By John David Dyche
It's Derby week in Kentucky! Here is a tip sheet pairing some of the state's top politicians with some of this year's Derby horses.
Mitch McConnell = Dortmund. Each is the biggest horse in his respective field and neither has ever lost a race. McConnell is Senate Majority Leader, now garnering praise for getting that chamber to work again, and America's most powerful Republican until the party nominates a presidential candidate next year. The mammoth Dortmund stands 17 hands high. Like McConnell, the imposing Bob Baffert trainee has won impressively and in a variety of styles.
Rand Paul = American Pharoah. Just as 2016 presidential contender Paul is a GOP stable mate of McConnell's, the Derby favorite, American Pharoah, comes from the same Baffert barn as Dortmund. Paul's performances to date have been impressive. The same is true of American Pharoah, which just put in a dazzling pre-Derby workout. Some experts see Paul and American Pharoah as special prodigies while others still doubt them both. We are about to find out, in Louisville for the latter and in Iowa and New Hampshire for the former.
Hal Heiner = Carpe Diem. Both Heiner, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, and Carpe Diem, a Todd Pletcher trainee, are identified with big money. Heiner has put at least $4.2 of his own money into his campaign, and Carpe Diem sold for an eye-popping $1.6 million. Each has lost a race, Heiner for Louisville mayor and Carpe Diem the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but they benefitted from having some dirt kicked in their faces and were running well at the end.
Matt Bevin = Far Right & Upstart. GOP governor candidate Matt Bevin gets two Derby horses because combining their names yields a perfect description of him. Tea Party hopeful Bevin is on the Far Right of the Republican ideological spectrum and is a political Upstart who has never held elective office. Both those horses have lost, as Bevin did to McConnell in last year's U.S. Senate primary, but still have their backers.
James Comer = International Star. Another candidate for the GOP gubernatorial nod is Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. Long regarded as a rising Republican star, Comer resembles Ken and Sara Ramsey's entrant International Star. Both have impressively won all their prep races, with Comer rising through the state House of Representatives to his current state constitutional office and International Star dominating the Louisiana racing scene. Despite their impressive credentials, however, each must now disprove the doubters by winning their biggest race.
Jack Conway = Mr. Z. The members of this duo have run a lot of races and may be entered in the big race now more as the result of an older man's ambitions than their own merit. Democrat Conway has run for the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and state attorney general before mounting his current campaign for governor. Some think his father Tom wants the governorship for him more than he wants it for himself. Mr. Z has run a dozen races, which is a lot for a 3-year old, but has won only the first one. His trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, has won four Derbies, but obviously wants another.
Andy Beshear = Frosted. Democratic candidate for attorney general, Andy Beshear, and Wood Memorial winner Frosted both boast popular sires. Beshear's father, Governor Steve Beshear, is galloping out his second gubernatorial term with consistent, sustained popularity. Frosted's father is the top stallion Tapit, which produced last year's Belmont winner, Tonalist, and now seeks to add a Derby winner to his impressive resume.
John Yarmuth = Mubtaahij. As the only Democrat and an outspoken liberal in Kentucky's congressional delegation Louisville's Yarmuth is practically a foreigner throughout the rest of this conservative state. Mubtaahij, an Irish colt that has raced in Great Britain and the United Arab Emirates, is similarly a stranger in these parts as he bids to win the biggest race. There is one problem with this pairing, however. The name Mubtaahij apparently means cheerful or elated in Arabic. These words may apply to Yarmuth when President Obama acts, but he is anything but happy about the big Republican majority in the U.S. House.
Adam Edelen = Materiality. Kentucky auditor Adam Edelen appears on the way up like the impressive, undefeated, yet lightly raced Todd Pletcher trainee. They both have huge upside. Democrat Edelen has made quite a name for himself with audits that have produced real reforms across the state. He is seeking reelection, but has his eye on Paul's seat next year. Materiality has made even the stoic Pletcher exclaim, “Wow!” and has great things ahead whether in the Derby or beyond.
Will T. Scott = El Kabeir. Both GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott and John Terranova trainee El Kabeir left good things behind to pursue better ones. Scott was on the state Supreme Court, but resigned to try his hand in politics, where his public career began. El Kabeir had success with jockey C.C. Lopez, but returns to three-time Derby winner Calvin Borel in the Run for the Roses. If either wins it will be regarded as a big upset, but you can count on Scott and Borel to produce some of the best quotes regardless.