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
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.
“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
“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.