LOUISVILLE, Ky. —
The fear for most Derby connections is the No. 1 post at the rail. That's because the 20-horse field tends to break down toward the rail and squeeze the horse or horses closest to it.
The rail post was drawn by 30-1 shot Vicar's In Trouble, and jockey
California Chrome's trainer, Art Sherman, said of the No. 5 spot, "I like it. Victor [jockey
California Chrome was given morning line odds of 5-2, and oddsmaker Mike Battaglia remarked that those were quite short "for a 20-horse field."
What about Bob?
Trainer Bob Baffert has two horses in the Derby, Hoppertunity and Chitu. He says that the extra eighth of a mile in the Derby is "Hoppertunity's friend and is not Chitu's friend."
Baffert talked about Sherman, saying he was happy for him and adding, with true Baffert inability to resist a good line, "He doesn't have as many hoppertunities at this level as some of us."
And then, he had to tell the story of the naming of the horse owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman.
"I got the horse and I think the initial name was something like 'Anyway U Way,'" Baffert said. "I wondered what kind of name that was.
"I think Karl Watson named him that, but he won't fess up to it now."
As the name was being discussed, Baffert was talking to his wife, Jill, about her friend, Kathleen Hopper, who, with husband Chad, was trying to have a baby. From this sprouted the thought of the name Hoppertunity.
The pregnancy did not occur, but the Hoppers have been close fans of the horse ever since.
"The year Smarty Jones won ," said Smith, who will ride Hoppertunity, "I drew the No. 1 hole on Lion Heart. He got out of there so fast I had no problem. He just shot clear of all the trouble and we finished second."
Paralyzed jockey Ron Turcotte, who won the Kentucky Derby back-to-back with Riva Ridge and Secretariat before suffering his career-ending injury in 1978, posted an angry note on social media that said
In response, Churchill Downs said it was sorry, embarrassed it hadn't done better and would fix whatever Turcotte needed.
John Asher, vice president of communications for the track, said Wednesday, "It was clearly a communications problem and we can't say enough about how sorry we are. Ron is a valued member of our family and we'll fix it."
The last word
Sherman, trying to put into words just what California Chrome has meant to his legacy and resume: "Before, I was kind of an also-eligible. Now, I'm in the race."