I wish I could say covering this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) on May 3 was as great as last year, but I cannot.
This was my second consecutive year covering “the greatest two minutes in sports” for Thoroughbred Times, an international newsmagazine based in Lexington, Ky.
To recap my day, beginning to right after the Kentucky Derby, here goes…
I left Lexington for Louisville, about a 75 mile drive, around 7:45 a.m. Once I arrived at Churchill Downs, my co-workers and I settled into our assigned area in the Auxillary Press Room.
My assignments from my editor via email was to cover the Derby Red Carpet and two undercard graded stakes races. I already knew what my main magazine story assignment was–talking to the connections of the 19 losing three-year-olds. I had the same “post race aftermath” story last year and loved every minute of it.
Covering the Derby Red Carpet was a lot of fun. Our videographer even handed me a microphone and filmed all the interviews. So, I had two firsts in one–interviewing celebrities and being captured on film, which was later posted to our homepage. I interviewed the likes of Taylor Dayne, Joey Fatone, Brad and John Hennegan, and trainer Carl Nafzer, who conditioned 133rd Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense last year.
After covering the Red Carpet, it was back to the press center and onto covering two undercard graded stakes races.
Before I knew it, it was 35 minutes to post for the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby. Like last year, I stood in the tunnel and watched as each of the contenders and their trainers passed less than ten feet in front of me on the way to the track. I whispered “good luck” to jockey Rafael Bejarano aboard Anak Nakal, I smiled at trainer Barclay Tagg as he led Tale of Ekati and he smiled back, and was amazed out how awesome Eight Belles, the only filly in the field, looked with trainer Larry Jones leading her. Little did I know at the time her life would end approximately five minutes later after running one of the most powerful races of her short career.
After hearing “My Old Kentucky Home” being played throughout Churchill, the horses
soon loaded in the gate and they were off. I watched the Derby down by the rail next to the connections of Big Brown. As the field turned for home, I saw Big Brown advancing on the turn and new at that moment he had this year’s Kentucky Derby won. The field passed in front of me once more and the long road to the Derby was over.
The connections of Big Brown began immediately celebrating and then, that’s when I saw it…the equine ambulances flying by.
I turned to my co-worker, Mike, and said, “Oh s***. Oh no…what happened?”
Obviously, from where we were, you couldn’t see anything except for Big Brown’s connections celebrating.
As the jockeys came trailing back after getting off their mounts, we talked to a few jockeys, including Robby Albarado, who informed us Eight Belles, the runner-up, had broken down and possibly broken both of her front legs. Albarado described the breakdown as “the worse breakdown he has seen in his 19-year riding career.”
For my experience covering the aftermath, including the reactions from the connections of Eight Belles, see “The hardest thing I’ve ever covered: Eight Belles”.