Horse Racing

How to Talk About This Year’s Kentucky Derby


Horses walk in the stable yard as the sun rises during morning workouts for the 2013 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky

Photograph by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Horses walk in the stable yard as the sun rises during morning workouts for the 2013 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky

Saturday marks the 139th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Here’s a cheat sheet for talking with friends and co-workers ahead of this year’s run for the roses.

1. The Mansion: As part of a $9 million renovation of its namesake track, Churchill Downs Inc. (CHDN) has built a new viewing area called the Mansion. Business First has a slideshow of the chandeliers, lounges, and decorative hats found inside the sixth-floor clubhouse with a balcony overlooking the Derby’s finish line. Capacity is 320, by invitation only, with tickets starting at $7,000. The venue, as USA Today reports, is part of Churchill Downs’s strategy to boost revenue during Derby week with luxury seating and passes. Who buys a $7,000 ticket to watch a two-minute event? According to Business First, former NBA player and restaurant franchisee Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman bought 150 seats.

2. Pitino’s horse: University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino owns 5 percent of Goldencents, a bay colt sitting at 5-to-1 odds to win the Derby. A victory would continue a hot streak for Pitino, whose Cardinals won the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in April. To celebrate that win, Pitino got a Louisville tattoo behind his left shoulder. No word yet on whether he will ink “Goldencents” on the other side if the 3-year-old wins.

3. Jockey first: Rosie Napravnik, who’s riding 15-to-1 long shot Mylute, would be the first female jockey to win the race. In a 60 Minutes profile last month, the 25-year-old New Jersey native declined to make the smooching noise she uses to urge horses to the finish line.

4. No Baffert and lots of Pletcher: Two of the biggest trainers in horse racing, Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher, are on opposite ends of the seesaw this year. After a pair of late scratches, three-time Derby winner Baffert, a voluble, white-haired Arizona native, is not fielding a horse for the first time since 2008. Pletcher, meanwhile, has five horses in the race, including the colt Verrazano, sitting at 4-to-1 odds. Pletcher has had hard luck in past runs at the Derby, with his previous entrants compiling a collective 1-for-31 record.

5. The first family: Current favorite Orb is owned by Stuart Janney III and Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, first cousins from two of the oldest stables in the country. The two are great-grandsons of Carnegie Steel magnate Henry Phipps and, as the New York Times reports, part of a “tapestry of human lineage entwined with a rich equine ancestry.” Phipps, 72, told the Times this about their approach to horses: “We give them time to come along and tell us when they’re ready to be on the track. … I call that old-school or something like that.”

Boudway_190
Boudway is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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