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Winning Derby tops bucket list

Optimizer trains on the track in preparation for

Optimizer trains on the track in preparation for the 138th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. (May 3, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - For racetrack people, winning the Kentucky Derby is the No. 1 item on the bucket list. Owner/breeder Barry Irwin and trainer Graham Motion savored the ultimate thrill last year with Animal Kingdom. They say after the incomparable euphoria wore off, their daily existence hasn’t changed that much.

“I got a big charge out of winning the Derby, it was extremely exciting,’’ Irwin said. “It meant a lot to me personally and professionally, but I don’t think it’s changed my life as much as I’ve heard from other people.’’

Motion, a thoughtful, low-key English gentleman, said he still goes about his business the same way. “It’s given me confidence certainly to find out what it takes to win the Kentucky Derby,’’ he said. “But I don’t think it’s changed the way I go about training on a daily basis.

“Has it changed my outlook? No, I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s changed things hugely, but I’ve had some experiences when people have recognized me because of the Derby.’’

That aspect of fame actually has been annoying for Irwin.

“I can’t go anywhere in Kentucky now where somebody doesn’t know who I am,’’ he said. “I used to like to walk around the racetrack kind of anonymous, and now those days are over. Everybody knows who the heck I am.’’

Naming a promising colt

You may have assumed that Bob Baffert lobbied owner Ahmed Zayat to name a promising 2-year-old colt after Bode Baffert, the trainer’s 7-year-old son. Not so, says Baffert.

Baffert said he was at his barn last summer at Del Mar with Bode and the boy’s friends when Zayat appeared. He told Baffert he needed some papers because he was going to change the name of a son of Empire Maker. “I told him, ‘I’ll just call him Bodemeister until the name comes out,’ ’’ Baffert said this week on Churchill Downs’ backstretch.

“I didn’t think twice about it. A month and a half later, I saw the papers on the desk and my bookkeeper said, ‘Look at this name: Bodemeister.’ I said, ‘What did he do that for?’ It’s usually a jinx if you name one for your kid. I said, ‘Well, forget that horse.’

“So, here we are.’’

Baffert said Bodemeister hadn’t shown he might have unusual ability. “We didn’t know yet,’’ he said. Six months later, he was on everyone’s Derby short list. On Saturday, Bodemeister was trying to become the first horse since 1882 to win the Derby without having raced as a 2-year-old.

Jockey suspended

Churchill Downs’ stewards suspended jockey Robby Albarado indefinitely after he was arrested Friday morning on a charge of fourth-degree assault, domestic violence, against his girlfriend, Carmela Martinez. He posted bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday. He will not be allowed to ride until he appears before the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s review committee.

Albarado, 38, was charged in April 2011 with assaulting his wife, Kimber. Charges of domestic assault and wanton endangerment were dismissed, and he pleaded guilty to interfering with a witness, a misdemeanor.

Track muddy after storm

After overnight thunderstorms, Churchill Downs main track was rated as sloppy at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, post time for the opener of a 13-race card. Track superintendent Butch Lehr upgraded it to muddy for the second race and to fast for the third. The fourth race, scheduled to be run on the grass course, was switched to the main track.

It was sunny and clear shortly before noon, with a temperature of near 80. There was a 30-percent chance of rain throughout the afternoon.

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