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Well as many of you were doing the same, at about 6:30 p.m. Saturday evening, I was glued to the television set for a little over two minutes.
Yes, I was watching the 137th Kentucky Derby, an event that is well covered and very popular in not only Kentucky, but throughout the United States and around the world. I have to admit, I don’t know much about any of the horses that ran in the annual event even though there was extensive coverage before the event took place. I just didn’t have much time to watch that coverage as I was providing coverage of my own, for Marion County sports.
So what I do want to talk about is the things about the Kentucky Derby that interested me this year from what I did hear and see.
First of all, there was a female jockey that raced in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, only the sixth woman to ever do so. Rosie Napravnik, 23, a native of New Jersey, rode the No. 7 horse Pants on Fire in Saturday’s Run for the Roses. Napravnik was trying to make history as the first female to win the Kentucky Derby.
Napravnik held her own in the top three for much of the race before falling to ninth place in the overall results.
I researched Napravnik a little to see how her racing skills had started and how she had performed in recent races. She actually started racing at age seven and has moved up nicely. Napravnik has had first, second, or third place finishes in 52 percent of her 445 starts and recently rode Pants on Fire to a top finish in the Louisiana Derby.
Rosie Napravnik was not able to make history by winning the crown, but she did take the best place of the six female jockeys that have raced in the Kentucky Derby. The best up until this point was 11th place, and Napravnik crossed the finish line in ninth place.
Another point of interest for me was the horse, Uncle Mo, the once favorite before he was scratched on Friday, a day before the mile and a quarter Derby, due to a gastrointestinal infection. Uncle Mo’s scratch threw the Derby wide open and sources say the loss of Uncle Mo in the Derby further dimmed a race already short on star power and speed. However, as I witnessed the 137th Kentucky Derby, I wasn’t disappointed by the power or speed. I was impressed by the quickness of those horses, with the top finisher, Animal Kingdom, only three seconds off the pace of the all time record of 1:59.40 set by Secretariat in 1973. Animal Kingdom’s official time was 2:02.04.
The greatest two minutes in sports will be talked about for a while, especially since a long shot won the race and the attendance record was broken with a crowd of 164,858, beating the previous record set in 1974, which was the 100th anniversary of the Kentucky Derby. Animal Kingdom, whose odds were 20-1 at post time, beat the odds to hold off the field and win the garland of roses.
The jockey that rode Animal Kingdom in the 137th Run for the Roses was John Velazquez, who was actually supposed to be the jockey of Uncle Mo. After Uncle Mo was scratched, Velazquez thought he would have to sit the Derby out. However, Robby Albarado, the jockey for Animal Kingdom, was injured in a horse racing accident earlier in the week. Therefore, Velazquez was able to compete in the race and brilliantly took advantage of his opportunity, winning horse racing’s most prestigious event and making Saturday a day to remember for everyone involved with Animal Kingdom.
So another Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs has come and gone. There wasn’t a total washout for the running of the mile and a quarter Derby, and we were all able to see some beautiful horses give it their all to have a garland of roses draped over them. So despite the favorite being scratched and the female jockey not making history, to me the 137th Derby was not disappointing. As always, it was an exciting two minutes of sports.