KENTUCKY DERBY WRAP-UP

The Kentucky Derby had 20 colts admitted to the field and a backup in case of a scratch.  Hoppertunity was scratched and the owners of the also-eligible Pablo Del Monte opted not to run their horse, leaving a 19-colt field.

The Brisnet.com past performances provided a Prime Power number for each of the 21 colts.  In what may be a first for the Derby, the winner and second place finisher had the best and worst Prime Power numbers, respectively.  California Chrome’s Prime Power number was 153.1, highest of all 21 horses, whereas Commanding Curve’s Power rating was 139.0, ranking 21st.

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Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, California Chrome’s breeders and owners, have day jobs and are everyday folks that the average race fan can identify with.  Coburn is employed by a Nevada firm that manufactures magnetic tape used in hotel keys and credit cards.  Martin is the proprietor of a laboratory in California in the business of testing landing gear and air bags.

Art Sherman, California Chrome’s trainer, is now the oldest winning trainer in Derby history (a year older than the late Charlie Whittingham in 1989).  The polite and humble Sherman was largely unknown outside California racing circles before California Chrome.

About two months before the Derby, Coburn and Martin rejected a $6 million offer for 51% of the colt.  That was a tremendous risk.  Even if California Chrome were to win the Preakness, one wonders whether his modest pedigree would warrant an implied price of $11.8 million.  Perhaps if the colt goes on to win the Belmont and complete the Triple Crown he would justify such a price…or much more.  After all, the likes of a Triple Crown champion has not been seen since 1978.

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The race portion of the NBC Derby telecast had an overnight rating of 10.1% (compared to 10.4% in 2013), which was the best Saturday overnight rating on any network since the Sochi Olympics in February.

Churchill Downs had the second highest attendance (164,906) ever for the Derby and the third highest attendance (113,071) for the Kentucky Oaks on Friday.  Wagering from all sources (on and off track) was $186.6 million for the Derby day card, up 1.08% over 2013.  However, wagering for the six days of Kentucky Derby week was down by 1.81%.

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A commenter on the lively Paulick Report forum opined that California Chrome will be the most popular horse entering the Preakness since Smarty Jones in 2004.  The colt’s pedestrian pedigree and his down-to-earth owners almost ensure that will be the case.  Should the colt win the Preakness, his popularity will soar leading up to the Belmont and attract non-racing fans.  Another Paulick Report poster drew an ominous parallel between California Chrome and Smarty Jones, projecting that, like Smarty Jones, California Chrome will be caught in the stretch at Belmont.  Only time will tell.

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One missing element in the 2014  Derby was an entry from D. Wayne Lukas. “The Coach” not having a horse in the Derby is unusual.  Lukas always has some interesting insights to offer and his entries can usually not be dismissed.

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Horse Racing Business drew record traffic during the past week, and for that I am grateful to readers from literally around the world.  This demonstrates what a draw Kentucky Derby perspectives are to people from far and wide.

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