<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - ]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/feature/triple-crown http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.comen-usTue, 30 May 2017 08:56:05 -0400Tue, 30 May 2017 08:56:05 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Triple Crown: Top Stories]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 12:31:29 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[Preakness Stakes: Triple Crown's Second Jewel]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 11:13:34 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[Road to the Triple Crown]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 11:36:48 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[Kentucky Derby: A Look Back]]> Thu, 19 May 2016 10:59:20 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[Belmont Stakes: 'Test of the Champion']]> Fri, 19 May 2017 11:22:24 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[American Pharoah's Historic Feat]]> Tue, 02 May 2017 13:47:33 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/American_Pharoah.jpg

Photo Credit: Invision for Longines via AP ]]>
<![CDATA[Outrageous Kentucky Derby Hats]]> Sat, 04 May 2013 18:21:55 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/edt-168014126_10.jpg See the biggest, craziest and most outrageous hats at the 139th Kentucky Derby.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Is the Preakness' Trophy the Most Expensive in US Sports?]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 14:50:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/preakness-trophy.jpg

The owner of the horse that wins this weekend’s Preakness Stakes will get an oversized floral garland, 15 minutes of fame and a copy of a storied trophy that's said to be the most valuable in American sports.

The Woodlawn Vase, an ornate, Tiffany-designed solid sterling silver piece dating back to 1860 is touted as “the most expensive trophy in American sports” by Preakness officials. A 1983 insurance appraisal valued the vase, which stands 34 inches tall and weighs 29 pounds, at $1 million. Today it is estimated to be worth $4 million.

What makes the vase so valuable?

It was designed by luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co., but so were many major American sports trophies: the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy, the World Series trophy, the U.S. Open trophy.

But the Woodlawn Vase was the first sports trophy designed by Tiffany. 

It’s also arguably the most ornate of the major American sports trophies. The vase is covered in inscriptions and emblems and topped with four winged victories and, finally, with a jockey mounted on a stallion.

The vase "may be the most spectacular example in sports for its great craftsmanship by Tiffany. It also may have the best back story," said longtime sports memorabilia appraiser Leila Dunbar in an email.

The Woodlawn Vase carries a great deal of history. During the Civil War, when competitive racing was put on hold, the Woodlawn Vase was buried to keep it from being discovered and melted into shot. It was disinterred when the race resumed in 1866.

Four million dollars is a lot of money — you could buy four million-dollar yachts with that. But is the Woodlawn Vase really the most expensive trophy in American sports?

The FIFA World Cup Trophy, created in 1974, is said to be worth as much as $20 million — its outer layer is 18-carat gold and it weighs 13 pounds. But Dunbar is skeptical of the $20 million estimate.

"While it weighs more than 13 pounds of 18K gold, which today is about $270,000, it is difficult, given the market and past sale of the FA Cup, to see it valued more than several million dollars."

Regardless, FIFA isn’t strictly an American sport, so its golden trophy can’t steal the Woodlawn’s thunder anyway.

Other American sports trophies have rough estimated values hovering in the tens of thousands, but none are reported to be worth as much as a million dollars.

"The folks at Wimbledon Lawn and Tennis Club, the USGA (U.S. Golf Association) and the R&A (The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews) might also claim that their trophies, for the tournaments that they represent, are in that range," Dunbar says. "However, the Preakness trophy does have greater artistic value and therefore may win by a nose."

Maj. Michael Singletary, the vice president of security operations for the Maryland Jockey Club at Pimlico Park, confirmed that the vase is insured for $4 million. Singletary is in charge of overseeing the careful transport of the vase five miles from its permanent home, the Baltimore Museum of Art, to the racetrack on the week of the Preakness.

Two armed police officers pick up the vase, he said. “They have to wear white gloves to handle it — no one is allowed to touch the vase.”

As the vase is moved around the park for various pre-race events throughout the week, the two armed and gloved officers carry it and stand guard over it.

Even the owners of the winning horses aren’t allowed to touch it. Because the vase is so valuable, winners have not been able to take the prize home since 1953. They each receive replicas, which stand 14 inches tall and are worth around $30,000. Jockeys and trainers get replicas as well — though theirs stand 12 inches tall. 

