Book Review: “Better Lucky Than Good: Tall Tales and Straight Talk from the Backside of the Track”

An excellent book showcasing and humanizing a side of Thoroughbred racing most don’t see and, equally important telling the stories of the community around Churchill Downs. (more…)

Here’s Lookin’ At You, Nyquist

A camera mounted on the inside of the starting gate gives us a cool new look at Nyquist, winner of the 2016 Kentucky Derby.

Nyquist won the 2016 Kentucky Derby last weekend as the heavy favorite, and there’s little doubt he’ll go into the Preakness Stakes with the same short odds. Trainer Doug O’Neill constantly describes Nyquist as a professional who hits the track for workouts or races with a professional attitude — but it didn’t really hit home what “professionalism” looks like in a racehorse until I saw this video.

This unique camera angle offers us a view that few have ever seen as we watch Nyquist load into the starting gate at Churchill Downs:

Nyquist is clearly on a hair trigger, ready to launch out of that starting gate and thunder his way to victory, and yet he walks politely into the gate and waits, well, as patiently as we can expect. Respect for the assistant starters, who have an often-overlooked but incredibly dangerous job in loading and then standing each horse in close quarters in the starting gates!

Keep it locked on Horse Nation for more updates from the Triple Crown trail!

Go riding!

#FailFriday, Kentucky Derby Edition

These champion racehorses seemed like a lock for the Derby win… until they picked the most important race of their life to run their worst race ever. Heather Benson counts ‘em down.

The Kentucky Derby hype machine is at a fever pitch and everyone has their pick to win the big race.

But much like meteorologists predicting the weather, predicting a horse’s performance is a crapshoot at best. Hype tends to slam into reality on the first Saturday in May and one bad day at the track can mean the difference between destiny and destitution.

And so we present some of the biggest fails in Kentucky Derby history:

#4: Himyar — 1878 Kentucky Derby

Sure, it was 1878 and the Kentucky Derby wasn’t even a big deal yet, but Himyar still managed to catch the attention of the nation after a series of scintillating wins at age 2. He went into the Derby as the shortest priced favorite (1-4 odds) in history and lost by two lengths to Day Star. He did make up for in a way, by siring 1898 Kentucky Derby winner Plaudit.

Himyar. Photo courtesy of thevaulthorseracing.com.

Himyar. Photo courtesy of thevaulthorseracing.com.

#3: Native Dancer — 1953 Kentucky Derby

The “Grey Ghost” was undefeated in nine races at age 2 and crowned Champion 2-Year-Old Colt in 1953, with many viewing him as the Horse of the Year as well. He was just as sparkling at 3 and went into the Kentucky Derby still undefeated. As it happened, that Derby would be the only race he ever lost after being fouled twice during the race and losing by a narrow margin to victor Dark Star.

Native Dancer. Photo courtesy of thevaulthorseracing.com.

Native Dancer. Photo courtesy of thevaulthorseracing.com.

#2: Arazi — 1992 Kentucky Derby

During the 1991 Breeder’s Cup Juvenile, held that year at Churchill Downs, Arazi had put on a performance that made him look like the second coming of Secretariat. Shipped back to his native France to condition for the following year’s American classic, he underwent a minor surgery and never again showed the same sparkle, despite the public still favoring overwhelming to win. He placed 8th behind Lil E Tee.

Holy Bull. Photo courtesy of whitehorseproductions.com.

Holy Bull. Photo courtesy of whitehorseproductions.com.

#1. Friesan Fire — 2009 Kentucky Derby

He may not have the household name status as some of the other Derby fails, but his Derby failure wasn’t pretty. After wins in the entire 3-year-old stakes series at the Fairgrounds Race Course, including the Grade I Louisiana Derby, he was on the board as the Derby favorite. Not only did he manage to lose and place nearly last, he lost to 50-1 longshot Mine That Bird. Double fail!


Friesan Fire. Photo courtesy of bloodhorse.com.

Go Riding.