Justify, ridden by jockey Mike Smith crosses the finish line to win the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 5, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Audible, the audio book distributor, threw its lot behind Audible, the 3-year-old colt, in the Kentucky Derby. The company sponsored the horse, which walked around in an ebook-themed blanket. If he won the 144th run for the roses, and he entered the race on 6-1 odds, the company would give away free audio versions of “American Pharoah,” by Joe Drape.
Well, Audible didn’t win. He came in third, behind Justify and Good Magic. Audible, the company doesn’t care. America still gets a free audio book.
(Audible owner Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Justify, the winner, is a different kind of gift to the horse racing world. He is the first Derby winner since Apollo in 1882 to win the race without having run at all as 2 year-old.
And did he ever do it in dominant fashion. When Good Magic challenged him at the top of the stretch, Justify pulled away with ease.
Learn the controversy behind “My Old Kentucky Home”
On a rainy Saturday, as race favorites Justify, My Boy Jack, Audible and the rest of the horses head to the gates, the University of Louisville choir will once again led Churchill Downs in the ritual singing of “My Old Kentucky Home.” Many people belting out the lyrics have no idea that the history behind the song is so fraught.
“My Old Kentucky Home” is the state song of Kentucky. It was written before the Civil War by storied American songwriter Stephen Foster, who is considered the “father of American music.” The song has made appearances in “Gone With The Wind” and “The Simpsons” and been recorded by everyone from Al Jolson and Bing Crosby to Marian Anderson and Louis Armstrong.
But last month the city of Pittsburgh, Foster’s home town, removed a controversial statue of him with a black man sitting at his feet, singing and strumming the banjo.
The 800-pound statue, created in 1900 by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, had been a controversial monument at Schenley Plaza, with critics saying it “glorifies white appropriation of black culture, and depicts the vacantly smiling musician in a way that is at best condescending and at worst racist,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Defenders argued that it simply showed Foster listening to a song by a black musician.
Read more here from Retropolis.
Look who’s here?
The Kentucky Derby always draws a whole bunch of celebrities and A-list athletes. This year is no different. Check out this shot of some Boston sports legends: David Ortiz, Tom Brady and Jason Varitek.
Here are some more athletes who made the trip to Churchill Downs.
Vincent Viola, one of the co-owners of the Florida Panthers is also a co-owner of Derby horse Vino Rosso. A bunch of Panthers players came up to Louisville to root him on.
Aaron Rodgers takes some of his offensive linemen and old friends on an annual pilgrimage to the Derby. This is his 10th year in a row making the trip, he told NBC, enough years that he’s started paying attention to horse racing outside of the Triple Crown. He doesn’t know a whole lot about this year’s field, though.
“I like the No. 5 horse based on name only, which is Audible,” Rodgers said. “That’s something I like to do.”
The hats have arrived
Is it a runway or racetrack? It depends where you are at Churchill Downs. NBC’s Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski are always dressed to the nines and offered a take on what is “in” for the run for the roses, and a preview of what’s fashionable for the summer.
Johnny Weir attends Kentucky Derby. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Churchill Downs)
Floral patterns are a favorite, especially busy ones. The print that used to be on your grandmother’s couch, Weir offered: If you can brighten it up, it makes for a dress or tie.
Yellow is also apparently in style, thanks to Beyonce’s Coachella performance in a bright yellow hoodie. Look closely, and you’ll see it everywhere at the Derby: ladies’ hats, men’s suits and even more hats.
And about those hats: You’re going to see a lot of them this summer between the three jewels of the Triple Crown and the royal wedding. You’re looking for tall hats (like sometimes several feet in height) and sparkly hats.
And if you’re in need of inspiration, glance through the the head-wear in this photo gallery.
It’s a very wet day at the track
The rain is the main story early in the day at Churchill Downs in Louisville It is currently raining heavily and 67 degrees, according the National Weather Service, which forecasts rain on and off through the rest of the afternoon and evening.
The track is considered “muddy” — a deeper and slower surface — and could be trending toward “sloppy” as more precipitation comes down.
Meanwhile in the grandstand, patrons are scrambling for shelter beneath some covering or trying to acquire a poncho. In the infield, NBC cameras have caught fans to covering themselves with tarps or trying to sidle up beneath an unsuspecting friends’ hat.
It is the 15th time the Derby has been run on Cinco de Mayo. Decked out sombreros are a popular choice among fans both in person and online.
On the track, the rain is starting to have an impact on the races. In the fifth race of the day, McCraken, a 4 year-old colt, came all the way from the back of the pack to win in light rain. But the precipitation hasn’t stopped, and the track has gone from fast to good to sloppy in quite a hurry.
Races Nos. 6 and 8, both on the dirt, were well behind Churchill Down’s typical pace. Horses’ hooves sink deeper into wet surfaces and don’t allow for sturdy stepping.
Horses and jockeys also get chunked with the dirt flying off the track. Jockeys are known to wear up to nine pairs of goggles, pulling them down as the top pair mucks up, to see through the grime.
Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. stands trackside after riding Whitmore during the 84th running of The Churchill Downs race. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
This post will be updated throughout the afternoon in the lead up to the run for the roses. In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about what’s going on in the box office and on the track.
When: Post time is scheduled for 6:46 p.m. Eastern.
How to watch: Race coverage begins at noon on NBC Sports Network, and at 2:30 on NBC. Bob Costas and Mike Tirico will host NBC’s coverage. The coverage will also be streamed on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
Length: The race is 1 1/4 miles long.
Horses to watch:
How do thoroughbreds get their names? The rules are surprisingly complex, and the results surprisingly amusing: Justify? Solomini? How the Kentucky Derby horses get their names.
How to make the best mint julep for the Kentucky Derby? We’ve got the recipe, plus four variations: The Kentucky Derby means mint juleps. Here are four variations.
Read more Kentucky Derby coverage:
The Kentucky Derby field is dominated by a horse who died in 2015
Justify? Solomini? How the Kentucky Derby horses get their names.
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In the 1882 Kentucky Derby, Apollo pulled off a feat that’s still unmatched
Dancer’s Image, drugs and MLK: The enduring mystery of the 1968 Kentucky Derby
The 2018 Kentucky Derby has a slew of star power and a slew of favorites
If there is rain at the 2018 Kentucky Derby, Bolt d’Oro is still the horse to beat
Best bets for the 2018 Kentucky Derby include Bolt d’Oro and other long shots