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With Kentucky Derby hours away, track conditions upgraded ... from sloppy to muddy

Horses cool down after crossing the finish in The 93rd Running of The Pat Day Mile prior to the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 6, 2017 in Louisville, Ky.
Horses cool down after crossing the finish in The 93rd Running of The Pat Day Mile prior to the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 6, 2017 in Louisville, Ky. (Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

LOUISVILLE, KY. — Weather was the biggest story in the past few days before the Kentucky Derby, with regular bursts of chilly rain adding uncertainty to a race that was already difficult to handicap.

Track officials sealed the dirt surface Saturday morning, meaning they packed it down as hard as possible so water would run off the surface. But the track was still sloppy as racing began mid-morning and the rain continued.

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The sun finally peeked through at about 1 p.m., raising hopes that the track would be wet but not completely mud-caked by the 6:53 p.m. post time.

Track officials upgraded the track condition from sloppy to muddy before the eighth race, which went off at about 2:50 p.m.

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Trainers said all week that Churchill Downs officials do a terrific job of maintaining the track through bad weather. But many added that the wet surface would be a wild card for a field full of inexperienced starters.

"You can't worry about what you can't control," said McCraken's trainer, Ian Wilkes, summing up the general attitude of his colleagues.

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