LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Dave "Rico'' Flores was handed a gold suitcase filled with $100,000, and he had to bet it all to win on one horse in the Kentucky Derby.
Flores, 52, from Chicago's South Side, was chosen at random from hundreds of thousands of online entries in the Dream Bet Sweepstakes, sponsored by Churchill Downs and NBC Sports. Five hours before the race, Flores said he had narrowed his picks to Nehro, Soldat and Mucho Macho Man. Shortly before post time, he announced on NBC that he had sent it in on 9-1 shot Mucho Macho Man.
The Village People's favorite horse could have made Flores an instant millionaire, and he ran big for trainer Kathy Ritvo. But his rally for third, about three lengths behind 20-1 winner Animal Kingdom, didn't get the money for Rico.
Flores and his fiance, Denise Crane of Louisville, met four years ago at Churchill on Kentucky Oaks day. "If I win, we're getting married tonight,'' Flores said in the press box. "I won't wait for her to get a pre-nup.''
Crane added, "The track chaplain's on call.''
Well, they've been engaged for 2 years, so they're patient people.
Flores, a longtime horseplayer, said he has attended "about 20'' Derbys. He said he hadn't been obsessing about his pick but "usually, my bets have a lot less zeroes.''
Last year, Glen Fullerton of Houston made a life-changing Dream Bet, taking home $900,000 when Super Saver paid $18. He was with Flores and Crane Saturday.
Good for him. Many horseplayers would have raised their bets and squandered a good chunk of it already.
Racing's roller coaster
Three years ago, Long Island-based IEAH was America's hottest stable when undefeated Big Brown took the Derby and Preakness. IEAH is keeping a low profile this year, entering Saturday with two wins and seven seconds and earnings of $225,420 in 14 starts.
Amen Hallelujah made $33,868 for IEAH by finishing third to Sassy Image ($34.20) in the Grade I Humana Distaff. Amen Hallelujah's new trainer is Irishman Michael Nevin, father of Michelle Nevin, who was Big Brown's exercise rider.
The Derby record crowd of 164,858 was expected to consume an estimated 120,000 mint juleps (at $10 a pop), which used up 7,800 liters of bourbon, 475,000 pounds of shaved ice and 2,250 pounds of mint. Beer drinkers were expected to drain 425,000 cans. Among the living things sacrificed for this no-holds-barred rite of spring were approximately 5,600 turkeys, 32,400 jumbo shrimp and 9,000 scallops.
The attendance was 1,230 higher than in 1974 for the 100th Derby.
Around the track
Eight hours before she sang the national anthem, Jordin Sparks belted it out during a sound check. People were confused about whether they should stand. The former "American Idol'' winner is the daughter of former Giants defensive back Phillippi Sparks . . . The scratch of Uncle Mo Friday morning disappointed more than his connections, fans and people with Derby future wagers on him. Kelly Carls of Louisville radio station WHAS said, "I spent about 18 hours editing Uncle Mo out of all our pre-produced pieces.''