LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Tom Meeker, president of Churchill Downs, met with a professor in Japanese Studies at the University of Louisville this week for a crash course on Japanese customs.
Meeker wanted to make sure the connections for Ski Captain, Japan’s first entry in the Kentucky Derby, were treated properly during their stay at Churchill Downs.
The addition of Japan into the Derby picture gives the race even more of an international flavor.
``There is an international feel to this Derby that we’ve never had before,″ Meeker said.
The 19-horse field included Ski Captain, two from England in Eltish and Citadeed and the Canadian champion Talkin Man.
LATE ARRIVAL: Tejano Run was the last to arrive at Churchill Downs, vanning in from Lexington on Saturday morning. Asked to explain why he waited until race day to bring his colt to Churchill Downs, trainer Ken McPeek said his horse knows when it’s time to run and just comes out on the track and is ready to go.
LUKAS BACKER: William T. Young, the 77-year-old majority owner of Timber Country, has been a staunch D. Wayne Lukas supporter ever since he became a client seven years ago. Young said Lukas ``is the only national trainer (around), and if we have a horse that ought to be racing in California or New York, that’s no problem.
``... We understand each other, with complete candor and trust between us. We know what to expect. We’ve never had an untoward incident. That’s the reason I defend him when the reporters get down on him.″
PURSE STRINGS: With 19 starters, the Kentucky Derby purse was $957,400, with $707,400 going to the winner.
The record Derby purse was $985,900 when Sea Hero earned $735,900 for winning in 1993.
MILLION DOLLAR BABIES: Even before the Derby, there were two millionaire horses in the field _ Serena’s Song ($1,231,435) and Timber Country ($1,043,590) _ and both are trained by D. Wayne Lukas.
TOUGH CUSTOMER: D. Wayne Lukas has described Serena’s Song makeup over and over in the weeks leading up to the Derby. This one is a doozy.
``What I look for (in a filly) is the head of a princess, the butt of a washer woman and the walk of a hooker. I’ve got all that in Serena’s Song _ and more. She is just so tough. She’s like a girl who grew up in a house with 11 brothers. She can hold her own. I call her a ballerina who’s really an alley fighter.″
NARROWING THE FIELD: Three years ago, 43,577 registered thoroughbreds were born in the United States, Canada and Great Britain. On Saturday, 19 ran in the Derby.
DIRTY BUSINESS: Churchill Downs had a facelift over the winter to get the track back the way it was in 1982. Track superintendent Butch Lehr now has the track’s composition to 75 percent sand, 2 percent clay and 23 percent silt.
At the Breeders’ Cup last November, the surface was 82 percent sand, resulting in a cuppy surface that some horses had problems with.
So when Timber Country, Eltish and Tejano Run _ 1-2-3 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile _ ran in Saturday’s Derby, they were on a slightly different surface.
ALI GREETING: It’s been quite a week for Muhammad Ali in his hometown. On Thursday, the city opened the Muhammad Ali Museum and on Derby Day, Ali received a warm welcome from the crowd as he presented the winner’s trophy after the second race.