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Derby notebook

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2001


Random thought: Shuffle the order

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Another debacle at the Kentucky Derby post-position draw?

Churchill Downs officials say no and Derby trainers say no, but it appeared a random drawing in one phase of the process may not have been so random.

Here's what happened:

A selection order was determined by a random pill pull. Each time a numbered pill was pulled, the name of a horse was read to determine the order for selecting post positions.

The 17 sheets of paper with the horses' names also were supposed to be shuffled. But after a few names, it became clear the list was being read in reverse alphabetical order, beginning with Monarchos and going up to A P Valentine. The final six horses were read in reverse alphabetical order, starting with Thunder Blitz and moving up to Point Given.

Although there were no complaints, it appeared the sheets of paper with the horses' names was shuffled just once, with the bottom pile placed over the top pile.

"As long as the pills come out randomly, it doesn't matter," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Balto Star and Invisible Ink.

John Ward, who trains Monarchos, concurred: "I second that."

Trainer Nick Zito, who had the first pick and went for post position No. 9, said "I had the first pick. I've got nothing more to say."

When questioned about the way the names of the horses came out, racing secretary Jerry Botts insisted he shuffled the papers "six to 10 times."

Added Bob Baffert, whose 9-5 favorite Point Given -- the last horse called -- picked the No. 17 post with the 14th selection: "You are supposed to shuffle them (the names) but as long as the pills are random, it's okay. Look, it happens."

In 1998, the first year of the new selection process, ESPN announcer Chris Lincoln called the No. 15 pill twice while picking the draft order for post positions, forcing a redraw.

NO RESPECT: Jockey Gary Stevens apologized after arriving 45 minutes late for a news conference. The rider of Point Given couldn't get past a security guard at a gate near the Churchill Downs paddock and returned to his hotel until a track executive went to pick him up.

"I told him who I was and what I was doing," Stevens said. "He said he didn't care. (But) that wasn't exactly how he said it."

The day before, Stevens said, "I had to pay $10 to park because I didn't have credentials."

You would think three Kentucky Derby victories (with Winning Colors, Thunder Gulch and Silver Charm) would be all the credentials he needs.

WHAT'S IN A NAME? Saudi Arabia's Prince Ahmed Salman, head of The Thoroughbred Corp., said he often names horses with phrases that catch his ear. So it was with Point Given.

"It was at a board of directors meeting in London," said Salman, owner of a publishing empire. "Somebody said 'point given.' I said, 'Stop! The name of a horse!' It was sort of embarrassing."

FANATIC: Jim Cassidy, trainer of Jamaican Rum, is a 55-year-old Bronx native recognizable by the Yankees caps he wears everywhere, he says, except to dinner and bed.

"I've got a bag of 'em," he said. "I get a new one every year. I remember when they had (pitcher John) Wetteland. He had all those stains on his (cap). I thought, 'That's pretty cool. Maybe I can get two years out of mine.' They cost $25 now!"

Cassidy's barn logo, a burgundy feather, was inspired by the Redskins. He grew up a Giants fan but switched when they traded linebacker Sam Huff to the Redskins.

NOT A NO-SHOW: For the first time since 1981, D. Wayne Lukas doesn't have a horse in the Derby. But the trainer has been holding court outside his Churchill Downs barn each morning, using a college basketball analogy to explain the end of his record streak.

"There's just some years your senior class doesn't pan out," said the four-time Derby winner. "But we feel our next year's class is as good as ever. So we'll see what happens."

PLAYING A HUNCH: Baffert liked Congaree long before the public discovered the talented horse. The trainer bet $100 on Congaree at 150-1 and another $100 at 75-1 in Las Vegas at the Imperial Palace Derby future book in late February. If the horse wins, the bets will bring a tidy profit of more than $22,000.

CROWDED: The largest Derby crowd was 163,628 for the 100th running of the Derby in 1974. The winner was Cannonade. The second-largest crowd of 153,204 saw Fusaichi Pegasus win last year.

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