NPR Story
12:44 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Saddle Up For The 140th Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is the first jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown. A field of 19 horses will take to the track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday evening for the 140th edition of the Run for the Roses.

Joe Drape is there, as he is every year, for The New York Times. He discusses the field with Here & Now’s Sacha Pfeiffer. His picks are Wicked Strong, Intense Holiday and California Chrome.

Guest

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Transcript

SACHA PFIFFER, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

That's the sound horse racing fans are waiting for: the call to post for the Kentucky Derby. The 140th edition of the run for the roses is set for Saturday evening at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Joe Drape is there, as he is every year, for The New York Times. And Joe, the big news today is that Hoppertunity is out of the race with a foot injury. How big of a deal is that absence?

JOE DRAPE: Well, Hoppertunity was the second choice, and they expected him to be a real true challenger. He came up with a little foot injury. Bob Baffert, the trainer, pulled him back, and what it's now done is it's only a 19 horse field. Pablo Del Monte was a horse that was eligible to run, but they just decided he's not going in. So basically we've got 19 of the best three-year-olds in the country lined up and ready to go.

PFEIFFER: So, of the horses that are left, which ones do you like in the race?

DRAPE: Well, I picked in the paper today Wicked Strong, who's a Boston-based.

PFEIFFER: Right, who's stabled at Centennial Farms in Beverly, Massachusetts.

DRAPE: Absolutely. And this horse has looked terrific on the track down here. He's a closer, great running style for this race, pulled the furthest outside post, which is problematic. I'm not wild about that. He's got his work cut out for him, but he's my pick.

I like Intense Holiday, who is a Louisiana-based horse who looked terrific all spring long, has that same late running style. And then the horse everybody's talking about is this California Chrome.

PFEIFFER: Right.

DRAPE: Won four straight. You know, if you take away the fact that he's not greatly bred, that he's coming from California, that he's kind of modest connections in his owner and trainer, 77-year-old Art Sherman. And he's a 5 to 2 favorite. So everybody is trying to beat him.

But if you just look at what he's done, he lays over this field. He's beaten opponents by a combined 25 lengths. He's run with all kinds of styles. And he's kind of exciting.

PFEIFFER: Joe, what about possible dark horses? Anyone you think that really could surprise us that we should keep our eye on?

DRAPE: You know, there's a horse from New York, Samraat. And Samraat has won five of six, has done nothing wrong, lost to Wicked Strong by just a length. And he's going to go off long, because Rick Violette is the trainer from New York. He's normally not in this kind of race. Jose Ortiz is a jockey from New York who's normally not in this kind of race. And he's a New York bred.

And Funny Side was the last New York bred to win this race. So he's going to be a little overlooked there. And then, finally the horse that I would put underneath in your triples and your superfecta is Commanding Curve.

PFEIFFER: OK.

DRAPE: He's a horse that comes from way, way back. And last year this same group brought Golden Ticket to the Derby and he finished second at 64 to 1. So those are the ones that are all in my mix. As I tell Robin usually this time of year, and I'll tell you Sacha, is, you know, this is a race where you bet colors, you bet numbers, you bet names you like.

PFEIFFER: The way a horse looks at you as it comes around.

DRAPE: Exactly. Long shots and impossible things happen. And, you know, it's more of a day to celebrate horse racing, to celebrate this old tradition. This is the 140th running of the race. You know, it's time to raise a mint julep and pay attention to horse racing this one time of year. And this is the one time of year people pay attention.

PFEIFFER: That's Joe Drape. He covers horse racing for The New York Times. Joe, have fun and enjoy all the fanfare.

DRAPE: Thanks for having me, Sacha. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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