Among race horses, Secretariat is revered as one of the best of all time. His legacy was captured in the 2010 movie "Secretariat," which tells the story of the thoroughbred's Triple Crown victory.
Union Rags roared from behind to win the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, one day after the winner of the first two legs of horse racing's fabled Triple Crown dropped out due to an injury.
CNN's Richard Roth talks to analyst Richard Migliore about how the Belmont Stakes shapes up without I'll Have Another.
ELMONT, N.Y.-- Late Friday morning, a cluster of photographers was gathered inside the rail at Belmont Park, staking out positions for the hundreds of cameras that would be put in place to capture horse racing history a day later. In the parking lots surrounding the big racetrack, portable lighting towers were in place to illuminate the acres of parking lots that surround the oval. Inside, workers applied paint and polish to the grandstand and clubhouse, readying for what would surely approach a record crowd of 120,000 as I'll Have Another would attempt to become the first horse in 34 years to win the Triple Crown.
I'll Have Another, the winner of this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, is out of Saturday's Belmont Stakes because of a leg injury and has been retired from racing, his team said.
Owner J. Paul Reddam announces that I'll Have Another won't compete for Triple Crown.
Do you know who Fonso was? Or how about Hindoo?
Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another will not race in Belmont due to injury. CNN's Richard Roth reports.
BELMONT, N.Y. -- Late Friday morning, a cluster of photographers was gathered inside the homestretch rail at Belmont Park, staking out positions for the hundreds of cameras that would be put in place to capture horse racing history a day later. In the parking lots surrounding the big racetrack in Queens, portable lighting towers were readied for use in illuminating the acres of parking lots that surround the oval. Inside, workers applied paint and polish to the grandstand and clubhouse, readying for what would surely approach the record crowd of more than 120,000, as I'll Have Another attempted to become the first horse in 34 years to win the Triple Crown. Three weeks of anticipation were nearly over.
A workers strike at Belmont Park racetrack has been averted just in time for the track to host I'll Have Another's attempt at the Triple Crown title on Saturday.
A possible workers strike at Belmont Park racetrack on Long Island, New York, could rein in I'll Have Another's chance at the coveted Triple Crown title on Saturday.
Together, their ages total 156 years. That is more, even, than the 143 Belmont Stakes that have been run, leading to Saturday's renewal, with a Triple Crown at stake. And while in this place and time, there is much about horse racing that is troublesome, one of the beauties of the game is that it reaches across generations. Many sports are only for the young, while others watch, coach, write. Racing does not check IDs at the door.
ELMONT, New York -- Early last Wednesday afternoon, Doug O'Neill was on his cellphone conducting a telephone interview. Since O'Neill trains I'll Have Another, who next Saturday will try to become horse racing's first Triple Crown winner in 34 years, O'Neill has been doing a lot of this for the past month. At shortly after 1 p.m., he got a call waiting notification from his publicist, Kelly Wietsma. O'Neill paused his interview and went to Wietsma, who said, "We have to talk.''
California horse-racing authorities handed the trainer of Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another a 45-day suspension Thursday stemming from a 2010 race with another horse, but cleared him of giving that horse an energy-boosting cocktail.
Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another surged to a surprise win Saturday at the 137th running of the Preakness Stakes, keeping its hopes for the coveted Triple Crown alive.
A popular trainer faces accusations for using performance-enhancing substances on his horses. Ed Lavendera reports.
Most of them never see it coming. They work training racehorses, getting up before dawn to labor in a space where big trucks regularly pull up alongside their office and haul away piles of hay that are saturated with horse manure and urine. They might be successful in their own world (wealthy, even), but to the broader universe of sports and culture they are anonymous.
CNN's Ed Lavandera speaks to the son of a barn hand who was killed at Churchill Downs.
Wilson Perez believes his father's killer is one of the hundreds of stable workers who live and care for horses in an area known as the "backside" of the Churchill Downs horse racing grounds.
A medical examiner is investigating the death of a 48-year-old stable worker named Adan Fabian Perez, a Guatemala native discovered in the back of a barn at Churchill Downs one day after the storied Louisville racetrack hosted the Kentucky Derby.
CNN's Joe Carter reports from the 138th Kentucky Derby on a stunning victory from "I'll Have Another".
I'll Have Another cut loose on the home stretch to run down Bodemeister and earn the first Kentucky Derby wins for his rider and trainer Saturday.
Calvin Borel, known as "The Paint Stripper," has taken three of the last five runnings of the Kentucky Derby.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- He remembers everything from the last time. The last time that really mattered, that is. That was six years ago, when thoroughbred horse trainer Michael Matz brought a giant, unbeaten three-year-old colt named Barbaro to Churchill Downs and left in very real pursuit of the Triple Crown. And then the plot thickened like few others in the history of the sport.
