Horse racing newsletter: Special Kentucky Derby draw edition

Dynamic Duo makes a run from the back on the final stretch at Del Mar Race Track.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as the Kentucky Derby got a little less interesting with the minor injury to Art Collector.

The big news on Tuesday in Louisville was that Art Collector scratched out of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. He was the horse with an upside we hadn’t figured out. He won the Blue Grass Stakes and Ellis Park Derby in his last two starts.

Trainer Tommy Drury told veteran journalist Jennie Rees this: “He grabbed himself [Monday] morning training. It was still very sensitive [Tuesday] morning. When I took my thumbs to palpate the bulbs of his heels, you could still tell it was pinching him. I had to make a choice. Your horse has to always come first. To run in a race of this caliber and trying to compete against the best 3-year-olds in this country, you’ve got to be 110%.”


First, we’ll forgive the 110% line, because … well, you know.

Next, I filed that in an early story and our top-flight editors asked, “How did he grab himself? Both hooves?”

Point made. Not everyone knows the jargon of this sport and I try and stay away from it.

So, for those who don’t know, “grab” is generally a phrase used when one hoof, usually the back, hits another hoof, usually the front, and causes some kind of minor injury. Yes, it can be more serious. There is a more complicated explanation than that, but this hits the obvious high points.

OK, on to the draw.

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Kentucky Derby draw

This year’s draw certainly didn’t have the feel of year’s past with only connections allowed to attend. The fact it’s not a full field with a lot of, shall we say, unproven horses, also seemed to draw down the intensity. All the power ended up on the outside and Mike Battaglia made Tiz the Law the first favorite at less than even-money (3-5) since Easy Goer in 1989. Easy Goer finished second that year.

Now, with little to no media allowed in certain areas of Churchill Downs, we are getting the following quotes from Churchill Downs media relations. Let’s go down the list and see what the connections had to say.


1. Finnick the Fierce (trainer Rey Hernandez, jockey Martin Garcia, 50-1). Hernandez: “You know looking back, the best races he has been running came from the one position. He ran third in the Arkansas Derby from the one and especially going a mile and a quarter and how he comes from off the pace, I don’t think there is any issue.”

2. Max Player (Steve Asmussen, Ricardo Santana Jr., 30-1). Asmussen: “All good.”

3. Enforceable (Mark Casse, Adam Beschizza, 30-1). Casse: “I don’t think it changes much of anything. I thought going into the draw I didn’t think it was as important as where we drew as much as where others drew. There was some drama late but Tiz the Law ended up in a good spot. Authentic is going to definitely going to have to go and then Manny (Franco on Tiz the Law) and Mike (Smith on Honor A. P.) if they let Authentic get away, they may not run him down so they’re going to be sitting right behind him I believe and not letting him get too far away.”

4. Storm the Court (Peter Eurton, Julien Leparoux, 50-1). Eurton: “I like it. It could be a whole lot worse. He could be in the one, two or three. Or, even 18 and then we’d have to figure out how to get over. Now, he’s already over. He just has to get out of the gate and get somewhat of a forward position, but not be on the lead. There’s so much speed in there.”


5. Major Fed (Greg Foley, James Graham, 50-1). Foley: “We were the first horse drawn so they didn’t even give us any drama. It did save me sweating out the inside post.”

6. King Guillermo (Juan Carlos Avila, Samy Camacho, 20-1). Owner Victor Martinez: “I think this is a perfect spot. It’s such an unbelievable dream of mine to be here in Kentucky. It’s very surreal and I am so excited for my entire family.”

7. Money Moves (Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano, 3-1). Pletcher: “Perfect. Very Pleased.”

8. South Bend (Bill Mott, Tyler Gaffalione, 50-1). Connections not available.


9. Mr. Big News (Bret Calhoun, Gabriel Saez, 50-1). Owner Chester Thomas: “We drew a great spot. Gabe should be able to get him to the inside into the turn. We’ll be set.”

10. Thousand Words (Bob Baffert, Florent Geroux, 15-1). Jason Loutsch, Albaugh Family Stables racing manager: “Good spot. Lots of bad numbers were left so I’m very happy.”

11. Necker Island (Chris Hartman, Miguel Mena, 50-1). Hartman: “We’re good with it.”

12. Sole Volante (Patrick Biancone, Luca Panini, 30-1). Connections not available.


13. Attachment Rate (Dale Romans, Joe Talamo, 50-1). Romans: “I always like horses to break on either side of my runners and this is a good spot for him to be.”

14. Winning Impression (Dallas Stewart, Joe Rocco, Jr., 50-1). Stewart: “All good.”

15. NY Traffic (Saffie Joseph Jr., Paco Lopez, 20-1). Joseph: “It’s a good post. Hopefully, he will break clean and Paco can get him into a forward position without rushing him.”

16. Honor A.P. (John Shirreffs, Mike Smith, 5-1). Shirreffs: “I just talked to Mike [Smith] and he’s happy with it. I think it’s OK. There’s a long run to the first turn and I don’t have to worry about getting pushed down on the outside.”


17. Tiz the Law (Barclay Tagg, Manny Franco, 3-5). Tagg: “I like being on the outside, I didn’t particularly want to be out that far but he seems to handle everything that’s thrown at him so we’ll just have to leave it up to him. It gives you a chance, if you have any speed at all, it gives you a chance to get a better position.”

18. Authentic (Bob Baffert, John Velazquez). Co-owner Jack Wolf of Starlight Racing: “The one time he was out there in California he broke dead right so hopefully Johnny [Velazquez] will be a stronger rider this time around. I guess it’s better than one or two. I would think (he’ll have to send). The one hole now is basically what the old three hole was and there will probably be a couple scratches between now and then so maybe we do move in a couple spots.”

The only deep analysis I can add is: All good.

Brice Blanc update

We didn’t have information on jockey Brice Banc until too late for yesterday’s newsletter but we are happy to report his injuries were not serious. (What is it they say? It’s always a minor surgery if it’s not happening to you.) Well, Brice suffered two broken ribs and was held overnight at Scripps La Jolla Hospital. He crashed to the ground when Great Power, a 3-year-old colt, clipped heels and went down. Luckily the horse was near the back of the pack, so there was little danger of being trampled. Still, it was a hard fall. Great Power was vanned off as a precaution and was said to have no more than some minor cuts, according to trainer Simon Callaghan.


A final thought

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No entries or results today, but we’ll be back tomorrow with more from the Derby.