While Singletary did concede that the vase is insured for $4 million, his initial and persistent response regarding the value of the Woodlawn Vase was that it’s “priceless.”

Photo Credit: The Baltimore Museum of Art/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Triple Crown Glory: American Pharoah Makes History]]> Tue, 02 May 2017 12:39:22 -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[Horse Racing Terms for Derby Beginners]]> Sat, 03 May 2014 15:40:13 -0400 Derby A Derby is a type of horse race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses. The Kentucky Derby is a famous example of such a race. The same racetrack that hosts the Kentucky Derby also hosts the Kentucky Oaks, another three-year-old thoroughbred race. The Oaks, however, is restricted to fillies, female horses that are too young to be called mares.]]> Derby A Derby is a type of horse race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses. The Kentucky Derby is a famous example of such a race. The same racetrack that hosts the Kentucky Derby also hosts the Kentucky Oaks, another three-year-old thoroughbred race. The Oaks, however, is restricted to fillies, female horses that are too young to be called mares.]]> http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/484298019.jpg Horse-racing is a complicated sport, made no easier by the wealth of confusing terms and definitions. Click through to brush up on your equestrian vocabulary in time for the Kentucky Derby.

Photo Credit: Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Get Ready for the Preakness 2017]]> Sat, 13 May 2017 13:28:35 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/preakness-race2.jpg
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Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Yea or Neigh? Guess the Real Racehorse Name]]> Sat, 06 May 2017 12:11:55 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Zandar.JPG

Picking a winning name for a racehorse takes creativity, style and an ability to navigate the various rules and standards tied to Thoroughbred registration. See if you can guess which of the following monikers belong to actual registered racehorses, and which are real people or fictional characters. 

Photo Credit: Mike Piazza/Zilla Racing Tables
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<![CDATA[Victory and Defeat: Triple Crown Attempts]]> Tue, 02 May 2017 12:37:23 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/450243204.jpg See all the emotional reaction from past Triple Crown attempts, both the wins and the losses.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[What Makes a Triple Crown-Winning Horse?]]> Sat, 06 May 2017 12:18:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-480966886.jpg

This story was originally published in 2016. Watch the 2017 Kentucky Derby live Saturday at 6:20 p.m. ET.

"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. [[306599991, C]]

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[Thoroughbred, Friesian, Appaloosa: Know Your Horse Breeds]]> Tue, 02 May 2017 12:39:44 -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.


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 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.


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.


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['Tonight Show': Puppies Predict the 2017 Kentucky Derby]]> Sat, 06 May 2017 02:18:16 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/Screen+Shot+2017-05-06+at+1.30.45+AM.png

Jimmy welcomes back his panel of puppies to predict the results of the 143rd Kentucky Derby.

<![CDATA[Jockey Makes Derby Comeback After Spill That Fractured Spine]]> Fri, 05 May 2017 12:13:31 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/Screen+Shot+2017-05-04+at+7.58.15+PM.png

After a 16-month recovery from injuries that could easily kill a person, jockey Rajiv Maragh has made a remarkable comeback and will race on the back of Irish War Cry at the 143th Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Maragh fractured his spine, broke his ribs and had a collapsed lung when Yourcreditisgood landed on him during a 2015 race at Belmont Park.

Photo Credit: NBC Sports]]>
<![CDATA[Comeback: Jockey Heads to Kentucky Derby After Gruesome Fall]]> Fri, 05 May 2017 10:43:33 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP_17121640425388.jpg

When Rajiv Maragh mounts Irish War Cry at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, he will cap a comeback from a spill that left him with broken ribs, a broken back and a collapsed lung, injuries that kept him out of racing for 16 months.

Maragh was riding Yourcreditisgood at Belmont Park on July 2015 when another horse veered in his path. The two horses' heels clipped and Yourcreditisgood fell on top of Maragh.

“I knew I was pretty badly injured. When I fell, the horse fell on top of my back,” said Maragh, 31. “I was in a lot of pain, I couldn’t breathe. Afterwards, I found out it was because I had a collapsed lung. I felt like I was fighting for my life.”

