LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Derby is a 60-something husband and wife from Casper, Wyoming saving their money for several years to make the trek to Louisville because attending the Derby sat Number One on their bucket list.

They visited the Churchill Downs for the morning works. They toured the barns. They walked thisclose to Derby trainers, jockeys and owners. They split an afternoon between the grandstand and Derby Museum.

They said the trip was expensive – and the bargain of a lifetime.

The Kentucky Derby is jockey Victor Espinoza parlaying back-to-back Derby wins (highlighted by a 2015 Triple Crown victory aboard American Pharoah) into appearances on "Dancing With The Stars," and Jimmy Fallon -- and then somehow getting rewarded with a mount on lowly Whitmore, a 20-to-1 shot in Saturday's race 20-horse field.


This is like asking Kyle Busch to drive a golf cart.

"There are some (owners and trainers) who probably think that I don't need to win another one," Espinoza said with a shrug.

"I might not need it, but I want it."

The Kentucky Derby is a crossing your fingers, closing your eyes, putting down the Racing Form and picking the top three finishers:

Exaggerator, Brody's Cause and Nyquist.

I'll get to the explanation. I promise. Read on.

The Kentucky Derby is making certain you get the more analytical handicapping thoughts of Joe Montano, son of local training legend, Angel Montano.

Montano works in the IT office at Ford and has developed a system that he says enabled him to "crush" the Derby, nailing trifectas and superfectas with American Pharoah (last year), Orb (2013), Animal Kingdom (2011) and Super Saver (2010).

Montano said this: "Brody's Cause on top; Creator second; Nyquist moved up to third. Mor Spirit moved up 4th. My Man Sam should get a good trip so moved him to 5th … Tough race to handicap."

Montano told me to use those five, plus Gun Runner in any superfecta (1-2-3-4), using only the top three horses in the top two spots.

The Kentucky Derby is Bailey Romans, the 23-year-old daughter of trainer Dale Romans, sharing her favorite memory about the afternoon her father took her to Millionaire’s Row for a surprise introduction to Joey Fatone of NSYNC.

"I cherish every single moment of every Kentucky Derby," Bailey Romans said.

The Kentucky Derby is my yearly tradition of pulling out The Red Smith Reader, turning to page 67 and reading the great man’s column about Affirmed’s victory over Alydar in 1978.

This is some of Smith’s timeless prose:

"Still looking back for Alydar, (jockey Steve Cauthen) gave his mount six stout licks on the right rump. At last, Alydar showed up, too late. For just a moment, those in the crowd of 131,004 who could see anything but sunburned necks had a notion that the favorite might get there. There were wrong, by a length in a half."

The Kentucky Derby is a college freshman wandering the backside of Churchill Downs on a rainy Thursday morning and getting the chance to talk one-on-one to Hall of Fame jockeys Gary Stevens and Pat Day.

Name another sport where fans can do that?

I’m waiting.

The Kentucky Derby is a 4-year-old child ignoring his breakfast at the track kitchen because his mother told him the Derby horses were on the track. Eyes dancing, the child pressed his nose against the glass to watch, never wanting to leave.

The Kentucky Derby is a topic that Jim Murray, the gifted columnist, worked into the final piece that he wrote for the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 16, 1998, saying this:

"You know, it’s the public’s notion that racing begins and ends with the Kentucky Derby and its Triple Crown satellites. Everything else is New Haven."

The Kentucky Derby is jockey Kent Desormeaux throwing a fit because his Derby mount, Santa Anita Derby winner Exaggerator, drew a post position that will require him to invest extra seconds while waiting nervously in the starting gate.

Desormeaux used a pair of four-letter words that start with the letter "S," to describe his reaction to post 11, uttering one on live television. Reasonable observers were convinced the language said more about the jockey than the post position.

The Kentucky Derby is trainer Bob Baffert not throwing a fit even though his Derby horse, Mor Spirit, drew a post (17) that has never produced a winner in the mile-and-a-quarter race.

The Kentucky Derby is Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville battling an inevitable letdown after his defending champions were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs and having Baffert offer the perfect RX:

Being his guest at Kentucky Derby 142 Saturday.

The Kentucky Derby is getting this analysis from a prime-time handicapper like Steve Davidowitz, who just finished a book, "Cashing Big on Racing’s Biggest Days."

Here is the condensed take by Davidowitz: "I like Gun Runner from a half dozen lengths behind a good pace, over Nyquist, Suddenbreakingnews and Mor Spirit."


Me, too.

I can help -- by advising you which horses not to pick because, remember, I had Dortmund, not American Pharoah on top last year.

Make it Exaggerator because his speed numbers have been impressive all spring, because Baffert told me the best horses prepped in California and Exaggerator won the Santa Anita Derby and because despite the tantrum Desormeaux threw Wednesday the jockey has three firsts and four thirds in 19 career mounts.

He’ll beat Brody’s Cause, Nyquist and Suddenbreakingnews to the wire.

The Kentucky Derby is getting a chance to get it right again next year.

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