LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Dallas Stewart did it again.
A year ago, his horse, Golden Soul, finished second in the Kentucky Derby as a 34-1 underdog. On Saturday, the Kentucky-based trainer pulled off another second-place finish, this time with 38-1 underdog Commanding Curve.
It wasn’t exactly the result Stewart wanted. “I thought he had a heck of a shot,” he said.
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But he had to tip his cap to the winner, California Chrome, who exceeded his expectations. “I was just hoping California Chrome would kind of give in a little bit, but he didn’t,” Stewart said. “We were running at him.”
Danza is for real
No one could decide whether he was the real deal or the ultimate flash in the pan.
Was Danza the colt who had little on his resume as a Kentucky Derby contender until three weeks ago, an also-ran in trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn? Or was he the sensation who whipped a field of more touted 3-year-olds in the Arkansas Derby?
Performing in front of his namesake, actor Tony Danza, the colt showed he was a legitimate threat in the Kentucky Derby, finishing third, three lengths behind California Chrome.
“I thought he ran well,” Pletcher said. “Coming by the wire first time, he got bumped by Vinceremos. But he got back in position and started to respond.”
Pletcher, the six-time trainer of the year, started four horses in the Derby this year, a total actually down one from his five in 2013. Only one other trainer, Mike Maker, started more than one horse in Saturday’s race.
“Todd knows how to get them to the big game,” said Danza’s jockey, Joe Bravo.
Rosie Napravnik was optimistic about a historic weekend after riding Untapable to a Kentucky Oaks win Friday.
But she failed to become the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, finishing last aboard Vicar’s In Trouble.
Vicar’s in Trouble started from the No. 2 post, a position few jockeys would want in such a large field. But Napravnik said that wasn’t the problem.
“We actually got into a really good position,” she said. “You can't expect not to be close to each other. We got into a great position. I was tracking behind California Chrome, and we didn’t really have enough horse.”
Two jockeys were injured and taken away from Churchill Downs by ambulance after a scary collision during the third race of the Kentucky Derby day slate.
Jockey Megan Fadlovich complained of concussion symptoms, and fellow rider Marcelino Pedroza Jr. had lower-back pain after the incident, which appeared to start when two horses clipped heels. Both jockeys were alert and moving all extremities as they were taken to nearby Audubon Hospital for further examination, a track spokesman said.
Fadlovich was later released with a possible fractured knee. Pedroza also was expected to be released.
Another jockey dismounted in the incident, James Graham, was uninjured, as were the three horses involved.
Biggest screen ever
The newest feature at this year’s Derby was also the hardest to miss: a 15,224-square-foot video board installed by Panasonic and Churchill Downs on the venerable track’s backstretch.
For the record, the 4K screen is 11 feet wider and 18 feet higher than the famous screen at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium. It’s the size of three basketball courts and cost $12 million. Panasonic helped foot the cost, in part because the board is advertising for its next wave of 4K, high-definition televisions.
Napravnik described the board’s sound system as “overwhelming.”
It’s hard to imagine a fan on the infield ever complaining about missing the race again.