I arrived at the Churchill Downs backstretch in Louisville yesterday morning at 6 a.m. in time to catch the Derby/Oaks horses gallop on the Churchill dirt track.
Keith McCalmont, of TripleDeadHeat and Woodbine fame, accompanied me on the trip from Buffalo, an 8:23 if you're scoring from home (not bad), definitely record time for yours truly.
We made a management decision on Wednesday evening to drive through the night and hit the backstretch at sunrise. It proved to be a good decision, which gave us an opportunity to visit with some of the connections and watch the horses lightly work out.
Union Rags looked his usual tremendous self, and Gemologist really caught my eye -- he looks ready to roll. I spent some time with Gail Cox, who Keith introduced me to, the trainer of Woodbine hopeful Hard Not to Like, a filly running in today's $1 million Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. You can see my race analysis on The Buffalo News Sports, Ink blog that was posted this morning. We'll be live blogging from that blog site starting around noon tomorrow on Derby day, so be sure to stop by sometime during the day. My advance for the Derby (including selections) will be in tomorrow's TBN and I will post a link here tomorrow when it is live on the website
Speaking of tomorrow's big race, the final Wireplayers.com Derby Dozen was posted this week and it looks like Gemologist came out on top. It's a fun poll that I am happy to be a contributor to.
Here is a look at some of the views from Churchill Downs:
|Churchill Backstretch at Sunrise|
|Pletcher giving early morning instructions|
|Steve Asmussen with Daddy Knows Best|
in the paddock before schooling
|Hansen schooling in paddock|