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Jockey Kent Desormeaux celebrates while Big Brown parades for the fans after winning the Kentucky Derby
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The biggest race in America is the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). Contested for the 134th consecutive year at historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, a full field of twenty 3-year-olds, including one filly, entered the gate in this 1 1/4 mile main track classic on the first Saturday in May, the first leg of the Triple Crown series. Despite heavy rains on Friday and overnight, sunny skies and a stiff wind with temperatures in the low 70's dried out the track making for ideal racing conditions for the main event, contested before a crowd of 157,770, the second largest in Derby history. The record set in 1974 for the 100th running, 163,628, still stands.
As expected, undefeated Florida Derby winner Big Brown was sent off as the heavy favorite at 5-2, breaking out of post 20. He came into the Derby off just 3 starts and broke from the far outside 20 post. Santa Anita Derby winner Colonel John was the 9-2 second choice on the board, making his first start over conventional dirt after racing exclusively on synthetic tracks at home in California. Rounding out the top three choices was 6-1 Pyro, winner of the Louisiana Derby but well beaten in the Blue Grass Stakes in his final prep. The rest of the field was sent off at double digits, led by 13-1 Eight Belles, the only filly in the race, coming off a four-race win streak including the Fantasy at Oaklawn last time out.
Bob Black Jack on the rail leads over (right to left) Eight Belles, Cowboy Cal, Recapturetheglory, and Big Brown as the field goes by the first time.
Big Brown wins the Kentucky Derby
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 20 Big Brown Desormeaux 6.80 5.00 4.80 5 Eight Belles Saez 10.60 6.40 16 Denis of Cork Borel 11.60 Winning Time: 2:01.82 $2 Exacta 20-5 141.60 $2 Trifecta 20-5-16 3,445.60 $2 Superfecta 20-5-16-2 58,737.80 $2 Oaks/Derby Double 37.80
Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby winner's circle. Winning trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said, "It is an unbelievable feeling. What you saw today is what made me so confident. It was just the way we envisioned things happening. We took the 20 post because we figured let's give our horse a chance. In case he doesn't break sharp, with the outside post we were guaranteed a good trip. He puts himself wherever he needs to be in the race. Every inch of the race was to our liking today. Going down the backside, he was lying 5th or 6th, and horses going on the inside of him. I got a little bit nervous at that point. But Kent knew he had plenty of horse underneath him. When he turned for home, I knew the game was over. We were going crazy. Turning for home, you could see no one was going to catch him."
Right: Trainer Richard Dutrow, jockey Kent Desormeaux, and owner Michael Iabarone hold up the Kentucky Derby trophy. Iavarone, managing partner of winning ownership group IEAH Stables, said, "Kent's a money rider. When the money's on the line, Kent's there. He's
strong, aggressive, very hungry still and I thought he fit the horse well."
Left: Big Brown in the post parade. Winning jockey Kent Desormeaux said, "It was a beautiful, uneventful trip. We were dreaming of this happening, an uneventful cruise down the front side the first time, with no alterations in course. He just slid over; he did it so within himself. He truly was in a gallop to the quarter pole. That's his maximum cruising speed. He added power to the stride when I needed it. You saw him out there. I'll let him do the talking. Talent-wise, he's the best horse I've ever ridden."
Right: Big Brown looks at the photographers as he heads back to the barn.
Right: Big Brown just after the finish. Most of the finish line was in deep shadow, but just after was sunny. When asked about the Preakness, trainer Richard Dutrow said, "His next race coming up is out of my hands, because it's coming back in two weeks. I'm not going to have a chance to train him. My hands are tied. I know he looks like he's the best horse of his crop, but still he's got to go over there in two weeks and has to show up
there the right way again. I don't think I'm going to feel as confident."
Right: Eight Belles runs out after the finish. Her trainer Larry Jones said, "She had her ears up as she crossed the wire. We were high- fiving. I told everyone if we run 4th, 5th, or 6th, we've had a great weekend as long as she comes back to the barn good. It was a 1/4 mile after the race. (Breakdowns) just don't happen there. There's always a reason
things happen, but right now I see no reason for this. She ran the race of her
life; she put it out there. She went out in glory. She went out a champion to
us. She was our family. I saw my son yesterday and my daughter today, but I
saw Eight Belles every day. She had been with us for a year. Losing animals
like this isn't fun. We're heartbroken. We're going to miss her." Jockey
Gabriel Saez added, "After we passed the wire I stood up. She started
galloping funny and I tried to pull her up. But she went down." Veterinarian
Dr. Larry Bramlage said, "That is an injury that is painful. There was no way
to save her. It was a catastrophic injury. One of the outriders saw both
ankles collapse as she was running out."
Eight Belles Tribute
Left: Third place finisher Denis of Cork in the post parade. His jockey Calvin Borel said, "He ran a big race. He ran a huge race. We saved every inch of ground we could just to get there. I think he ran a huge race. The colt tried his heart out."
Right: Denis of Cork walks over to the paddock before the race.
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