Kentucky Derby

Garry Jones/AP

Exaggerator has taken home the second gem in horse racing’s triple crown. The colt won a mud-filled Preakness Stakes on Saturday, handing rival Nyquist the first loss of his career and effectively ending his shot at a triple crown.

It wasn’t an easy win for Exaggerator, though. For much of the race, the colt trailed not only Nyquist but Uncle Lino, as well. As in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, Exaggerator mounted a last-minute bid to take the lead; unlike that last race, however, Exaggerator finished the job.

Nyquist entered the race as the odds-on favorite, trailed by Stradivari and Exaggerator, whom he narrowly defeated at Churchill Downs two weeks ago. Nyquist — who’s named for the NHL’s Gustav Nyquist by his hockey fan owner — has now gone 8 for 9 in major races.

Rain came down for much of the day at Pimlico Race Course, just outside Baltimore. Still, Nyquist’s trainer, Dale Romans, betrayed no concern for the conditions in the lead-up to the race.

“My horse loves the mud,” Romans quipped to

Rob Carr / Getty Images

Nearly one year since American Pharoah made history, Nyquist has embarked on a star-making turn of his own at Churchill Downs. The thoroughbred has won the 2016 Kentucky Derby.

The colt beat out 19 other competitors over the course of a hectic mile and a quarter, crossing the finish line about a body length ahead of Exaggerator.

Jockey Mario Gutierrez earned a patient win with Nyquist, giving the racehorse Danzing Candy plenty of leeway to lead the pack early. Gutierrez kept Nyquist close, though, never dropping much lower than third. Nyquist pulled ahead in the final stretch and didn't ease up until he definitively captured the Run for the Roses.

The win didn't exactly come as a surprise. By mid-afternoon, the bay colt was pulling down 2-1 odds, cleanly earning honors as the heavy favorite. Nyquist — owned, trained and ridden by the same team that won the 2012 Kentucky Derby — approached this year's race with the confidence of having succeeded at Churchill Downs before.

"There's a quiet confidence in the group that's not flashy," owner Paul Reddam told Rick Howlett of member station WFPL before the race. "But — to speak Californian for a moment — there's a very good vibe in the barn."

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Every year at the Kentucky Derby, crazy hat-wearing, mint julep-guzzling horse-gazers break into a passionate rendition of Kentucky's state song, "My Old Kentucky Home." As tradition goes, the University of Louisville Cardinal Marching Band accompanies the crowd as they croon a ballad that seems to be about people who miss their happy home. "The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home/'Tis summer and the people are gay" begins one version.

But Frank X Walker, Kentucky's former Poet Laureate, suspects that most people are missing the point.

"I'm a Kentuckian, and I love my state," Walker says. "But at the same time, you know, the memories, the history this conjures up, I think people sing it and are totally disconnected from the history, from the truth."

He refers to these lyrics:

"The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
All merry, all happy and bright.
By 'n by hard times comes a-knocking at the door,
Then my old Kentucky home, good night."

Walker says that though it may sound like "a happy family environment in a humble cabin experience," there's definitely something more going on. "My Old Kentucky Home" was written by Stephen Foster in 1852, years before the Civil War. Foster was an American composer, famous in part for his minstrel music. The characters he references — the ones who had to leave Kentucky — were slaves.

Instead of turning in a $2 ticket that would pay $3.80 for American Pharoah winning the Belmont Stakes, most people who bought the tickets are hanging on to them as keepsakes — or even investments.

American Pharoah became the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the venerable Triple Crown. The 3-year-old colt entered Saturday's race as a heavy favorite — and it seems that thousands of people who bet on him to win were doing so in the hopes of getting a souvenir.

Churchill Downs

The Run for the Roses is a few weeks away yet, but the solid gold trophy already awaits the owner of the horse that wins the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2 at Churchill Downs.

The trophy is made of 14-karat gold and was crafted by New England Sterling in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, for the 40th consecutive year.

The trophy arrived at Churchill Downs about 10 days ago aboard a Brinks truck. Three smaller sterling silver replica trophies will be presented to the Derby's winning trainer, jockey and breeder.

Not counting the jade base, the owner's trophy is 22 inches tall and weighs approximately 65 ounces. It is topped by a 14-karat gold horse and rider and has horseshoe-shaped wreath handles attached to its sides.

California Chrome will be able to race after all.

There had been some doubt about whether the winner of this year's Kentucky Derby and the Preakness would compete in the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of horseracing's Triple Crown.

The thoroughbred has run and won his last six races wearing equine nasal strips. It was uncertain whether the stewards who oversee the June 7 event in New York would allow the strips, out of concern they offer the horse an unfair boost.

California Chrome Wins The Kentucky Derby

May 3, 2014

California Chrome won the 140th running of Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville Saturday. The horse was favored to win, despite quirks that set him apart from his more traditional competitors.

