<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - ]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/feature/triple-crown http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.comen-usSun, 29 May 2016 05:45:56 -0400Sun, 29 May 2016 05:45:56 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Triple Crown: Top Stories]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 12:31:29 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[Road to the Triple Crown in Photos]]> Fri, 13 May 2016 13:15:19 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[Kentucky Derby: A Look Back]]> Thu, 19 May 2016 10:59:20 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[American Pharoah's Historic Feat]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 12:36:57 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[PHOTOCENTRIC]]> Wed, 25 May 2016 16:19:23 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[PHOTOS: Preakness Day 2016]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 06:28:48 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/thumb-GettyImages-533294116.jpg Take a look at photos from the 141st annual Preakness Stakes. Known as the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the race takes places two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[What Makes a Triple Crown-Winning Horse?]]> Fri, 06 May 2016 08:46:16 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-480966886.jpg

Watch the Kentucky Derby live Saturday on nbc.com/live.

"The 37-year wait is over! American Pharaoh is finally the one! American Pharoah has won the Triple Crown!"

Those words from famed horse racing announcer Larry Collmus at last year's Belmont Stakes marked the end of a nearly four-decade drought, and thrust horse racing into the national spotlight.

American Pharaoh's gallop into the history books has left many wondering if there could be another Triple Crown winner this year. It's certainly possible, but experts say it will take a horse with the right combination of pedigree, training and versatility - and a little luck wouldn't hurt.

The Triple Crown of horse racing — winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes — is the pinnacle for 3-year-old thoroughbreds.

A mere 12 colts have achieved the feat since Sir Barton swept the series in 1919, and only once in all of American racing history has the trifecta occurred in consecutive years.

Of course, there have been some near-misses.

Between 1979 — after Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978 — and 2015, 13 horses managed to clinch the Derby and Preakness races, only to be stopped on their quest at the Belmont Stakes.

At 1 and 1/2 miles (12 furlong), the third jewel of the Triple Crown is the longest race track in the United States. Richard Migliore, a former jockey and racing analyst for the New York Racing Association, notes race horses that compete at Belmont “probably have never, and will never, run that distance again."

"Thoroughbreds today are bred for speed, not stamina, so they are too fatigued to keep up the pace required to win the Belmont," Migliore said, adding that many of the contenders at Belmont don't compete in the previous two races and are well-rested.

Over the years, many have called on a change in the racing schedule, while others, including the owner of California Chrome, said the pool for the three races should be limited to the horses that enter the Kentucky Derby.

"Because it had been so long since Affirmed won the Triple Crown, most people thought that this was getting close to impossible to do, it was too much to ask a horse to do," said NBC horse racing reporter Kenny Rice.

The Triple Crown schedule is grueling. It is difficult for a horse shipped around the country to endure the rigor of the journey after a strenuous race and not become ornery.

But then came American Pharoah. As Collmus so aptly put it in the final yards of the Belmont on June 6, he was "finally the one" – the one who could indeed win three races, at three tracks, in three different states, at three different distances, in the span of five weeks.

"That's why it separates the great ones. I think that's why I like the Triple Crown as is, because when you win it, you're a great horse," Rice says. "You may have a little bit of racing luck along the way, but it's not a fluke. That's why I think all the horses that have won the triple crown are special horses."

There are many factors, tangible and intangible, that combine in the making of a great racehorse, and experts have varying opinions on what those attributes are.

Some point to pedigree. Many champion horses carry elite genes.

American Pharaoh, for example, carries the bloodlines of three Triple Crown champions: Count Fleet, War Admiral and Secretariat. On the other hand, Affirmed came from modest genes that didn't trace back to a Triple Crown winner. Its sire didn't produce anything of exceptional merit after Affirmed, and his 1978 Triple Crown rival Alydar was considered a superior breeding source, according to BloodHorse's Avalyn Hunter.

"When Affirmed went to stud in 1980, he was competing with fellow Triple Crown winners Secretariat and Seattle Slew, but many horsemen considered his rival Alydar much likelier to make a top sire given his deep female family," Hunter said.

Others attribute a race horse's success to premiere training. Owners seek elite stakes-winning trainers to get their 2-year-old thoroughbreds in peak 3-year-old Derby shape.

Much like March Madness, each stop on the road to the Kentucky Derby will determine who will earn enough points and prove worthy of a spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs. Purse leaders like trainers Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, Kiaran McLaughlin, Doug O'Neill and Bob Baffert have a track record of starting horses at the Derby.

But whether it's genes, quality training, mental constitution or just pure luck, one characteristic they all seem to agree upon is versatility.

"All the triple crown winners standout because they rose above any obstacles, avoided anything in their way — in this case other horses — and that's what we saw last year. That's how good American Pharaoh was. He could run at the front, he could run near the front. He had different gears that, when he needed to shift, he could. I think that's what the next horse that wins the Triple Crown is going to have to do."

There are no certainties in horse racing, but Migliore believes at least one horse competing in the 142nd Kentucky Derby is showing that ability.

"Nyquist has shown he is not a one dimensional horse. As a 2-year-old and in his Derby prep races, he's been forced ridiculously wide and has demonstrated that he can shift and win," Migliore said.

The champion thoroughbred will enter the starting gate at Churchill on May 7 as a favorite with an undefeated record. Rice says Nyquist's Florida Derby victory over rival Mohaymen was "the most impressive of the Triple Crown prep races."

Another front-runner, ranking second on the Associated Press' Run for the Roses Top 10 list, is Gun Runner. The colt, trained by Steve Asmussem, is an odds favorite having established a points lead over the field.

Santa Anita Derby winner Exxagerator is also a top contender. Exaggerator was one of the most accomplished 2-year-olds in 2015 and a close runner-up to champion Nyquist in the San Vicente S. at Santa Anita in his seasonal debut. He won the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby race by a widening 6 1/4 lengths, placing himself squarely in the middle of the Kentucky Derby picture. 