CNN takes a closer look at Venezuelan jockey Ramon Dominguez, just days before he races in the Kentucky Derby.
Michael Matz has spent a lifetime working with horses -- first as a member of the U.S. showjumping team that won the silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and more recently as a trainer of racehorses. But he will always be remembered for just one: Barbaro.
Churchill Downs in Kentucky is shut down after being damaged by a powerful storm. WHAS reports.
A powerful storm system that ripped through the Louisville, Kentucky, area left thousands of people without power and forced the closing of the internationally famous Churchill Downs racetrack on Thursday.
Here are five things we learned from Saturday's 143rd running of the Belmont Stakes:
The Belmont Stakes, the final leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, is being billed as Round 3 between Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and Preakness Stakes champ Shackleford. That marketing hype -- in lieu of a Triple Crown attempt, build up the best storyline and pray for a healthy turnout -- is understandable though a bit shortsighted. The top seven finishers from the Kentucky Derby are back to contest the Belmont, making Saturday's "Test of the Champion" more than just a two-horse race.
Preakness Stakes stories in the SI Vault
Five things we learned from the 136th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico:
Congratulations to all who had Animal Kingdom winning the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago. This handicapping column did not have the chestnut colt as its top selection. (He was sixth on the list.) But as he returns to the track in Saturday's Preakness Stakes with a chance to add the second leg of the Triple Crown, we have enthusiastically jumped on the Animal Kingdom bandwagon.
ELKTON, Md. -- Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom has spent the last 11 days at home in a place called Fair Hill, which sounds like a '90s Hugh Grant movie (a bad one, just to be clear). But Fair Hill is actually a sensational place for a horse, as thoroughbred trainers like to say, to be a horse, instead of an object of pari-mutuel angst and media scrutiny, which is what the stately beasts become as soon as they are unloaded from a van and placed into a stakes barn somewhere.
(Each month SI.com highlights a selected group in the sports media who have proven newsworthy, both for positive and negative achievements.)
Every year my Kentucky Derby day ends roughly the same way: A couple hours of chasing down owners, trainers, jockeys and various others connected to the race and its winner, followed by a 28-minute walk from Churchill Downs back to my hotel to write the story of the race for SI. (My personal best on this walk is 26 minutes, but there can still be crowds, which slow it down; occasionally it's raining, which can be hell on a cheap suit.)
Jockeyed by a man who'd never ridden it in a race, Animal Kingdom made a late charge Saturday to win the 137th edition of the Kentucky Derby.
Nineteen horses and their riders geared up on Saturday for the nation's most celebrated horse race -- and first leg of the Triple Crown -- as an estimated 150,000 spectators gathered to watch the 137th edition of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Five things we learned from a wild and wide-open Kentucky Derby ...
Each morning about 5, every morning without fail, Kathy Ritvo is at the track, always the most dependable 100-to-1 shot on the grounds.
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on Kathy Ritvo, who overcame a heart transplant to train a Kentucky Derby horse.
LOUISVILLE -- Trainers preparing for the Kentucky Derby keep saying the same thing, over and over again. The race is wide open. There was Kiaran McLaughlin, a Kentucky native who saddled 2006 Belmont Stakes winner Jazil, standing in the morning cold and wind Wednesday on the Churchill Downs backstretch.
Pick a name out of a hat. Close your eyes and point. Or better yet, go by colors, numbers and names.
Five things we learned after Drosselmeyer prevailed at Saturday's 142nd running of the Belmont Stakes:
Here's what we learned after watching Lookin At Lucky win Saturday's 135th running of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore:
Any handicapping analysis of the Preakness Stakes must begin by looking back at the Kentucky Derby.
BALTIMORE -- It's been pretty well established at this point that at the age of 43, Calvin Borel owns the Kentucky Derby. Three times in the last four years he has ridden the winning horse in the most important race in America, a transcendent event that owners, trainers and jockeys collectively spend entire careers dreaming of someday just contesting. Never mind winning.
Here are my five quick thoughts from a wild, wet and wooly Kentucky Derby:
These lists are not mere compilations of all-time bests in their respective sports but all-time bests at quickening the pulse and evoking a visceral response from those fortunate enough to have witnessed their artistry.
ELMONT, N.Y. -- Here are my five quick thoughts following a stirring, if anticlimactic, Belmont Stakes.
