March 5, 2012

column: It’s never too early to start thinking about the Kentucky Derby

By Ryan Martin–

The Kentucky Derby is only two months away, which may seem like a long time to some students, but believe it or not, it’s right around the corner for many in the world of horseracing.

Many potential Derby prospects are already beginning to map out their final preparations for the first Saturday in May. If the Kentucky Derby is the Super Bowl of horseracing, then the playoffs are just getting started.

Obviously the Derby is pretty popular among students on campus, but for most, it’s just another excuse to go out and party. How many students on campus actually care about who will run or read a racing form on a regular basis? Very few, at the most, care.

However, there are multiple ways that students on campus can actually get into the racing aspect of the Run for the Roses.

Sophomore equine administration major Donna Rutland suggested that students not get tickets for the infield.

“When you go to the infield, it’s hard to watch any of the races so you can’t really get into the racing that way,” she said. “I would recommend getting grandstand section seats so you can watch the racing and still manage to have a good time.”

Throughout Derby history, the infield has been notorious for being the hot spot for partying at the Derby, and not many people that go to the infield actually go there to bet on the ponies.

Laurel Humbert, a sophomore who is also majoring in equine administration, recommends that students go to Dawn at the Downs, which features many of the Derby contenders putting in their final workouts at the track on Derby week.

“This can help students really see firsthand which of these horses are the ones to look out for,” she says.
While students can do more to pay attention to the actual running of the race, there is also quite a bit that campus can do to bring out the true Derby spirit as well.

The riding and racing club on campus already has handicapping lectures hosted by Churchill Downs racing analyst Jill Byrne and track announcer Mark Johnson.

Lauren Lilly, a sophomore equine administration major, went as far as to say that the university and Churchill Downs team up and have days where students can get in free with a college ID.

While the track hosts college scholarship days where college students are eligible to get up to $10,000 in scholarship money, she thinks it to be a good idea to allow students to get in on other days as well.

“Advertising Derby related events at sports games would be a great idea,” says Rutland. “Since so many students attend the university’s sporting events, this would help get the word out.”

For future reference, there are a handful of horses that are already being regarded as major threats in the Kentucky Derby that students planning on attending should know about.

One of these is Union Rags, who just came off a stellar victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park in Miami, Fla. Right now, he is 3-1 in the Future Wagers pool. Country music fans would be partial to Reckless Jerry seeing as though he is owned by country music star Toby Keith, a couple of weeks ago, this horse ran a good third in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.

Students should try watching some of the final Derby prep races such as the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, the Wood Memorial at Aquedect Race Course in Long Island, N.Y. and the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland in Lexington.

Horse racing may not be the most popular sport among students on campus, but when come Derby time, paying attention to these race may just come in handy.

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