The final lineup of the 20 Kenutcky Derby contenders has yet to be announced and only time will tell if a Triple Crown winner is among them. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Triple Crown Glory: American Pharoah Makes History]]> Mon, 02 May 2016 08:52:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/476139066_master.jpg American Pharoah has become the first horse to clinch the elusive Triple Crown in 37 years with a stunning win in the Belmont Stakes. Here's how he got there.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Seven Ways to Fake Being a Racing Expert]]> Fri, 05 Jun 2015 12:39:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP233467296026.jpg

You're not a horse racing expert, but you can act like one for the Belmont Stakes.

For all the pomp and circumstance at the track at Pimlico, the real focus Saturday will be on the potential for something historic, as a narrowing field of elite young racehorses aims for the first Triple Crown victory in 37 years.

Don't know the first thing about horse racing? It doesn't matter. These seven tricks will help you get in on the spectacle as though you do.

1. Learn the lingo, and use it liberally.

You'll actually get to know something about racing later. For now, just pepper your comments with some jargon.

Before the race, check out race handicappers' predictions, check the tote board for the odds and watch the horses head from the paddock to their posts. Once the race begins, listen to the call, or the horses' running positions — but don't expect to have the foggiest idea what the caller is saying. (Don't worry, the race will only take a few minutes.)

A horse that's a closer runs his best later in a race, a stayer or router is good at running distances and a front-runner runs best at the head of the field. A horse is pinched back if it's held in close quarters, and if it's boxed in it's shut off or pocketed.

Horses' distances from each other in the stretch, or the last straight section of track, are measured by a head, e.g., the length of a horse's head. At the finish line, a photo finish is so close the finish-line camera has to figure out who won, and a dead heat is an exact tie. A horse finishes on the board if he's one of the first four to finish.

2. Know what's at stake, and tell everybody else.

You probably already know that only 11 horses have ever pulled off the feat of winning all three legs of the Triple Crown: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. The last to manage it was Affirmed, back in 1978.

You might also know that since 1978, 12 have won the the first two legs only to flame out at Belmont. That was the case last year, when California Chrome fell short in the 1.5-mile, tough-to-handicap race that's often called the "Test of the Champion," with good reason.

There's plenty that can go wrong for a would-be Triple Crown winner: A great horse can get pocketed or pinched back, especially in the Derby's and the Preakness' crowded fields.

Or, in the Belmont, it can be overcome by better-rested rivals that ran in Louisville, then skipped the Preakness. Other horses have had their hopes dashed by jockey error at Belmont, where jockeys' tactics play a bigger role and riders may be tempted to accelerate too early in the comparatively long race.

3. Handicap the race yourself. (Remember that term?)

You can't feign some authority on horse racing without concocting a fervently held opinion on which horse will win.

Which horse has home-track advantage? What's its breeding like — geared for speed, or distance, or something else? What sort of races has it been running lately? Has it had any injuries? Who trains it?

Bob Baffert, the trainer for Kentucky Derby and Preakness champ American Pharoah, insists his colt can win the Belmont too, and clinch the Triple Crown. But he faces a handful of potential spoilers who could beat him at Belmont.

4. Bet on it.

Nothing screams "I know what I'm doing!" like advising your friends on how to spend their money, right? Right — well, as long as your friends aren't big gamblers. In that case, pay close attention.

Use Colin Bertram's primer to get a handle on what horses' odds mean and what they don't. Remember, a horse's odds reflect not how likely it is to win but how heavily other people are betting or expected to bet on it to win.

Once you've picked your favorites from the field of contenders and decided what kind of bet you want to make, examine the morning-line odds, which predict what people will probably bet on each horse. (The odds will change once betting actually has begun.)

The first number tells you how much profit your bet will get you should you win, and the second tells you how much you must bet to get it. If the horse you pick has 3-5 odds at the time of writing, that means you have to bet $5 in order to win $3 profit, so if you bet $10 and your horse wins, you'll get back $16.

5. Trot down Memory Lane.

Recall those halcyon days of horse racing — you know, when the only other sports worth their salt were baseball and boxing, and when your parents hadn't even met yet.

The mechanics of horse racing have changed plenty over the decades. Wealthy dynastic families ruled breeding, not commercial breeders, and as a result, horses were bred for stamina. Today, they're bred for speed.

But most fundamentally, horse racing doesn't have nearly the fan base it did in its heyday, back before pro football, pro basketball, casinos and, well, the internet horned in on its popularity. At racing's zenith, the track was the automatic mecca for gamblers.

6. Honor the greats.

Now you get to the really fun part of exercising your newfound authority: Breathlessly regaling your friends with tales of great races of yore as though you were there.

Bloviate about Secretariat's astounding 1973 Triple Crown, which he won by an unheard-of margin of 31 lengths. As the victor crossed the finish, the runner-up couldn't even fit on the television screen.

Wonder what would have happened if Man o' War, ranked the 20th century's best by Blood-Horse magazine and The Associated Press, had ever run for the Triple Crown. It wasn't around yet when Man o' War raced in the early 20th century, though he did sire some Triple Crown horses.

Reminisce about Kelso, who ran in the early '60s until he was 9 years old. Now all the Belmont contenders are 3-year-olds, and most horses are retired soon after that age to stud duty, which is far more lucrative than racing. (That was impossible for Kelso, who was a gelding, or castrated horse.)

Wax poetic about legendary filly Ruffian — even Secretariat's trainer said she might be better than his most famous horse — whose career was cut tragically short by a broken leg at Belmont in 1975. (You can still pay your respects at her grave at Belmont.)

7. Get ambitious.

If you really want to boost your expert cred, do your homework, and stake out a controversial stance or two. Read up, and weigh in, on hot-button topics like horse breeding habits, nasal strips and the sport's undeniable decline in recent decades, and what could reverse it.