Maragh gained prominence when he swept four Breeders’ Cup races from 2011-2013, but his 13-year racing career has been marred by severe injuries. Before the 2015 accident, he fractured his spine twice, broke his arm, fractured his pelvis and collarbone and had a severe concussion that resulted in a 2-week memory loss.

“It was a rollercoaster, the last few years. I feel like I got everything out of the way,” Maragh said of his injuries.

Falling off a horse that’s running at 40 mph is a gamble jockeys take every race. Perched on top of a large, heavy and fast-moving animal, jockeys are completely exposed, with very little equipment to cushion a collision or a fall. Jockeys' Guild, the union that represents the riders, has been working to make the sport safer by collecting information about injuries and spearheading a concussion management protocol.

In 2012, the Jockey’s Guild launched a Jockey Injury Database aimed at collecting where, when and how injuries occurred; what type of equipment riders were wearing; and the nature and severity of the injuries.

The data will be analyzed for trends and used to help choose rider safety equipment and racetrack surface types and address other safety concerns. There is no cost to tracks to participate in the project and the data entry is not mandatory. Not all tracks are on board, so the guild still does the bulk of data collection.

“Any time there’s a horse that doesn’t finish, we get an alert, we look at the race chart and contact the rider and see what happened,” said Jeff Johnston, the guild's regional manager. “I think all racetracks appreciate we’re doing this. We’re still progressing, but it certainly has been a lot more work on us and we hope to get more industry support.”

In the U.S., there is no single governing body that oversees racing, and that’s been an obstacle to achieving progress in the area of jockey safety, experts say. It’s especially evident in how jockeys' concussions are handled, they said.

Concussions typically cause a headache, mental fuzziness, memory loss, some confusion, lightheadedness and balance problems. Many symptoms are short lived, but often a rider may not know they had a concussion and they get back on a horse to run another race.

“From my experience having a concussion, you don’t really know you have a concussion — when you have a concussion, you think you’re in a fine shape,” Maragh said. “Even football players or anyone at the moment think they’re fine; they don’t know what happened.

"If you feel like you’re fine and you’re a jockey you’re going to ride a race," he continued. "One way you’re going to make money is ride a race, you’re not going to stop."

Unlike the major U.S. sports leagues or international horse racing authorities in the U.K. or Ireland, U.S. racing has yet to implement a standard for diagnosing and managing concussions in jockeys.

According to the Jockey Injury Database, 14 percent of injuries in riders from 2012 to 2017 were concussions. The database, however, isn’t comprehensive and there is also no way to know how many retired jockeys could be suffering the effects of repeated concussions.

But with a recent spotlight on sports-related concussions and the deaths of high-profile athletes who developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease caused by repeated head trauma, the guild recognized that the concussion management plan has been missing from horse racing.

In June 2016, the guild started a three-year pilot study designed to evolve into the first comprehensive concussion management protocol for jockeys in the U.S. The union worked in partnership with the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences, thoroughbred tracks in Kentucky, National Thoroughbred Racing Association and other organizations.

As part of the study, a specially trained health care provider assesses a jockey’s physical and cognitive function using the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool test. The baseline score from the test — which looks at coordination and memory and orientation — can then be used to compare against a jockey's responses after a fall to determine whether he sustained a concussion.

“You can’t fix it and you can’t prevent [concussions], but what you can do is to try to manage it better,” said Carl Mattacola, associate dean of academic and faculty affairs at the College of Health Sciences at the University of Kentucky who oversees the pilot study at all of Kentucky’s thoroughbred racetracks, including Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Turfway Park and Kentucky Downs. “What we’re trying to do is provide health care that is at a similar level as the other professional sports.”

A jockey who races with a concussion risks multiplying its severity and its long-term consequences. Riding with a concussion also endangers the other jockeys in the race and the horses because the rider's decision-making and reaction time can be compromised.

When Maragh had a severe concussion about a decade ago while racing at Belmont Park in New York, he lost consciousness for about five minutes after he fell and a horse stepped on his head. He woke up in excruciating pain when paramedics were loading him into an ambulance.