Late Saturday afternoon, Calvin Borel will chase an odd piece of history: He will try to become first jockey in history to win horse racing's three Triple Crown races on two different horses. His pursuit creates an odd slice of sideways hype for a race that truly needs a horse -- not a human -- to attract mainstream attention.
CNN's Richard Roth reports on the battle of the sexes that's the talk of the Preakness.
Preakness Stakes favorite Rachel Alexandra lived up to her billing Saturday, thundering past an all-male field of competitors and becoming the first filly to win the Triple-Crown's second jewel since 1924.
BALTIMORE -- With super-filly Rachel Alexandra's courageous -- and narrow -- victory over Kentucky-Derby winner Mine That Bird at Pimlico on Saturday, the 134th running of the Preakness Stakes provided vindication for two horses, and more than a little redemption for the sport of racing itself. After more than a week of controversy and unsportsmanlike behavior had taken some of the shine off the Bird's shocking win in Kentucky, both horses refocused everyone's attention on Saturday with performances that exceeded all expectations. Rarely has the loss of a Triple Crown gone down so easily.
BALTIMORE -- At shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday, wine magnate Jess Jackson conducted a media teleconference in advance of Saturday's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. Jackson, 79, had purchased gifted 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra a week earlier and will run her in the Preakness against 12 colts, including unlikely Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.
One of the co-owners of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird told SI.com he will not enter any other horses in the Preakness to block filly Rachel Alexandra from running. Mark Allen had told Horse Racing Television on Sunday afternoon that he was planning to enter winless 3-year-old Indy Express in the Preakness, which might have helped keep Rachel Alexandra out of the race and keep jockey Calvin Borel on Mine That Bird.
LOUISVILLE, KY -- The way Calvin Borel sees it, one of the toughest decisions in the history of thoroughbred horse racing was really no decision at all.
This article appears in the May 11, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine.
Unlikely Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird is on the cover of SI this week. He's the first horse on the cover since Smarty Jones after winning the Derby in '04. (Although to be fair, this week's photo has to be considered as much homage to fearless jockey Calvin Borel as to the 50-1 gelding he's riding.)
I am sitting in front of my desktop computer -- damn the technology! -- staring at a blank screen. I work for a dying industry and today I am struggling to write about a dying industry.
Here are my five quick thoughts from an improbable, electrifying Kentucky Derby.
Longshot thoroughbred Mine That Bird plowed down a muddy track at Churchill Downs to win the 135th Kentucky Derby on Saturday by several lengths.
This story appears in the April 20, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated.
Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. still blames Kent Desormeaux for Big Brown's stunning last-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, but he wouldn't object to the jockey riding the horse in his next race
In gathering darkness last Saturday at Belmont Park, trainer Nick Zito watched as horses walked on a dirt path inside his backstretch barn, cooling themselves after racing in punishing 90° heat. A tall, brown colt walked slowly past on a groom's lead, dropping and then raising his head with each weary step. "Hey, Da' Tara," said Zito, calling the horse's name in a raspy growl. Then he turned to a small group of visitors. "Right there," said Zito, nodding toward the horse. "That's the winner."
One of the most tumultuous and controversial Triple Crown seasons in history is finished. Many questions remain about the five weeks just finished and about the years ahead for horse racing. Some of the questions, and some possible answers:
CNN's Ray D'Alessio wraps up from the Belmont Stakes, where Big Brown falls short of horse racing's Triple Crown.
ELMONT, N.Y .-- We all fell for it, and we should have known better. After five weeks spent watching Big Brown dominate races in Kentucky and Maryland, it was just too easy to go along with trainer Rick Dutrow when he predicted victory for his colt this weekend in New York. That's right, we said, nodding in agreement, nobody else has even come close to the horse, so how can anybody hope to beat him now? So confident were we in his eventual victory that the big bay went off in Saturday's Belmont Stakes at odds of 1-4, the lowest since railbirds sent Spectacular Bid to the post as the 1-5 favorite in 1979. The outcome of the race was a foregone conclusion (never mind that the Bid had eventually lost his Belmont). This was going to be a cakewalk. All that was left was the winning.
Horse racing fans are likely to flock to Belmont Park in record numbers Saturday to see Big Brown take a shot at history.
Rick Dutrow is more than happy to explain that Saturday's Belmont Stakes is not a rider's race. He is, in fact, more than happy to explain that any race in which Big Brown is a participant is not a rider's race. Or a trainer's race. Or an owner's race.
Triple Crown contender Big Brown has a slight crack to his left front hoof
Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Churchill Downs are separated by just 125 miles of southern Indiana countryside and the Ohio River. That's 50 laps around the Speedway, twice as many around Churchill. But the expansive motor racing cathedral, with its signature yard of bricks, and the stately horse racing track, defined by its dignified twin spires now dwarfed by grotesque modernization, are undeniably linked. Many of their most cherished traditions seem rooted in the same values. And each became the standard by which all who compete in their respective sports are judged.