Steve Coburn, the co-owner of last year's Triple Crown contender California Chrome, has grumbled that the growing numbers of Derby contenders that sit out the Preakness before returning for the Belmont have made Triple Crown wins all but impossible. He wants the rules tweaked so that only colts that run the Preakness can compete at Belmont.

He said last year that if his horse didn't win the Triple Crown — which it didn't — he doubted he'd ever see another winner. "There are people out there trying to upset the apple cart," he said. "They don't want a Triple Crown winner. They want a paycheck."

Indeed, the decades-long Triple Crown drought, and the sport's waning popularity, have encouraged talk of tinkering with the format and timing of the three key races, and not just among figures who have, quite literally, a horse in the race. Weigh in on what you think should be done, too.

But don't limit your expressions of your newfound expertise to such existential hand-wringing.

Try picking an underdog to root for Saturday. When you place your bet, try a superfecta, naming the top four horses in the order you expect them to place.

And whatever other stories you tell your friends, make sure to leave room for one still in the making: the first time you bluffed your way through the Triple Crown.

Just wait until the next big race to tell it. By then, you might actually be an expert.

 

This story has been updated from an earlier version.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[History and Tradition at Kentucky Derby]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 11:54:42 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-482543724.jpg

The history of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs begins in 1872, when 26-year-old Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, grandson of the famous explorer William Clark, traveled to Europe and attended the Epsom Derby in England, inspiring his lifelong passion and creation of the Kentucky Derby. 

The colonel's love for horse racing began in childhood. He was raised by his two uncles, John and Henry Churchill, who were horse racing enthusiasts and young Lutie, as Clark was known, came to share his uncles’ passion. During his visit to the Epsom Derby, he became friends with members of the French Jockey Club, a group that developed the Grand Prix de Paris Longchamps horse race. After his trip, Clark was determined to create a horse racing spectacle in the States.

His relatives backed this idea and he was given 88 acres of family land to develop a racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. Clark formed the Louisville Jockey Club with other local horse racing enthusiasts. The club raised money to build the grandstand, Porter’s lodge and six stables by selling race track memberships for $100 each.

On May 17, 1875, the first Derby was hosted by the Louisville Jockey Club. Roughly 10,000 spectators attended and the winner of the first Kentucky Derby was Aristides. At the time, the race was a mile and a half long. In 1896, the Derby changed to its current length of one and a quarter mile.

Timeline

1875 First Kentucky Derby

1883 The racetrack is branded “Churchill Downs.”

1894 With the Derby growing in popularity, a new grandstand was developed. The 285-foot grandstand, topped by the Twin Spires, became known as the symbol of both Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. The first Kentucky Derby with the new grandstand was in 1895.

1896 For the first time, the winning jockey received a floral arrangement of white and pink roses. At the time, the floral arrangement was shaped into a horseshoe and draped over the winning jockey.

1903 A profit is earned for the first time since the Derby’s creation.

1904 Red roses are declared the official flower of the Kentucky Derby.

1919 Sir Barton, a chestnut thoroughbred colt, became the first horse to win the Triple Crown. He won all three races and an additional race in the span of 32 days. He was honored as the 1919 American Horse of the Year.

1925 The Kentucky Derby is broadcast on radio for the first time, on WHAS Louisville, Kentucky. Almost 6 million fans tuned in to hear Flying Ebony win the 51st running of the Derby. Also in 1925, Bill Corum, a sports columnist at the New York Evening Journal and the New York Journal-American, famously coined the Kentucky Derby as the “Run for the Roses.”

1952 For the first time, the Kentucky Derby is broadcast nationally on television. An estimated 10-15 million watched Hill Gale, a dark bay horse, win the Derby.

1973 Secretariat runs the fastest Derby of all-time in 1:59:40. He went on to win the Triple Crown and American Horse of the Year.

1978 Affirmed wins the Triple Crown.

1986 Churchill Downs is registered as a National Historic Landmark. Willie Shoemaker became the oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby at age 54 with his horse, Ferdinand.

2015 American Pharoah wins the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown for the first time since Affirmed in 1978.

The Rose Garland

The stunning rose garland that is presented to the Derby winner has a vibrant history to match. Ben Brush, the Derby winner in 1896, was the recipient of the first rose garland. However, the garland did not look like it does today; it was woven together with pink and white roses, rather than the traditional red. In 1925, after the red rose had been named the official flower of the Derby, the race was coined the “Run for the Roses.” The garland is covered with over 400 red freedom roses, weighs 40 pounds and is over 10 feet long. Grocery retailer Kroger has been crafting the Derby’s rose garlands by hand since 1987, and people congregate in one of Kroger’s Kentucky stores to watch the garland made on Derby eve.

Kentucky Derby Hats

The Derby has provided the perfect setting to flaunt the season’s latest fashions. Kentucky Derby hats became ostentatious by midcentury, attracting attention from the Derby’s crowds and viewers watching the race on television. Hats are rumored to bring good luck to the races, so a wide variety of chic and whimsical chapeaus are worn each year. Thanks to the rising popularity of fascinators, the hat tradition has grown. Debut your hat or fascinator the day before the Derby at the Longines Kentucky Oakes Fashion Contest for the chance to win a Longines watch.

The Winners Circle

The walk to the Kentucky Derby Winners Circle is a custom celebrated since the first race. Originally just a chalk outline, the circle has changed drastically since it held the first Derby winner in 1875. In 1944, the Winners Circle was transformed into the icon we see today. The horseshoe-shaped landscape is laden with 2,100 roses, and makes an ideal location for photographs with the Derby winner. Couples have tied the knot in the Winners Circle, and some horse racing legends have had their ashes spread across the sacred grounds. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How to Throw a Kentucky Derby Party]]> Wed, 04 May 2016 10:22:08 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-471857186.jpg

Year after year, there is a flurry of excitement leading up to the Kentucky Derby, with an endless series of parties and celebrations. It is the one American race that inspires the spectacle and pageantry of a bygone era.

