you with some pictures from the paddock and at the finish line:

Dale Romans (trainer of Hull) and son in the paddock before the big race.

"Dad, can I have an ice cream?"

"After we win the race, son, you can have all the ice cream you want."

Nick Zito getting ready to check the feet of Santana Six before the post parade of the feature. Something didn't seem right about Santana Six in the paddock, they didn't go to the pre-set stall like the others for much time at all and Zito took him to the side. Didn't stop me from betting on him though. D'oh. Finished seventh of eight.

Hull ($8.80) is definitely a horse to be reckoned with. He's now won at the Fair Grounds, Turfway Park and Churchill Downs in three consecutive races. I'm hoping they give him a shot at the Preakness in three weeks, he was sired by Holy Bull (out of Band Queen) and he won easily yesterday by 4 lengths over a quality field. Second place finisher and lightly raced Kensei also looks like he could be a factor later this summer for Steve Asmussen.

Your 2009 Derby Trial Stakes winner, Hull striding to the finish line, no other horses in sight. (Also, note pole on left holding up speaker for effect).

Well, it was a nice way to end our spring Kentucky trip and time to head back north to the Space Station and get ready for Derby week and formulate some wagers for next Friday and Saturday. A return to bluegrass country can not come soon enough.


QQ said...

Thanks for the lovely photos! I've never made it to Churchill, but I like that idea of retiring there. Wonder if there's one of those "senior living" complexes dedicated to horseplayers?

Bob said...

After hearing Mark Johnson on opening Saturday, I have to say that he rates up there with the best announcers that America has to offer. His call for a $5000 claiming race on Sat. rivaled that of any G1. Luke Kruytbosch is smiling, Churchill is in good hands.

Keith - Triple Dead Heat said...

Great idea QQ. Let's start a Bloggers Retirement Community! If we start saving now, we can all grow old together at the track!

Great pics know you're having a good time where there's barely time to wager!



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