I really loved watching the Kentucky Derby this year. Though I was remarkably nervous leading up to it, as horse after horse was pulled, scratched, or euthanized due to injuries or training issues, once the day of the Derby arrives I can never hide my excitement. My boyfriend and I donned our Derby best, sought out a posh party in the heart of NYC, and watched the race go off in style, with Kentucky inspired drinks in hand, and large, cumbersome hats on head.
It was a both an incredibly exciting Derby this year, as the horses battled it out in terrible weather with mud slinging everywhere; and an incredibly historic one, as Todd Pletcher broke his 24 horse "Derby drought," and Calvin "Bo-Rail" kept to the inside on Super Saver to come from behind and win his third Derby in four years. When Borel promised Pletcher on camera after the race that he would take the Triple Crown this year, I doubt there was a person assembled who didn't believe he could very well make that magic happen.
It wasn't until I read this article at the Paulick Report however, that I really got a warm feeling about this year's race. In it the author recounts every jockey's response to the race, from Jose Lezcano, who rode Ice Box to second place, all the way down to Tom Amoss, who came up dead last on Backtalk. Though I would naturally have expected those comments to be euphoric and praising at the tops of the placings, and then quite a bit less so as they went down into the loser's ranks, every single jockey praised his horse and its effort, regardless of whether they placed or lost. And that to me was a real signal of how much the people closest to horse racing truly care about the animals and the sport. It was also a valuable reminder that even though TB racing industry is riddled with bad press and bad mojo at times, there are so, so many people in it who love what they do and the horses they do it with. And hopefully that will always prove to be a powerful counterbalance to racing's darker sides.
Congratulations to all of the Kings of the Derby this year, and now it's on to the Preakness!