“At first, I thought my legs were broken; both legs felt like the femur had snapped. I was telling the paramedic, my legs are snapped in two, they are hanging off,” Maragh said. “That was the message from the brain, they felt like they were snapped in two. I passed out and when I got to the hospital, I woke up with the worst headache, I was telling them to check my brain, do a CT scan. There was a hoof print on my skull on the scan.”

Maragh spent several days in the hospital and his then-girlfriend came from Florida to take care of him.

“I had bad headaches for two weeks. Two weeks went by and I only remember two hours of the two weeks after I left the hospital,” Maragh said. “Im sure I had to get cleared to ride again after but I don’t remember anything."

Maragh said it was his only diagnosed concussion during his professional career. His first concussion happened when he was 12 years old in his native Jamaica.

That's when he snuck into a racetrack where his dad was a jockey and pretended he was an apprentice rider, wearing his dad’s gear. But when he got on the track, the horse threw him off and Maragh hit his head. When he got home he began vomiting and passing out. He spent two days in the hospital and had amnesia.

Since 2004, all jockeys riding on British Horse Racing Authority tracks have been required to undergo baseline neuropsychological testing annually in order to be licensed. While the concussion protocol is not mandatory for jockeys in the U.S., tracks like Keeneland are moving to change that.

Dr. Barry Schumer, Keeneland’s medical director, has been advocating for a standarized approach to jockeys' medical care. Starting in October, he said, all jockeys have to have their baseline concussion testing performed before they compete at the track. He hopes that move, as well as sharing information from the concussion pilot study at industry meetings and conferences, will get other tracks to follow along.

Schumer said smaller racetracks may be more reluctant to get on board because of costs associated with having a medical professional conduct the baseline for concussions. Other tracks simply want to do things their way, he said. He’s hopeful, however, that more tracks and more jockeys continue to recognize the danger of untreated concussions.

“Each jockey is an independent contractor… their job is as risky as in any sport, if not riskier,” Schumer said. “When they get injured, they can’t ride and when they can’t ride they can’t get paid. They are resistant to health mandates because they would rather get back on the horse with a headache than miss a paycheck. Part of this whole process is educating the riders about the importance of all this.”

Mattacola said he’s made presentations to jockeys about the concussion protocol, explaining that most high schools and colleges in Kentucky have medical staff that includes a physician and an athletic trainer who provide care if someone should get injured, including concussions, so that they don’t suffer long-term complications.

“We told jockeys, our role is not to hold you out, our role is to to protect you if we think there’s something serious going on,” Mattacola said. “The role of the physician or health care provider is to get you out there to race safely."

Racing this spring, with his sights fixed on the top prize at Churchill Downs, Maragh said he tries not to dwell on the 2015 spill that left him wearing a body brace and bedridden for weeks, or on the potential health effects down the line from his injuries or undiagnosed concussions he may have had.

"I choose to be a jockey and there's a always a risk of danger and injury and you can't let that blur your vision or riding," said Maragh, who has won more than 70 races since November. "If that's going to be the case, better off not riding. Anything that happens to me on the racetrack I take it as it comes. I'm just happy to be out there, I don't have any fear at all."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[The Top Horses Contending to Race the 2017 Kentucky Derby]]> Fri, 21 Apr 2017 12:15:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-648033112_master.jpg As the official start of the Triple Crown nears, here's a look at the top 10 highest ranked horses.

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.


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.


  • 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[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[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.


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[Seven Ways to Fake Being a Racing Expert]]> Sat, 06 May 2017 11:58:40 -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 Kentucky Derby.

For all the pomp and circumstance at the track at Churchill Downs, the real focus Saturday will be on the track.

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 12 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 American Pharoah, in 2015.

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?

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 the 2014 Triple Crown contender California Chrome, 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 wanted the rules tweaked so that only colts that run the Preakness can compete at Belmont.

He said that 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."

A year later, the decades-long Triple Crown drought came to a close as American Pharoah galloped to victory at Belmont, but there has been 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[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

This story was originally published in 2015. Watch the 2017 Kentucky Derby on NBC Saturday at 6:20 p.m. ET.

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.

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.

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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