Q-Racing Blog: Derby Opportunity

The Kentucky Derby offers opportunity for Quarter Horsemen too.

The Kentucky Derby offers opportunity for Quarter Horsemen too.

The Kentucky Derby, always on the first Saturday of May, can be an opportunity for American Quarter Horse racing.

“What?” you say. “Have you gone mad? The Kentucky Derby is for Thoroughbreds and we’re in the Quarter Horse game.”

Right, yet wrong. We are all in the horse racing business. To be precise, we are in the entertainment business.

Think of the Kentucky Derby as the “Black Panther” for horse racing. It’s a chance for all to see an internationally acclaimed show and recommend it to our friends and acquaintances.

Better yet, take them.

Take them to your local track with live racing or simulcasting of the Derby day program. The Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies headlines the very deep Friday field at Churchill Downs. Most wagering outlets permit wagering on the Kentucky Derby on Friday (Kentucky Oaks day).

Taking people to the track gives them the opportunity to learn how the racetrack experience works. One of racing’s serious issues is that it can be intimidating to come to the track for the first time. If you take them, then they have somebody to show them how to have a good time and want to return. If someone goes to the track three times, then the odds are greatly increased that they will return.

Another option is to have a Kentucky Derby party. If you decide to have mint julips (the traditional Kentucky Derby drink), get a great recipe. I’m no expert, but endorse Woodford Reserve. I’ve been to their distillery and they are iconic. Always, drink responsibly.

The television coverage will be all day long so you can entertain your friends, educate them about racing and have a wonderful afternoon with an excellent lineup of races.

Of course, you need to know the horses. Here are some facts and notes about some of the contenders.

Justify
He’s my pick, and when you see him, you’ll see a grand-looking horse. The Scat Daddy son is trying to be the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Derby without racing as a 2-year-old. (And you thought the Cubs had a long World Series drought.) Justify is 3-for-3 this year and comes off a win over the dangerous Bolt d’Oro by 3 lengths in the Santa Anita Derby. Also, Justify hails from the Bob Baffert barn and Baffert has four Kentucky Derby wins.

A side note: Baffert said that the sidelined McKinzie, named after the late Los Alamitos executive Brad McKinzie, is now pointing to the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 29 at Monmouth Park.

Mendelssohn
Mendelssohn is a May foal and has been expertly developed by trainer Aiden O’Brien, perhaps the best trainer in the world. Another Scat Daddy son, Mendelssohn has matured and is trying to take the Kentucky Derby after winning the $2 million United Arab Emirates Derby by nearly 19 lengths. O’Brien said before the UAE Derby that Mendelssohn is the horse best suited for the Kentucky Derby that he has ever trained. He will be ridden by the superlative jockey Ryan Moore. He won’t be overwhelmed by the Derby experience. More importantly, he is riding in the Derby instead of staying in England and riding for O’Brien in the Two Thousand Guineas, which O’Brien has won eight times. That says something.

Free Drop Billy
He’s my longshot special and I’m going to use him in exotics. The Dale Romans-trained son of Union Rags is a strong closer and, with an unencumbered trip, he will be running late in the 1 1/4-mile Derby. He just needs a fast pace ahead of him and a solid position. Plus, he’s sharp. He worked 5 furlongs at Churchill Downs in :59 and galloped out 7 furlongs in 1:25 2/5. His final two-eighths in the 5 furlongs were :11 4/5 and :12 1/5. His gallop-out eighths were in in :13 and :13 2/5. Get the high odds and you may get the nice payoff.

Those are only three of the 20 starters. Pick your own horses; if I could really pick winners, I’d have a much nicer house and vehicle. Have some fun, create new fans and remember that we build this business one fan at a time. Too often we forget the fan.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHARacing on Twitter, “like” Q-Racing on Facebook and visit www.aqharacing.com.