There was something very different about this colt. He was pulled from his mother's womb in the broodmare barn at Monticule Farm in central Kentucky on the afternoon of April 10, 2005, deep bay in color but with a strange white dot at the top of his left front leg, near his rib cage. It was perhaps the size of a quarter, and none of the three people in the stall at the time of his birth had ever seen such a marking on a horse of his coloring. "What the devil is that?" said Monticule owner Gary Knapp. The horse's handlers, many of whom were Mexican, nicknamed him Punto Blanco, Spanish for "white dot."
BALTIMORE -- There was a sustained roar, equal parts exultation and relief, as Big Brown pulled away from his rivals in the Preakness at Pimlico on Saturday. Here was validation, not just for a colt who looks to be by far the best of his generation -- who now heads to the Belmont with a real chance to win the first Triple Crown in 30 years -- but also for a venerable sport that has spent the last two weeks defending itself against charges of animal cruelty. Big Brown's 5 ¼-length win did nothing to erase the horrible memory of the death of the filly Eight Bells in the Kentucky Derby, but by its very dominance, it did serve as a shining example of why the game is still played.
BALTIMORE -- Big Brown arrived Wednesday evening at Pimlico Race Track for Saturday's Preakness. He was preceded onto the grounds of the old track by two of his business partners: In front of his horse trailer a brown UPS delivery truck of the variety that is probably driving up your street right now, and behind it a UPS cab for pulling an 18-wheeled truck. I didn't see the guy with the squeaky grease pencil in the UPS whiteboard commercials, but I'm sure he'll be here soon.
For journalists, Kentucky Derby chaos begins in earnest when the race ends. We watch the race from some less-than-ideal location (we are given sensational viewing spots on the balcony at the front of the press box, but it is nearly impossible to report quickly after the race from that perch, because of the crush of humanity between the sixth-floor balcony and racetrack-level winner's circle). Then we scramble to find quick and genuine reaction, before time dulls emotions.
Here was a patch of racetrack earth where destinies collided last Saturday in the late-afternoon sunshine. Thoroughbred trainer Rick Dutrow ran awkwardly through sandy soil near the Churchill Downs finish line en route to an infield winner's circle celebration for Big Brown, the brilliant 3-year-old colt that Dutrow saddled for an epic victory in the 134th Kentucky Derby. Walter Blum, one of Dutrow's exercise riders and a longtime friend, threw an arm across Dutrow's meaty shoulders and yelled in his left ear, "You did it, man! You won the Kentucky Derby! The horse is a freak! He's a freak!" Dutrow met Blum's eyes and cackled wildly, a man locked in the sweetest of dreams.
Once again, tragedy mars the Triple Crown. But Big Brown could lift the cloud
The story of the 134th Kentucky Derby begins and ends with Big Brown. Not the handicapping story, the story story.
Did you ever talk about Nutsy Fagan around your neighborhood? When somebody acted, well, nutsy, we said, "He's as nutsy as Nutsy Fagan!" There's some question who exactly this Nutsy Fagan was. He might have been a guy in 19th-century New York, who liked to join funeral processions under the impression they were parades. And, of course, we weren't so considerate then. A guy was fat -- we called him "fats;" a guy was nutsy -- hey, we called him "nutsy."
Early Friday morning I drove through Gate 5 on the Churchill Downs backstretch. I motored along, without stopping once, through a maze of horse barns and small auxiliary buildings until I pulled into a parking spot alongside the massive racetrack, across the infield from the twin spires. One car was parked next to mine. Trainer Nick Zito, whom I had arranged to meet at the track, stood nearby, talking with an acquaintance. Not another person was in sight. Had I brought my crossbow, I could have fired arrows in four directions and not harmed a soul.
Three adult siblings will sit in a spectator box this Saturday at Churchill Downs to watch the Kentucky Derby. They will dress for the occasion, bet foolishly on slow horses and surely sip a mint julep or two. Come late afternoon, when the Downs' fabled twin spires cast shadows across the sandy loam of the track, they will cheer in full throat for Barbaro, a tall, long-bodied 3-year-old colt to whom they are linked by a tether that reaches back 17 years.
The first flowers arrived on the morning after the Preakness, a breezy and sunlit springtime Sunday that turned the rolling hills a brilliant shade of green in Pennsylvania horse country south of Philadelphia. Signs were hung from the wooden fence rails outside the New Bolton Center, where Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was being treated for what surgeons would soon call "catastrophic'' injuries to his right hind leg. A family arrived with a bunch of carrots and asked that they be given to the horse.