Derby Fashion 

In 1875, Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. fashioned the Derby after glamorous European horse races. These races required full morning dress for all who attended. The high society women of the day came to the Derby to debut new spring fashions – especially hats. These women were invited to the race as part of Clark’s strategy to brand the Derby as an upscale event. In the 1960’s television gave women a reason to go all out with their hats, which deepened the “see and be seen” culture.

Unlike the Royal Ascot races, which restrict the size and type of hat for adult women (fascinators are not allowed!), there are no hat restrictions for the Derby. Hats bring good luck to the race, so let your imagination run wild when choosing or creating your hat.

Men also put on their Sunday best for race day, wearing bright, sunny colors, and donning a bow tie and fedora, bowler, or a natty straw Homburg or boater.

Hosting a Kentucky Derby Party 

Invitations reveal the color scheme for your Derby Party, as well as what kind of party it is – a brunch, backyard get-together or formal event. Send your invitations well in advance to give you and your guests plenty of time to plan for race day.

Atmosphere lies at the heart of the Kentucky Derby. In 1904, the red rose became the Derby’s official flower. Any red rose will work, but for authenticity, use red Freedom Roses, known for their rich, bright color in your décor. If you need inspiration for your party’s color scheme, look to colorful jockey silks.

  • Freeze rosebuds inside ice cubes, and use them to fill the champagne bucket. When the Derby winner is announced, pop open the bottle to celebrate!
  • Decorate the bases of wine glasses with miniature hats for the ladies and bow ties for the gents.
  • Fold napkins in the shape of a bow tie, using bright colors that coordinate with your party scheme.
  • Dress up your drink stirrers with miniature hats and bows of ribbon.
  • Use a lavishly decked-out hat as a table centerpiece.

Activities:

Photos — Rent a photo booth for your party, or create a picture perfect backdrop with playful props. Take photos of guests in their race day finery, adding trophies, riding crops, fascinators and clip-on bowties as photo booth accessories. Get some giggles out of your guests with a life-size horse and jockey cut-out for their faces. Make your party’s hashtag part of the display.

Crafts — Little Derby party guests and adults will have fun crafting hats out of paper plates, ribbons and flowers.

Games:

  • Corn Hole is an all-American way to bring guests outside for some competition. Customize your Corn Hole board for the Derby.
  • Put a twist on Pin the Tail on the Donkey with fun alternatives, like “Pin the Jockey on the Horse” or “Pin the Garland on the Horse.”
  • Play some rounds of Horseshoes to get in the Derby spirit!
  • Play some Derby trivia. 

Prizes — Trivia winners of all ages can receive a virgin “Mint Julep” – pour Junior Mints in a traditional silver mint julep cup, and top it with a sprig of mint.

Tradition  As the horses parade to the gate, sing along to “My Old Kentucky Home” with the band and audience on Television.

Lyrics below:

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,

Tis summer, the people are gay;

The corn-top's ripe and the meadow's in the bloom

While the birds make music all the day. 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! Weep no more my lady.

Oh! Weep no more today!

We will sing one song for my old Kentucky home

For the old Kentucky home, far away.



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Thoroughbred, Friesian, Appaloosa: Know Your Horse Breeds]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 11:27:07 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/horse-breeds.jpg

Thoroughbreds are considered the fastest horses in the world and dominate the horse racing industry, while Arabian horses are known to be intelligent and excel in endurance riding. Take a look at some of the horse breeds used in racing, dressage and general riding. 

American Quarter Horse

The American Quarter Horse is one of the most popular horse breeds today. It is the first all-American breed, used in rodeos, horse shows, general riding, work activities and urban mounted police units. The breed’s even temperament makes it an ideal horse for new riders.

Thoroughbred

An extremely athletic and energetic horse that is considered the fastest horse in the world. They dominate the horse racing industry. They are also a popular breed for horse jumping, dressage and cross-country. These horses can be a lot to handle because they have so much energy. Therefore, they are not recommended for beginners.

Pinto

Pinto is not a breed, rather it refers to specific coloring. Pintos can be found in four different breeds: Stock (Quarter Horse conformation), Hunter (warm blood conformation), Pleasure (Arabian or Morgan conformation), and Saddle (Saddlebred or Hackney conformation). There are two types of coats on Pintos, tobiano (white horse with large patches of color) and overo (colored horse with uneven white marks). These horses vary in size and temperament based on the type of pinto.

Friesian

A large horse with a gentle disposition. They have great versatility and are easy to train. Therefore, they are popular carriage and dressage horses, and appear in circus shows and other performance events, and in the film and entertainment industry.

Cleveland Bay

A docile, multi-talented horse commonly used in dressage, general riding, hunting and work activities. They are rather large horses averaging about 1,450 pounds, which makes them great work and hunting horses. Also known as the “Bay” horse.

Arabian Horse

Small and with delicate features, Arabians are one of the oldest horse breeds. They excel in all sports despite their lack of size, 800-1000 pounds, but dominate in endurance riding. Arabian horses are quite intelligent and affectionate toward their owners and are considered good horses for beginners.

Appaloosa

Native American horses, they are one of the most popular horse breeds in the United States. This horse is known for its spotted coat, which can appear in five different patterns: blanket, snowflake, leopard, marble and frost. They are the only horses with vertically striped hooves.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com]]>
<![CDATA[Kentucky Derby: What Makes a Race Horse?]]> Mon, 02 May 2016 11:31:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Screen-Shot-2016-05-02-at-8.30.13-AM.jpg

Many factors go into making a Kentucky Derby race horse. A great race horse needs to have a balanced, athletic conformation (physical shape) and a long, smooth stride. The horse also needs to have presence and personality, to be confident and give the appearance of being in control. There may be no such thing as a perfect horse, but there are clearly some important physical attributes that make a successful race horse.

Roll over or click on the horse's body parts to see descriptions. 



Photo Credit: NBC
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<![CDATA[How American Pharoah Stacks Up Against Triple Crown Winners]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 11:41:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP951707057411.jpg

A Triple Crown victory is a rare triumph. 

