Kentucky Derby Stars Come Out at Keeneland

Racing Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas promised “more stories than Mother Goose,” and the four-time Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner—and a panel of five other Derby winners--delivered on that promise at the It’s my Derby evening Friday, April 18 at Keeneland.

The fund-raising event for the Kentucky Derby Museum has quickly established itself as one of the top Derby season events in the Bluegrass State.

Lukas was joined by connections of last year’s Derby winner Orb in co-owner Stuart Janney III, Racing Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, and jockey Joel Rosario, as well as Racing Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron and trainer Barclay Tagg.

Rosario said he got emotional in the post parade, “especially when they played My Old Kentucky Home,” and later added that he didn’t let himself think he had the race won until the final yards of the stretch.

McGaughey said when he took Orb to Gulfstream Park for his 3-year-old season, he wasn’t sure how the Malibu Moon colt would handle a track he considers speed-favoring but McGaughey figured Orb would, at the least, excel at two-turn races back in New York. Those goals were upgraded when Orb won the Besilu Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) and Besilu Florida Derby (gr. I).

“Shug has told the story that when people find out that you’re in this business, they want to know if you’ve won the Derby. Well, we’ve got that problem solved finally,” Janne said before adding with a laugh, “Now we’re looking for somebody to ask us.”

Tagg saddled Sackatoga Stable’s 2003 Derby winner Funny Cide, who also made an appearance at the festive night at the Keeneland sales pavilion. Before the Derby-winning connections gathered in a decorated sales ring, Funny Cide paraded in the walking ring along with 2009 winner Mine That Bird.

Tagg recalls some concern after telling the partners from Sackatoga that they would be pointing to the Derby only to see Funny Cide finish fifth in his 3-year-old debut in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park. Tagg said he felt horrible about the Holy Bull outcome but his spirits were lifted when Ron Anderson, Rosario’s agent today but then the agent for Jerry Bailey, called to pursue the mount on Funny Cide.

Anderson told Tagg that Funny Cide earned his best figure in the race.

“That pumped me up to try again,” Tagg said.

Lukas touched on all four of his Derby winners including Charismatic, Thunder Gulch, Grindstone, and filly Winning Colors. He noted that jockey and exercise rider Donna Brothers worked all three of his 1995 starters: filly Serena’s Song, Timber Country, and Thunder Gulch. Lukas recalled asking Brothers which 3-year-old had the best shot to win the Derby.

“I thought she would say Timber Country but she said, ‘no this little one right here.’ I said, ‘you’re kidding?’ She said, ‘no. This one right here, Thunder Gulch.’ She was dead on.”

McCarron, who guided Alysheba and Go for Gin to Derby victories, said everything has to come together to win the Derby.

“It’s a question of being at the right place at the right time actually. The horse has to be perfect on the day, and that’s the trainer’s responsibility,” McCarron said with a laugh as he looked at Lukas and McGaughey. “Everything has to fall into place. I was fortunate to have everything fall into place for me.

“The Kentucky Derby is the biggest prize we have in the sport, as far as a race goes. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony, that’s the number one thing. But the Kentucky Derby, as far as an event, a race, is without question the biggest prize in the world, not just this country. People from all over the world strive, and plan, and yearn to win the Kentucky Derby.”

The Derby winners were not limited to the sales ring as Mine That Bird’s trainer Chip Wooley and co-owner Leonard Blach, already at Keeneland to promote the “50-1” movie based on their Derby win, attended the reception and event.

Also on hand was jockey Stewart Elliott, who guided Smarty Jones to victory in 2004 and made it to Friday’s event moments after guiding Sisterly Love to victory in the $100,000 Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes (gr. III). Sackatoga Stable managing partner Jack Knowlton also attended and he and Tagg visited Funny Cide in the walking ring.

Recent Posts

More Blogs