There is a very good reason that the Kentucky Derby held at Churchill Downs every year is known as The Most Exciting 2 Minutes in Sports. And it doesn’t have to do with the traditional headwear displayed by the fashionable ladies attending the race, or the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, the Mint Julep. Even though track officials predict 120,000 of the bourbon-based minty drinks will be enjoyed during the 2012 Kentucky Derby festivities, the biggest horse race of the year is all about the horses.
The iconic Twin Spires that gaze stoically over the track’s famous, and sometimes infamous, homestretch are as famous as the 137-year-old race itself. And this year’s owners and trainers all hope their horse will make a victorious dash to the roar of millions of fans cheering on hand and around the world. While nothing is set in stone, and the Kentucky Derby has seen its share of upsets both small and large, the 2012 Kentucky Derby field appears to have several entrants which have to be considered top contenders.
Union Rags has already made his way to Churchill Downs, covering the short trip from Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington on April 26. The horse with the Seabiscuit-like story is considered by many to be one of the strongest in the Kentucky Derby 2012 field, and a strong second-place finish in this year’s Breeders’ Cup juvenile race has his trainer Michael Matz expecting big things at Churchill Downs. Union Rags was so lackadaisical as a foal that his owner and trainer never expected much from him. But he has come on strong in 2011 and 2012, and is certain to do his owner Phyllis Wyeth proud.
Any horse that trains under Bob Baffert and runs in the biggest race of the year has to be considered one of the top contenders in the 2012 Kentucky Derby. Such a horse is Bodemeister, named after Baffert’s seven-year-old son Bode. Bob Baffert was healthy and in a joking mood when he recently refered to his heart attack last month, but Bodemeister’s chances are no laughing matter to anyone who saw the Arkansas Derby winner run 5 furlongs in just over a minute in his most recent pre-Derby prep run. The 59-year-old Baffert is a lock for the horse racing Hall of Fame, and said he has “taken it slow” with Bodemeister. Whatever he’s doing is working, because the bay colt bred by Audley Farm in Virginia and sired by Empire Maker has never been worse than first or second in all four of his races.
And any discussion of a possible favorite in the 2012 Kentucky Derby would be incomplete without discussing Gemologist. Breeding means everything in the horseracing world, and the fact that Gemologist is the son of the champion Tiznow should be enough to frighten the other horses in this year’s field. Proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree was in evidence at this year’s Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial, where gemologist shutdown fellow Kentucky Derby entrant Alpha Gamma on the homestretch for the win.
Whether you plan to tune in on May 5 to glimpse the men’s seersucker suits and blue sports jackets, the outrageous and elegant hats worn by the ladies, to gander at the storied Twin Spires which evoke memories of amazing Kentucky Derby finishes past, or you just want an excuse to imbibe a Mint Julep or two, the Most Exciting 2 Minutes in Sports is sure not to disappoint at the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
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