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Kentucky Confidential

The Backstretch

All Quiet on the Backstretch

Dialed In gets a bath on Derby morning.

After a week of growing excitement, Kentucky Derby morning dawns quiet on the Churchill Downs backstretch.

Gone are the roaming gangs of gawkers and reporters that cluttered horse paths and gathered in knots to watch contenders move through their morning routines only the day before. A sheriff stationed at trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn reads a newspaper, undisturbed by camera crews or the curious.

“Good luck,” calls a passerby to trainer Nick Zito. “Knock wood,” he says, rapping his knuckles against his barn sign. Approached by a local TV crew for an interview, he sighs. “Let me take care of my horse,” he says. Dialed In, sent out for a gallop early and bathed before an audience of three photographers, walks the shedrow. “All these questions,” Zito mutters to Blood-Horse correspondent Steve Haskin. “Is the horse okay? All I care about is, is he okay tomorrow?”

At trainer Bob Baffert’s barn, well-wishers come by to offer their congratulations on Plum Pretty’s Kentucky Oaks win and First Dude’s Alysheba score. “You did good yesterday,” a woman coos at First Dude before kissing the nose that earned the horse his first graded stakes win and palming him a mint.

Outside Barn 41, Mucho Macho Man is getting a bath. “We’re just trying to keep it normal for him,” says trainer Kathy Ritvo. “But he’s such a smart horse, he probably knows something is different today.”

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Author PhotoJessica Chapel is the co-founder of Kentucky Confidential, founder of Raceday 360, and developer of Breeders’ Cup 360. She's blogged about horse racing as Railbird since June 2004 and is a contributing editor to Hello Race Fans. More by  ›