When the sun comes up over Louisville on Saturday, shining down on the roses and through the twin spires, it will be time for the greatest two minutes in all of sports. Few moments in sports can capture so much history. Winners. Champions. Legends. They all come together in the heart of racing. It is neither the oldest, nor the longest Triple Crown race, yet it is the most important. It was 1875 when Aristides was the first to come down the famed Churchill Downs stretch and be named the winner of the Kentucky Derby. Yet it wasn’t until the 1890s when the race truly became what it is today, with the famed twin spires as the backdrop of a mile and a quarter test for the garland of roses. Ben Brush, the first to taste the roses, became an instrumental part of the pedigree of 48 of the past 50 Derby winners.
Just a year removed from a Triple Crown, our second this decade after a long, and at many times seemingly endless, drought, we begin again with a new set of three year olds, all with a chance to cement themselves in history. As the sun sets on Churchill Downs, a winner will be crowned, perhaps even a champion, and maybe, just like a year ago, a legend will be born. Twenty horses. Ten furlongs. Two minutes. One victor. 145 years of history – all down to 1.
Kentucky Derby weekend is unlike any other. While the Breeders’ Cup may have the champions, Royal Ascot the pageantry, Saratoga the unchanged history, and Dubai the riches, nothing shares the same feeling that is felt come the First Saturday in May. Moments after the Breeders’ Cup Classic wraps up, the focus of racing shifts away from the championship division and goes towards a bunch of then two year olds, all full of energy – and inexperience – that are gunning for one goal, be one of the twenty in the starting gate come 6:50pm on May 4th. As the months tick by, the list slims and the cream of the crop rises to the occasion. Races, in all corners of the world, name their representative to send to Kentucky. From California to Florida, Ireland to Japan, horses across the world compete for much more than putting their name on a local trophy. This weekend is another such occasion, when a culmination of months of work joins to one.
This weekend, champions of yesterday and today will arrive to the famed circle of Churchill Downs to compete for the ultimate prizes. While we will watch many greats race on the undercards on Friday and Saturday, the features are for the three year olds in the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks. With that, let’s get into my selections for the weekend. I will note, these races were handicapped for a projected wet ground, as heavy rains are in the forecast for the weekend in Louisville.