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May 13, 2011

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            Kentucky Derby 137 has now come and gone and with the amount of stories leading into the race—when the race was over there was another story. Nineteen horses went postward after UNCLE MO, the two year old champion from last year was scratched due to an infection that still hasn’t cleared up. The favorite in the race was 5-1 shot DIALED IN, who was one of only five horses to be under double digits.

            As the horses broke from the gate everyone got away from there in good order except for WATCH ME GO; SHACKLEFORD who broke from post 14 was sent right to the lead with COMMA TO THE TOP not far behind what turned out to be a very slow pace as they went 23:1, 48:3, 1:13:2. As they moved to the far turn COMMA TO THE TOP began to fade as SHACKLEFORD continued to lead. NEHRO, who broke from post 18 and stayed wide throughout, was making his move three wide to challenge the leaders with PANTS ON FIRE and jockey Rosie Napravnik in behind the leaders as she tried to become the first woman to win the Kentucky Derby.

            As they entered the stretch they passed the mile mark in 1:37:2 with SHACKLEFORD still leading but NEHRO not far behind. NEHRO got his head in front at the 1/8th pole but ANIMAL KINGDOM, with John Velazquez up was flying down the center of the track. As they neared the wire ANIMAL KINGDOM took over the lead and drew away late to score by almost three lengths over NEHRO who outlasted MUCHO MACHO MAN who got up for third late over SHACKLEFORD who held on for fourth, almost two lengths ahead of MASTER OF HOUNDS who closed to finish fifth. The final time of the race was 2:02 flat, not a very fast time but you have to consider that the early fractions weren’t very fast but the final quarter of the race went in 24:3 which was very good and ANIMAL KINGDOM’s final quarter was even faster.

            Owned by Team Valor International and trained by Graham Motion this three year old colt by LEROIDESANIMAUX had only four career starts prior to the Derby, one over the turf and the other three over synthetic surfaces. This was his fifth start and his fifth different racetrack. He was scheduled to be ridden by Robby Albarado who broke this colt’s maiden back in October of last year but a few days prior to the race Albarado was involved in a spill in the post parade where he was kicked in the face and took a few days off but was going to be ready to ride on Saturday. Team Valor’s Barry Irwin, decided to make a jockey switch because of this as he wasn’t sure Albarado would be 100%, so when UNCLE MO scratched they reached out for John Velazquez. He gave ANIMAL KINGDOM a perfect ride to score his first even Derby win. It’s funny how things work out, Velazquez has had some bad luck in the past few derbies, he has had the potential favorite scratched before the race three times with QUALITY ROAD, ESKENDREYA, and UNCLE MO, but he picked up this mount and got the win. After the race, Velazquez and Irwin both said they would take care of Albarado with a part of the purse but the amount was not specified. However, the money is nice although I’m sure Albarado would like to have the moniker of Kentucky Derby winning jockey before his name.

            As we move on to the Preakness next week there is going to be a strong field heading to Baltimore, but if ANIMAL KINGDOM runs a similar race we may be looking at another shot for the Triple Crown.

            On a sad note, jockey Michael Baze was found dead in his car in the Churchill Downs stable area on Tuesday. Baze was just 24 years old and had been a former leading rider at Del Mar, Hollywood Park and Arlington Park. He was found dead at 4:47 p.m. in his Cadillac Escalade which had been parked in the stable area all day with the engine running. An autopsy performed did not reveal a cause of death but the toxicology reports would not be available for up to three weeks. The body was found two days before Baze was due in court to face a charge of cocaine possession.

            Baze was from the famous Baze family of jockeys, he was the son of retired jockey Mike Baze and the first cousin of active jockey Tyler Baze. His uncle was Gary Baze, while Russell Baze, the Hall of Fame jockey who is the all-time winningest jockey in history, is the first cousin of his father, Mike.

            Our thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family.


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