Inside the Kentucky Derby, America's greatest racing party

Kentucky Confidential

The Backstretch

Derby Draw Follows the Script


The crowd waiting for the Kentucky Derby draw to begin. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The post position draw for the Kentucky Derby unfolded Wednesday like an early scene from a Hollywood movie, with every deserving horse getting close to their ideal post position.

At the very end, with two slots remaining open, it appeared the fleet 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Hansen might be forced to suffer the dreaded inside slot, where he would be forced to deal with the crush of 19 others to his right heading to the first turn.

That fate, however, went to the lone European runner, Daddy Long Legs — a shameless, jingoistic crowd pleaser too predictable to even be comical.

Keeping with the Hollywood theme, D. Wayne Lukas, the elder statesman of this whole thing, got to make a cameo, shaking hands and kissing pretty women down in the front before the draw started. His Optimizer got into the field when Mark Valeski defected, giving the old man his 45th starter. In recent years, Lukas has become a rich, minor character actor, and if he somehow wins — wow, what a story!


Post Position assistant Catherine Jones places Went The Day Well in #13. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The draw was staged inside the Secretariat Lounge somewhere in the belly of the giant Churchill Downs plant, and it is a long and largely stilted affair. When local favorite Dullahan drew the No. 5 post, however, a huge roar went up in the room.

Five picks later, Dullahan’s trainer Dale Romans strolled in from nowhere, smiling, and took a seat. Master of ceremonies John Asher looked down from the podium and said, “Nice to see you Mr. Romans. Good things happen in your absence.”

Calvin Borel’s mount Take Charge Indy drew the three hole, the perfect spot for the renowned rail rider to get to the inside — a plot line as obvious as King Kong falling off the Empire State Building.

The entire show went off without a hitch or a surprise. Tension — particularly with Hansen — was just enough to keep the crowd paying attention. Hollywood likes to build its blockbusters these days in predictable fashion, letting a spectacular climax do all the work to leave them gasping.

We’re moving toward Saturday’s rousing finale in orderly fashion, with the two days of racing beforehand standing in for some pretty good popcorn.


Bob Baffert being interviewed after the Derby draw. (Eclipse Sportswire)

More: , , ,

4 Comments


“…it is a long and largely stilted affair.”

Bring back Chris Lincoln!

Seriously, this is why Chruchill Down’s evolution into such a completely “corporate” er… thing… has had such negative consequences for the sport.

The corporate quest for control over everything within its grasp can only have one possible result: The attempt to stage the annual Stepford Derby.

Wit is asphyxiated at birth; risk-taking invites annihilation; dissent mild or otherwise is instant treason (without reason). Let’s make that, the Straightjacket Derby.

Thank goodness 100,000 or so people each year have different ideas about enjoying their lives, and walk into Churchill as paying clients, not payroll POWs.

Posted by Don Reed on May 3, 2012 @ 8:27 am

Don Reed, the erudite Greek Chorus of Kentucky Confidential! Glad you’re having as much fun as we are. . .

Posted by John Scheinman on May 3, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

John, I’m having more, I think. I have been spared from having to interview the people who descend on Churchill on TFSIM who have nothing interesting (or truthful) to say. Since they are natural journalist magnets, I do not envy you.

On the negative side, we’ve been waiting since 9 am for the town Building Inspector to show up to OK our contractor’s work, & Jerry the Electrician just informed us that our hot water thingy connected to the heater has sprung a leak. He’ll return in 48 hours to replace it, probably while the Derby is in progress.

It could be worse. It could be that crazy opening weekend at Saratoga @ five-six years ago when the plumbing in the track’s ladies’ restrooms went KABOOM (my wife was enthralled with that).

The Greek chorus will be at Belmont Park tomorrow, trying to bet the advance Derby with Euros (3.8 million of which will set aside by NYRA’s controller to cover the eventual expense of the 1% refund checks issued during the Fall Meet of 2013) .

Posted by Don Reed on May 3, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

Jerry the Plumber will “return in 48 hours to replace it, probably while the Derby is in progress.”

John-O, best Derby prediction I’ve ever made (as if we couldn’t see this coming all the way from Nebraska). He timed it at @ 1:15 pm, emerging from our complicated boiler room military-industrial-Oedipus complex (lotsa pipes!) to inform us that something would cost a thousand dollars to repair -

Exactly when my two horses (exacta box) got split at the wire in the third race on the undercard. Sizzle…spark…curse.

Late notification, we just returned from a two week vacation trip to southern Wisconsin (best cure for a Derby $ bloodbath ever invented).

Thanks for the Confidential, it was great.

Posted by Don Reed on May 21, 2012 @ 2:24 am

Author PhotoJohn Scheinman, a long-time writer and editor, covered thoroughbred racing for The Washington Post from 2000-09. He won the Red Smith Kentucky Derby writing contest for best advance in 2007. He is a correspondent for the Thoroughbred Times. Scheinman also has worked extensively in humor writing and sketch comedy. He lives in Washington, DC. More by  ›