Since Sir Barton managed the feat in 1919, only 11 other horses have ever won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in the same year, according to the race's website.

On Saturday, American Pharoah won the 1½-mile Belmont in 2:26:65 minutes, capping his wins at the Derby and the Preakness and ending a record 37-year drought without a Triple Crown champion.

But how would the new champion of American horse racing stack up against his predecessors in the Belmont? Here's a look at all 12 Triple Crown winners to see who would win a best-of-the-best matchup in the so-called "Test of the Champion" compiled from the Belmont Stakes website.

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The Winner: Secretariat (2:24:00, 1973)

Secretariat not only took the Triple Crown after 25 years without a title winner, his 2:24 finish also set a Belmont record that to this day has never been broken. Secretariat utterly conquered the field, crossing the line 31 lengths ahead of runner-up Twice a Prince. Secretariat was honored as the Horse of the Year a year before his historic Triple Crown victory, which was a rarity for two-year-old horses. After the 1973 Triple Crown, Secretariat competed in nine more races, winning six, placing second twice, and coming third only once.

2) Affirmed (2:26:48, 1978)

Affirmed's final time for the Belmont Stakes was the third-fastest in history. The horse was best known for his rivalry with Alydar, who matched strides with the Triple Crown hopeful from the mile pole at the top of the stretch in a tense 1978 Belmont race. The Belmont Park crowd held its collective breath as Alydar and Affirmed dueled over the homestretch, battling for supremacy until Affirmed did just that for a Triple Crown win.

3) American Pharoah (2:26:65, 2015)

American Pharoah delivered a victory for Egyptian-born owner Ahmed Zayat, who bred the colt and put him up for sale before buying him back for $300,000. His name came courtesy of the family's online contest, in which a woman from Missouri submitted the winning moniker. The misspelling — normally it's "pharaoh" — went unnoticed until the name was already official.

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4, tie) War Admiral (2:28:12, 1937)

Son of the renowned purebred Man o' War, the mighty War Admiral made it to the finish line three lengths ahead of second-place Sceneshifter —  but his win came at a cost. "The Admiral" had been rowdy at the race's start, repeatedly crashing through the gate and delaying the race for nine minutes. He sliced off a piece of his right front heel after he stumbled at the break, leaving behind a trail of blood as he ran.

4, tie) Count Fleet (2:28:12, 1943)

Count Fleet's owner John D. Hertz, founder of the rental car company, disliked his horse's rambunctious nature, but Hertz was unsuccessful in his attempts to sell the thoroughbred. Hertz's opinion of his horse changed, however, when he watched Count Fleet win the Triple Crown by 25 lengths — a record that stood for 30 years until Secretariat's run.

4, tie) Citation (2:28:12, 1948)

On the day of the 1948 Belmont Stakes, Citation was a 2-5 favorite. The crowd watched in surprise as the bay stumbled at the beginning of the race — but Citation fought back, surging into the lead on the turn. He hit the wire five lengths in the lead, tying his time with War Admiral and Count Fleet. Citation became the first racing millionaire with a bankroll of $1,085,760 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1959.

7) Seattle Slew (2:29:36, 1977)

A breeding manager called Seattle Slew "ugly" when the colt was born because he had no white markings and big, floppy ears. The colt was rejected several times based on his appearance and unimpressive pedigree. Cast off, he was eventually bought by two young couples from Washington. Slew raced on a muddy track in the 1977 Belmont Stakes and proved his doubters wrong, becoming the first horse with an undefeated record to win the Triple Crown.

8) Omaha (2:30:36, 1935)

Omaha suffered a setback when the gates opened on a sloppy track in 1935. His jockey, Willie Saunders, was able to quickly calm down Omaha and get the racehorse back on track to become the third Triple Crown winner by a 1½-length margin.

9) Assault (2:30:48, 1946)

At first glance, Assault was not the pinnacle of a healthy, winning race horse: He suffered from kidney problems, had a misshapen hoof, weighed less than 1,000 pounds and was, overall, a petite contender in a field dominated by big horses. When the liver chestnut ran, however, it was described as flawless. While Lord Boswell was the favorite for that year's Belmont Stakes, Assault made it to the wire with three lengths to spare.

10) Whirlaway (2:31:00, 1941)

Whirlaway was no prize to his jockey, Eddie Arcaro, who called the chestnut "not the best, but the runningest". The chestnut's signature move was running off to the outside of the track to make wide turns. In fact, in 1940, Whirlaway hit an outer rail before winning the Saratoga Special. On the day of the Belmont Stakes, Arcaro let Whirlaway go to the front with a mile to go, allowing the team to win by a 1½ margin.

11) Gallant Fox (2:31:36, 1930) 

During practices, the affable horse loved to be with company and often set out with a team of horses — none of whom could never keep up with Gallant Fox. Jockey Earle Sande had come out of retirement to ride Gallant Fox, who gave Sande his third Derby victory and won the Belmont Stakes by three lengths. 

Also ran: Sir Barton (2:17:24*, 1919)

Sir Barton was the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes before "Triple Crown" was even coined. He was a notoriously cranky colt who disliked humans and had soft feet which caused him to lose shoes during races. When Sir Barton won the Triple Crown in 1919, the length of the race was shorter by an eighth of a mile.


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<![CDATA[How Much Do You Know About the Triple Crown?]]> Fri, 05 Jun 2015 16:02:18 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/affirmed.jpg

American Pharoah will line up alongside some of the world's fastest race horses Saturday in the hopes of dashing to victory in the Belmont Stakes and ending a long drought of Triple Crown winners.

So what does it all mean? What's American Pharoah's story, and who's come before him? And what exactly is the Triple Crown, anyway?

Test your knowledge ahead of the big race with our handy quiz below — and if you need a crash course in Triple Crown lingo, read up on horse racing's marquee events here.

And you're off!

