Stories from the trail for the 2019 Kentucky Derby are told through three horses attempting to beat the odds and make it to Churchill Downs. Gentry Estes, Louisville Courier Journal
The Courier Journal is a few days into a behind-the-scenes series on the Kentucky Derby Trail. If you haven’t seen them, here’s the first story and here’s the second one. (The third and final one is posting Wednesday if it hasn’t already, depending on when you read this).
Basically, the idea was for me to follow a few “outsider” – horses without the typical pedigree and connections often seen in the Derby – on the road to the first Saturday in May to see how difficult it was to get there if you’re not a regular. I delved into the stories of trainers, jockeys, owners, etc … trying to make it to Louisville. Learned a ton.
More than it just being difficult, this is all just so unpredictable. I saw first-hand how all this is maddeningly and wildly tentative. So much can change in an instant, and everyone involved just seems used to it.
“I must be a masochist to be a horse trainer,” trainer Kathleen O’Connell told me at one point with a laugh, “because there’s so much that’s out of your control.”
Along those lines … SPOILER ALERT! … one of the three horses I followed did make the Derby. But Win Win Win ended up getting there with the assistance of one of the top jockeys in the sport.
Irad Ortiz Jr., was added in place of a lesser-known jockey named Julian Pimentel who’d been on previously. While Irad indicated that he’d like to stay on the horse for the Derby, it didn’t work out that way.
With the stories already in and being rolled out, news got out that Ortiz was instead opting to ride Bob Baffert’s Improbable in the Derby. And Pimentel, the jockey originally benched, would be back aboard Win Win Win. So it would be a late rewrite.
This would be the first-ever Derby for Pimentel, a 38-year-old veteran journeyman in the sport.
It’s just so crazy that a jockey who was actually not a part of the two Derby points races with Win Win Win – and in fact had to endure the experience of seeing a horse he had won three times with ultimately make the Derby with another jockey – suddenly got a huge opportunity on his sport’s biggest stage.
Unpredictable? You bet.
But as I’ve been told a lot lately, that’s just horse racing.
Awful news for former Kentucky star DeMarcus Cousins who tore a quad muscle during Monday night’s game, likely taking him out for the rest of the NBA’s postseason.
Louisville coach Chris Mack appears to be in fine spirits as he continues to heal from his knee surgery.
The latest media poll for the Kentucky Derby has a non-Bob Baffert horse on top.
And that horse is already in town, by the way.
Les Miles in Kansas is already getting interesting.
And this. Just because.
What We’re Reading
Softball coaches at Kentucky and Louisville were once on the same college team together. Now they’ll face off with rival programs.
LSU has reinstated basketball coach Will Wade, but there are still serious questions, writes Dan Wolken.
Inside the process of how Rick Barnes ended up staying at Tennessee instead of heading to UCLA.
Dominique’s Dimes took on the topic of whether V.J. King should stay at Louisville or move on.
This was a wild story from Paducah of a referee being punched after a basketball game.
For The Road
And with the big day soon approaching, why not click and enjoy more than a century of headlines from the Kentucky Derby?