LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Ten years after his first Kentucky Derby runner, Read the Footnotes, finished seventh, Rick Violette is back at Churchill Downs with another New York-bred, Wood Memorial runner-up Samraat. The New York-based trainer will have plenty of company this weekend, with his two brothers flying in from London and Los Angeles and his sister and parents coming up from Florida.
"We're all excited. This is pretty cool," Violette said. "It's something you really should enjoy, whether you go once or a hundred times. There is no question that you need to slow down sometimes and smell the roses, no pun intended."
Violette, 61, is no less enthusiastic about his second time around at the big race. "I'm 10 years older, and probably not wiser, but as you get older you realize that these things don't have to happen ever again," he said. "So you do your job but leave yourself time to sit back and enjoy it, too."
Wearing a tan cowboy hat and sporting an impressive gray mustache, California Chrome's co-owner and breeder Steve Coburn held forth at a news conference Wednesday. The Nevada resident works for a company that makes magnetic strips for ID cards and credit cards. He's loving the attention stemming from having the Derby favorite.
"We've got an $8,000 horse who's made over a million dollars," Coburn said. "He's the millionaire, and we still have to work for a living."
Report: Rosie suspended
The Daily Racing Form reported that Churchill Downs' stewards have suspended Rosie Napravnik four days for her ride Saturday night on Bayern, who was disqualified from first to second for lugging in through the stretch. The suspension will begin May 8, so it won't affect her status for Friday's Kentucky Oaks, in which Napravnik rides the 4-5 favorite, Untapable, or the Derby, in which she is on long shot Vicar's in Trouble.
Here's Napravnik's take on drawing the outside post in the Oaks' field of 13: "Not ideal, but definitely better than the 1 hole."
Among the rich and famous expected at Friday night's "The Grand Gala" are Jamie Foxx, Angela Bassett, Doug E. Fresh, the Jacksons (Tito, Marlon, Jackie and Jermaine), Ken Griffey Jr., Julius Erving, Scottie Pippen and Chauncey Billups. To see them at a swanky Louisville hotel will cost $1,000 a ticket, but considering America's obsession with celebrities, that probably won't shrink the crowd.
Down here, when asked whether you will be at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, the question is not "Are you going to the Derby?" It's "Are you going Derby?" No one seems to know why. As the late Walter Cronkite used to say, "And that's the way it is."