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Didn't do as well as you'd hoped? You might try reading up with these primers:

Think you're more knowledgeable about horse names? Quiz yourself here.



Photo Credit: Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
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<![CDATA[Triple Crown Preview: American Pharoah Races Towards History]]> Fri, 05 Jun 2015 10:52:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/pharaoh-triple-preview_1200x675_457952835651.jpg American Pharaoh will be the 14th horse in almost 40 years with a chance to win horse racing's Triple Crown.]]> <![CDATA[Bettor's Guide to the Kentucky Derby]]> Thu, 05 May 2016 07:53:59 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/AP_16125538134059.jpg

Fancy putting down a wager on the Kentucky Derby, airing live on NBC Saturday, but don't want to look like a novice when you place your bet?

Last year New Jersey-owned American Pharoah won in 2:03.2, on his way to a Triple Crown championship. American Pharoah became the 12th Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed in 1978.

Nyquist is expected to be the favorite for Saturday's 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, with Exaggerator and Mohaymen also favored.

For all you inexperienced bettors out there, here's a quick guide to betting on the Kentucky Derby that'll have you sounding like a serious handicapper by the time Nyquist approaches the starting gate.

DECODING THE LINGO

Odds-on many racing newcomers may not know what the odds actually mean. Whenever there are two numbers (e.g., 3:1 for Nyquist  at time of writing according to VegasInsider.com) displayed on a tote board at a racetrack or on a list of wager options, the first number (3) denotes the minimum amount of profit the wager will pay. The second number (1) is the amount you need to wager to win the first amount.

Once the final finishing places of a race are official, the track will post the prices of the winning wagers. In the above example, the horse will pay $3. The track will then add the $3 profit and the $1 wager together to derive the payout: $3 + $1 = $4. Exaggerator at 5:1 would therefore pay $6 on a $1 bet.

If a horse is quoted with only a single digit, it is implied that the missing second number is a 1. In other words, a 7 on the tote board means 7:1. So if you made a $2 wager, a bet on a horse with 7:1 odds would pay $16. That's because 7:1 is the same as 14:2, so $14 + $2 = $16. (In betting on horse races, payouts are generally based on a $2 wager.)

Now that the odds makes sense, it’s time to decide the type of wager you want to make. Here are some of the most popular bets:

Win Your horse must finish first to collect.

Place Your horse must finish first or second to collect.

Show Your horse must finish first, second or third to collect.

Exacta You play two horses, and they must come in first and second in the exact order specified in order to collect.

Exacta Box You play two horses, as above, but here they must come in first and second in either order to collect.

Trifecta You play three horses, and to win, they must come in first, second and third in exact order to collect.

Trifecta Box You play three horses, and they must finish first, second and third in any order to collect.

Superfecta You play four horses, and they must come in first, second, third and fourth in exact order.

Superfecta Box You play four horses, and to win they must finish first, second, third and fourth in any order.

SPECIAL CONDITIONS

But novice bettors need to take into account more than just the odds for the Kentucky Derby. To further boost your chances of making a winning bet on May 7, you should also consider the following:

Distance: The Kentucky Derby is run over a distance of a mile and a quarter. Few three-year-olds will have had prior experience in such a long race. Some horses are ‘bred to distance’ and are usually a better candidate than one without a lineage of success at long races that put a premium on endurance.

Schedule: One of the most significant reasons that winning the Triple Crown is such a rare event is the grueling schedule of the three races. While the ideal layoff between races varies from horse to horse, most high level equine competitors race fewer than 10 times per year. In most cases, thoroughbreds seldom race without a break of three weeks to a month. For a Triple Crown aspirant, however, it’s necessary to win three very competitive races in a five-week span. In recent years there has been a trend away from horses running in all three legs unless they’re in contention for the Triple Crown. For this reason, it’s worth giving special consideration to 'rested' horses.

Weather/Track Condition: If there is a chance for bad weather and/or an off track it’s essential to consider that when handicapping the race. One good measure of a horse’s ability in this type of race can be found with a quick look at past performances. If a young horse has any experience on a muddy or sloppy track that’s a good indication that his connections have confidence in his abilities in these circumstances.

Coverage of the Kentucky Derby will air live Saturday May 7 starting at 4 p.m. ET on NBC.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Triple Crown: 5 Movies to Put You in the Racing Mood]]> Thu, 19 May 2016 10:55:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Secretariat_poster.jpg

The quest for the Triple Crown continues on May 21 when the 141st Preakness Stakes gets underway.

The Preakness Stakes (broadcast live from from 5 p.m. ET on NBC) is the second leg of the fabled Triple Crown incorporating the Kentucky Derby, the and the Belmont Stakes.

Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist will start from the No. 3 gate at the Preakness, seeking to keep alive his hopes of winning the Triple Crown. American Pharoah became only the twelfth horse to win the Crown after taking the trifecta with a win at the Belmont Stakes in 2015.  

Horse racing has spurred many big screen features over the last century, from the Marx Brother's "A Day at the Races" (1937) to "Boots Malone" (1953), "The Black Stallion" (1979) and "Dreamer" (2005).

Here, five movies about horses and horse racing sure to put you in the mood for Saturday's gallop to the winner's circle.

"Secretariat" (2010)

In 1973 the titular, record-breaking thoroughbred won the Triple Crown for the first time in 25 years and set race records in all three events – the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. All three records still stand today. While this Disney movie celebrates the animal that became known as "America's Superhorse," it also focuses on his owner Penny Tweedy (Diane Lane), a housewife and mother who, with little training experience, takes over management of the family thoroughbred farm after her mother's death and her father (Scott Glenn) becomes ill. With the help of veteran trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich), Tweedy fosters Secretariat into the winner's circle, the history books, and the hearts of Americans.

"Seabiscuit" (2003)

Based on the book "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" by Laura Hillenbrand ("Unbroken"), this biopic follows the undersized thoroughbred whose track victories propelled him to become a symbol of hope to Americans during the Great Depression. First brought to the big screen in 1949's "The Story of Seabiscuit," the tale was recreated by Universal Pictures in 2003 and focused on three men: jockey Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire), owner Charles S. Howard (Jeff Bridges) and trainer Tom Smith (Chris Cooper).