They all wondered: How good can she be? On cold spring mornings in Kentucky, retired Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero exercised a colt alongside the filly Rags to Riches and watched her effortless athleticism, a sweet running action possessed by only the rarest of racehorses. "Everything looks so easy for her," Cordero recalls thinking. "She goes fast, she goes slow, she's so handy. She can do something special." On a rainy afternoon one day before the running of the May 5 Kentucky Derby, rival trainer Nick Zito stood alone in the Churchill Downs paddock, gazing up at a giant television screen as Rags to Riches crushed 13 foes to win the Kentucky Oaks, a prestigious race for 3-year-old fillies. "That's some nice filly," said Zito to a writer.
A lesson confirmed: Triple Crown dreams are best expressed with caution. Street Sense came to last Saturday's Preakness after a dominant Kentucky Derby victory so resonant that his guileless Cajun jockey, Calvin Borel, was invited to a state dinner at the White House. His trainer, Texan Carl Nafzger, was praised effusively for his skillful conditioning. The racing game again readied itself for history. "If he can get by this one, he looks like he can run all day in the Belmont," said Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, promisingly."
No joke. I get a call this afternoon from a buddy of mine, livid about NBC's decision to dump overtime of the elimination game between Buffalo and Ottawa onto Versus.
The Preakness doesn't truly exist in the present, except for the slightly less than two minutes it takes to run the race on Saturday afternoon. It is the quintessential look-back, look-ahead sporting event.
Let's suppose you approach Saturday's Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown, from a wagering perspective. (I am assuming that many people do, because that's the question I get most from family, friends and colleagues when I'm on the horse racing beat: Who is going to win? The short answer is: I have no idea. I haven't made a bet since the 1987 Travers, when I lost a much-too-large wager on a short horse named Polish Navy).
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Calvin Borel looked tired Tuesday morning. It might have been because he got up while it was still dark out, drove his gunmetal gray Chevy truck from his home in the Louisville Highlands to Churchill Downs and worked three horses before most people sip their first skim latte of the day.
Can Street Sense win the Preakness? Absolutely.
On a warm winter morning at a South Florida thoroughbred training center, Carl Nafzger talked with a visitor while a young colt watched from his stall not 10 feet away. The nation's 2-year-old champion in 2006, Street Sense had not run a race in the new year, and here it was the last day of February. The Kentucky Derby loomed in the distance. "He's a phenomenal horse," said Nafzger, a 65-year-old Texan with a weed-whacker drawl and one Derby victory already on his résumé. "But wherever we're going, it's up to him to take us there. We'll just go along."
In the most predictable of scenarios, the Kentucky Derby is a vast riddle. Young athletes (horses) are being asked to run further than they have run in their brief, competitive lives and, in truth, further than most of them will ever be asked to run again. Likewise, they are facing 19 opponents for the first and almost surely the only time. They are running in front of more than 150,000 obstreperous spectators for the first and -- repeat after me -- only time.
Trainer Carl Nafzger is back at Churchill Downs with what appears to be a very good chance to win the Kentucky Derby. Again. (He has a good chance, at least, to the extent that any trainer has a ''good'' chance to win the most challenging race in the world). Street Sense, who won last November's Breeders Cup Juvenile race for Nafzger and longtime client James Tafel, is training spectacularly for the Derby and will probably be made the favorite on Saturday afternoon. (Even though he was not expected to be installed as the morning line favorite by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia.)
The newest gimmick bonus conceived for the Kentucky Derby by its title sponsor is an ill-conceived miss that stands a better chance of damaging the sport of racing than enhancing it, and racing's margin for error is much too small.
He could see this call coming. Not long after the end of last year's Kentucky Derby, trainer Todd Pletcher's cellphone buzzed to life. His 3-year-old colt, Bluegrass Cat, had just run second to Barbaro with a solid performance that nonetheless kept Pletcher winless in the most significant horse race on the planet. On the other end was David Lerner, a friend and fraternity brother from Pi Kappa Alpha two decades ago at Arizona.
Michael Matz seems a little older this year. That description does not denigrate Matz. At 56, he still appears at least a decade younger than his birth certificate claims. His hips and shoulders are impossibly slim, as if time has spared his equestrian's body; his eyes are still a piercing blue. Maybe it's just the subject matter that has aged him.
Four Saturdays remain until Kentucky Derby 133. Five major prep races are scheduled for the next two weekends, beginning with the Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby and Illinois Derby on Saturday. Some things we know. Some things we don't know. A list of each.