"Derby dreams do come true," an announcer said after the race.

As NBC Sports reports:

Saddle Up For The 140th Kentucky Derby

May 2, 2014

The Kentucky Derby is the first jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown. A field of 19 horses will take to the track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday evening for the 140th edition of the Run for the Roses.

Joe Drape is there, as he is every year, for The New York Times. He discusses the field with Here & Now’s Sacha Pfeiffer. His picks are Wicked Strong, Intense Holiday and California Chrome.

Post Positions, Odds Set for Derby

May 1, 2014
Churchill Downs

California Chrome has been made the early 5-2 favorite for the 140th Kentucky Derby, with Hopportunity the second choice in the full field of 20 horses. Trained by 77 year old Art Sherman, California Chrome drew the #5 post. Eight horses have won from there, most recently Funny Cide in 2003.

Hopportunity drew the #11 post and is 6-1 for Saturday's race. He's trained by Bob Baffert.

Starting in the #1 post on the rail is Vicar's In Trouble with jockey Rosie Napravnik up. Wicked Strong, named for the victims of last year's Boston Marathon bombings, is the 8-1 third choice and will break from the 20th post on the far outside of the track.

Kevin Willis

Before the horses sprint from the starting gates, the Kentucky Derby crowd will hand over millions of dollars in wagers. Gamblers lucky enough to pick the right colts will be getting a little less back.

Churchill Downs is taking a bigger cut of the money bettors place on its races. The decision comes after Kentucky lawmakers rejected the racing industry's latest effort to add slot machines to generate more cash to boost prize money for horse owners.

Churchill spokesman John Asher says without the bigger cut, the track would have had to reduce prize money for winners of spring races and some races would likely have been cut.

Kentucky touts itself as the world's horse capital. But some tracks are struggling to compete with tracks in states such as New York and Pennsylvania that use casino gambling to offer higher purses.

Derby Trophy Delivered to Churchill Downs

Mar 25, 2014
Churchill Downs

With Kentucky Derby 140 less than six weeks away, the solid gold trophy that the owner of the winning 3 year old will receive is being delivered to Churchill Downs in Louisville.

The trophy is 22 inches tall with a 14-karat gold horse and rider atop it and horseshoe-shaped wreath handles. It sits on a jade base and weighs about five pounds. It'll be unveiled at the track Tuesday.

Churchill Downs says the company that makes the trophy began work on it in November. The process takes about 2,000 hours.

The home of the Kentucky Derby wants to make sure every fan attending the famous race actually sees the horses running.
Churchill Downs said Monday it will install a video board bigger than three basketball courts to give fans a giant-size view of the thoroughbreds stampeding along the track. 

The track is teaming with Panasonic for the $12 million project expected to be done early next year _ well ahead of the Run for Roses on the first Saturday in May. 

"It's going to present coverage of the race unlike anything we've ever been able to do before," said Ryan Jordan, the track's general manager.

Track officials said the 15,224-square-foot, high-definition LED video board will be installed about midway along the backstretch and outside the dirt course.

The video board's position will maximize the viewing angle for fans in the 55,638 clubhouse and grandstand seats and the tens of thousands of fans packed in the track's 26-acre infield for the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks. The Oaks is a race for 3-year-old fillies run the day before the Derby.

The two days of racing are a revenue bonanza for the track's parent company, Louisville-based Churchill Downs Inc.

The mint julep stands proud as the beverage known as Kentucky's signature drink. Unless you're new to the area or haven't been paying attention, you know the julep is synonymous with the Kentucky Derby.

What you might not know, however, is that the mint julep's history traces back to a rose water drink in the Middle East.

WKU Public Radio's Kevin Willis in 2010 visited the famous Seelbach Hotel in Louisville to learn the history and proper preparation of the famous drink. Cole Phelps, who at the time served as the head bartender at Max's Bar on the hotel's second floor shared his favorite recipe for drink:

Churchill Downs

The early favorite for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby is Orb at 7 to 2. Trained by Shug McGaughey,  Orb drew post position number 16 Wednesday evening at Churchill Downs.

The second favorite is Verrazano at 4 to 1. He’ll run from post position number 14. 

Verrazano is one of five Derby starters trained by Todd Pletcher.

The third choice, at 5-1, is Goldencents, trained by Doug O’Neill, who won last year with I’ll Have Another.

O’Neill  says and the horse’s owners are pleased that Goldencents will break from the number eight post.

A full field of 20 horses is entered for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

The head of the Kentucky Derby Festival says Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence won't make it to this year's Pegasus Parade to serve as grand marshal. But CEO Mike Berry says there's a silver lining; Lawrence has a standing invitation for any year she can make it.

Lawrence, a 22 year old Louisville native, won an Oscar this year for her role in "Silver Linings Playbook" and received a nomination in 2011 for "Winter's Bone."