"National Velvet" (1944)

This Technicolor gem stars Mickey Rooney, Angela Lansbury, Donald Crisp and a young Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor plays Velvet Brown who wins a spirited gelding in a raffle in her small English town and decides to train him for the Grand National Steeplechase with the help of a former jockey (Rooney) who has a checkered past. The film was awarded two Academy Awards: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Revere) and Best Film Editing; made Taylor a household name, and spawned the 1978 sequel "International Velvet" starring Tatum O'Neal, Christopher Plummer and Anthony Hopkins.

"Phar Lap" (1983)

This movie chronicles the story of the much-loved Australian racehorse Phar Lap and the stable hand Tommy Woodcock (Tom Burlinson) who helps set the thoroughbred on a course to victory. Phar Lap raced to stardom in the 1930s, winning the Melbourne Cup and 22 other weight for age races. His final victory was at the Agua Caliente Handicap in Tijuana, Mexico in track-record time. At the time of Phar Lap's death in 1932, he was the third highest stakes winner in the world.

"Let It Ride" (1989)

Richard Dreyfus stars in this comedy that focuses more on betting than the actual racing. As the aptly named Jay Trotter, Dreyfus is a down-on-his-luck cab driver who gets a hot racing tip and wins big. And then wins big again. And again. But will his winning streak last? In bringing to life a day at the track, including all the weird and wonderful hangers-on, Dreyfus leads a band of character actors that includes Teri Garr, David Johansen, Jennifer Tilly, Cynthia Nixon, Allen Garfield and Robbie Coltrane.



Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures
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<![CDATA[What We Learned From American Pharoah's Preakness Win]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 11:27:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/American-Pharoah-Preakness-15-May-2015.jpg

That was easy, wasn't it?

Two weeks after struggling but winning the Kentucky Derby, American Pharoah ignored thunder, lightning, rain and the opposition and splashed his way to a seven-length victory in the Preakness on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.

And now, it's on to the Belmont Stakes on June 6 for a shot at the Triple Crown and racing immortality.

"He's just an amazing horse," trainer Bob Baffert glowed after winning his sixth Preakness. "Everyone talks about the greatness, and it's just starting to show now. To me, they have to prove it. Today, the way he did it, he just ran so fast. It was like poetry in motion."

Here are some things learned about American Pharoah from the Preakness:

POST POSITION

Inside or outside, American Pharoah is one tough customer. Saddled with an unfavorable No. 1 post, the 3-year-old colt broke a bit slow, but was urged to the lead by jockey Victor Espinoza. In the eight-horse field, only Mr. Z gave chase but for just a little while. AP, as owner Ahmed Zayat sometimes calls him, motored along the rail and cruised home for his sixth straight win. In the Derby, he drew the No. 18 post, started from No. 16 after two horses were scratched, and won by a length despite not being on his A game. For the upcoming Belmont Stakes, at 1 1/2 miles the longest and most grueling of the three races, post position won't be an issue. By the way, the last horse to win the Preakness from the No. 1 post before Saturday was Tabasco Cat in 1994.

NO SLOP FOR YOU

Rain or shine, track condition is not a problem. American Pharoah gave every indication he could deal with a torrential downpour two months ago in Arkansas. A champion as a 2-year-old, his debut this year came in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He won there, too, by 6 1/4 lengths. So once the skies opened on Saturday, there wasn't too much concern about how the sloppy track would affect his performance. "So much rain we had, and so much water, it's insane," winning jockey Victor Espinoza said. "American Pharoah was traveling super in there." How bad was it? "I saw a picture of the track with a river running on the rail, and I thought he's got to run through that?" Baffert said.

BIGGER, STRONGER

A two-week turnaround took nothing out of American Pharoah. Maybe it did, but it didn't look that way. His stride was a graceful as ever — much better than it was in the Derby — and as Baffert says, he "floats over the track wherever he goes." In the weeks leading up to the Belmont, though, Baffert knows that can change. After all, this will be the trainer's fourth attempt to give racing its first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. American Pharoah has won six of his seven lifetime starts, and looks as strong as ever. Then again, 2004 Derby winner Smarty Jones looked awesome, too, after his record 11 1/2-length win in the Preakness — but three weeks later in the Belmont, he was run down in the final yards by Birdstone. "I've seen horses that you don't see it until two weeks later (after the Preakness)," Baffert said. "That's when it starts showing up on these horses. I've been through it. About two weeks out, you'll start seeing if it's getting to them a little bit, and that's why it's so difficult (to win a Triple Crown).

COTTON PICKIN' RAIN

So now we all know American Pharoah is fitted with ear plugs — or else his ears are stuffed with cotton — for his races, because he's sensitive to noise. Not a good thing for a horse going for a Triple Crown and performing before 100,000-plus fans. Nonetheless, the cotton worked again, and he was as attentive as he needed to be. He may have covered the 1 3-16 miles in the slow time of 1:58.46, but he finished ahead of everyone else and was not distracted. "I could tell they (the horses) didn't like it when they got pelted like that," Baffert said. "And I was worried about the cotton balls in his ears. How is he going to react? Maybe I should take them out." No need.

CAN HE DO IT?

Can American Pharoah end a 37-year Triple Crown drought that began after Affirmed became the 11th horse to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 1978. Here's a sampling of opinions from three Triple Crown winning connections:

Penny Chenery (owner, Secretariat): "The question will be how quickly he recovers and doesn't lose too much weight. He seems to have a level head, though, and seems to be in command of his talents."

Steve Cauthen (jockey, Affirmed): "He looks like the real deal."

Ron Turcotte (jockey, Secretariat): "The sport needs a Triple Crown winner and he could very well be the one."

