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John Velazquez celebrates aboard Gamine after winning the Derby City Distaff Stakes (G1). This win gave trainer Bob Baffert the record for Grade 1 wins.
Kentucky Derby Day is the biggest card of racing at Churchill Downs. Before the main event, there were six graded stakes contested over the fast main track and firm Matt Winn turf course before the 51,838 fans who came out on Saturday. Conditions were excellent wth partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid 70's. Ticket sales were limited due to coronavirus restrictions and the infield was quite empty, however the paddock rails appeared to be crowded with fans. Last year's Derby was run "behind closed doors" on the first Saturday in September with only horsemen, media, and owners in attendance.
Wagering from all-sources on the Kentucky Derby Day program totaled $233.0 million up 85% compared to the 2020 Kentucky Derby Day program. All-sources handle for Opening Night, Saturday, April 24, through Derby Day, Saturday, May 1, was recorded at $314.6 million, up 79% from last year. Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said, "Today it was incredibly gratifying to welcome our fans back to Churchill Downs for the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby. We will continue to invest in this iconic event as we create unique and once-in-a-lifetime experiences in the coming years for our guests."
Left: Colonel Liam in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "He's been awesome, a heck of a racehorse and a heck of a race. I couldn't tell (who had won). My first reaction was I thought he got there; then I saw it again, and I wasn't sure. It was obviously too close to separate. This outcome is a lot better than finishing second."
Right: Colonel Liam in the post parade. Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "He was doing everything right, it was a great race. It was so close, so close. On the big TV, the slow-mo , I say, 'Man, I've got a good chance to win. Then here it is, a dead heat."
Left: Domestic Spending in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chad Brown said, "He nearly got there to have the whole prize, but we'll take it. Especially when I watch the slo-mo, he certainly looked best in the race, but when I watched again? I'll take a dead heat actually because of the bob. It looked like he was ahead before and after the wire and that bob was close. I'll take the dead heat. He's a deserving horse."
Right: Domestic Spending heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "I sat behind some horses, taking my time and saving some ground, then when I had the chance, we got in the right path. He had a tremendous turn of foot today. To be honest, I didn't know the results. I came up on him so fast, I wasn't sure. Right past the wire, I knew I was ahead of him, but at the wire, I wasn't so sure."
Left: Third place finisher Smooth Like Strait leads first time by.
Right: Down the stretch in the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1).
Left: Blowout in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Chad Brown said, "She has a tendency to wait on horses and we preferred to have a target but when the 1 scratched she found herself on the lead. I thought Flavien did an excellent job settling her down, as you can see, she can be a little difficult to handle. I thought once they turned for home they were going to close in again and she was going to wait for horses but he said when she had the horses behind her, she kicked in again, thankfully."
Right: Blowout heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "She was running so easy up front and I thought the times were not that fast, so I was very happy. Then when we came to the eighth pole, they all came after me and it looked like they might go by. But when she saw them, she regrouped and fired up again and we won it."
Left: The winner's circle celebration. This win made Gamine a millionaire and made trainer Bob Baffert the record holder for most Grade 1 wins by a trainer. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said "I didn't know I was that close to the record until a month ago. To do it here on this big day is very special. I'm just happy for Gamine. She got the job done. I told Johnny (Velazquez) that this was the first time she's run before a crowd. She was looking around. So many things can go wrong but once I saw her down the backside, I knew we were in the clear."
Right: Gamine heads back to the barn. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "She didn't get to the break I hoped for but she bounced back really quickly and ran really easy in the early going. She showed what a champion she was and I was very proud of my filly."
Left: Jackie's Warrior heads to the winner's circle. Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said, "I'm proud of who Jackie's Warrior is, under these circumstances, only validates of the beliefs we had in him. It's quite obvious that he's a special horse and there are plenty of opportunities for him out there that will serve his assets best." The victory is the third in the race for Asmussen who previously won with Valid Expectations in 1996 and Hierro in 2012.
Right: Jackie's Warrior gets cooled off before heading to the barn. Winning jockey Joel Rosario said, "I was pretty confident that he was going to hang in down the stretch. He likes when a horse comes up to him and he really digs in. I was not worried about the fast early pace because he fights very hard down the stretch."
Du Jour wins the American Turf (G2)
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Left: Du Jour in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Bob Baffert said, "These turf horses are easier to train. You don't have to train them very hard. We tried to make a dirt horse out of him and he wasn't that good. Mike Smith rode him and said I think he likes the dirt. I'm really excited about it. And I'm just so happy for Jill. She has to deal with me as a trainer, and all the ups and downs. For that horse to win today, and to listen to her excitement, now she has something that's hers."
Right: Du Jour heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Flavien Prat said, "The key was getting him to relax down inside. I actually sent him quite a bit out of the gate and then it's always a question of if they can come back to you after that. It felt like they were going a good clip up front and that helped him to relax too. He traveled well and when I asked him to split horses, he did it nicely."
Left: Flagstaff in the winner's circle. Winning trainer John Sadler said, "I'm thrilled. He's a real hard knocker; he always runs his race. He knocked it out today."
Right: Flagstaff heads back to the barn. Winning jockey Luis Saez said, "Getting settled off the pace was the key; they were going pretty fast up front. I tried to save ground into the turn and when there was a moment to go out so I had that good spot he came for me. I know Whitmore is a good horse but my horse really dug in. When I saw everybody coming past me I thought it was over but he never gave up and finally he gave me the last little bit and we got there. John told me to ride him with confidence and that he likes to fight and we broke and then you saw that at the end."
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