THE OPPOSITION

Now that American Pharoah has dusted off his rivals in the Derby and Preakness, who's left to take him on in the Belmont? Well, it sure looks like a bunch of Derby also-rans who skipped the Preakness are going to show up in a bid to play Triple Crown spoiler. Among them are a bunch trained by Todd Pletcher: Materiality (sixth in the Derby), Carpe Diem (10th) and Peter Pan Stakes winner Madefromlucky. Also probable are Frosted (fourth in the Derby), Keen Ice (seventh), Mubtaahij (eighth) and Frammento (11th). "I really don't think about the third leg yet," Baffert said. "It's going to be tough. I've always said this is the easiest of the three legs, and the next race is going to be ... everybody right now is sharpening their knives getting ready."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Racing in Their Bones: Behind Top Jockeys' Dynasties]]> Fri, 15 May 2015 15:42:46 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/american+pharoah+derby+race.JPG

Javier Castellano would never have been a jockey if his father had had his way.

Abel Castellano had ridden horses for almost 30 years in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and broken ribs and a shoulder along the way. He knew how tough the job was.

But his son Javier would awaken as a child and get out of bed when his father returned from the track. Javier fell in love with racing, and once he finished high school, he followed his father to the track.

"I always looked up to him, because he was a great jockey," said Javier, 37, the top thoroughbred jockey in wins and earnings heading into the Preakness Stakes this weekend.

“It’s very risky, but it’s a beautiful sport,” he said.

On Saturday in Baltimore, he will ride Divining Rod in the second leg of the Triple Crown. The race will take all his concentration, he said, and it's easier when his family understands the pressures he faces.

Many riders in this year's Triple Crown come from long lineages of jockeys, trainers and agents — mostly men, though occasionally women. In families with deep roots in racing, the jockeys grow up around stables, learn from their fathers and uncles and root for their siblings in their races.

Trevor McCarthy, 20, knew by the first grade that he wanted to be jockey like his father, Michael.

As a boy, Trevor would go with his father to the Delaware Park Racetrack in Wilmington, first riding the ponies that led the horses to the post, then the horses themselves. He credits his father with much of his success.

"He’s put a lot of effort into making me the rider I am," McCarthy said.

McCarthy — who will be on Bodhisattva on Saturday, his 21st birthday — said he always looked up to his father, a jockey turned trainer and jockey's agent who also gallops horses in the mornings.

“He loves it, he loves that I ride," he said. "Sometimes he gets a bit nervous watching, a bit nervous and concerned at times, but overall he loves it."

His mother, who competed in barrel races in high school in upstate New York, is just as proud, he said.

Competing against McCarthy, the Preakness' youngest rider, will be Gary Stevens, a racing veteran who at 52 will be the oldest jockey at Pimlico on Saturday and who like his young rival was raised among horses, their trainers and jockeys.

Stevens twice returned to racing after he had retired, and has acted in the 2003 movie “Seabiscuit” and worked as a racing analyst for NBC Sports and other outlets during his time away from the track. Two weeks ago, Stevens rode Firing Line in the Kentucky Derby, finishing second to American Pharoah. He has previously won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont stakes three times each.

Stevens was raised around horses in Boise, Idaho, the youngest of three boys. His brother Scott is also a jockey, and his brother Craig is a jockey agent and horse trainer. Their father is a horse trainer; their mother was a rodeo queen.

"She could ride, and she’s pretty,” he said.

Only Stevens' wife, Angie, does not ride.

All of the Stevens brothers played sports — football, baseball and wrestling — and they hunted and fished.

“We all wanted to play pro football, except for my middle brother Scott," Stevens said. "He always just wanted to be a jockey.”

He called all of his brothers in the days before the Preakness, and though they did talk about horses, no one brought up Saturday’s race.

"It’s kind of my peaceful time,” Stevens said. “It was more little brother calling his two big brothers, and just getting some free time off of not worrying about the Preakness. Sort of going back to my childhood with my brothers."

The bond of brotherhood also looms large for Victor Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah to victory at the Kentucky Derby and hopes to do the same Saturday. His older brother was also a jockey.

Espinoza, now 42, grew up on a farm in Hidalgo, Mexico, playing soccer, baseball, basketball — every sport but golf. He rode horses, but he was afraid of them.

“I had no clue about racing,” he said. “My family, they never were interested in the races. We are farmers.”

But Espinoza followed his older brother Jose to Cancun, where the two brothers learned to train horses, and eventually moved to California to ride them.

Victor never chose to become a jockey, he said. He rode horses to survive, for what he thought would be a short time.

“For me, it's not just a fun thing,” he said. “It's a job that I have to do.”

It's also a job that has profoundly affected his brother, who suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was thrown from a horse crossing the finish line in Saratoga in 2013. Jose no longer rides, and his brother says his condition is improving.

Though Jose was in Baltimore last year to watch his brother ride California Chrome in the Preakness, he will not travel this year. But he will watch the race, Victor Espinoza said.

"I try not to bring it up at all," Victor said of his brother’s injury. "For me, I just want him to be 100 percent."

Castellano, who will ride Divining Rod on Saturday, is reminded daily of the risks, too. His wife Abby, the daughter of the national director of the Jockeys' Guild, grasps the sacrifices he must make, he said.

Castellano loves his sport but appreciates how dangerous it can be. He must watch his weight. He has little time off. He travels in the winter from his home in New York to race in Florida. The first year, his wife moved with him, and they enrolled the children in school in Florida for three months, but the disruption wasn't good for them, he said. So now they stay in New York, and he is separated from them.

"It's a funny business," he said. “You can be in the top right now, and then if I spill, you can die or you can be paralyzed.”

His daughters cared more about the hats at the Kentucky Derby than about riding, he said, but there is also his 2-year-old son.

Would he like his son to follow him to the racetrack?

"I don't want to talk about that," he said, laughing, though he admitted he would support his son if he wanted to be a jockey. How could he not? he asked.



Photo Credit: AP]]>