The 138th running of the Kentucky Derby will commence on Saturday, May 5, 2012 at Churchill Downs in beautiful Louisville, Kentucky, with a post time slated for 6:24 P.M.  Since this race is usually the most eagerly anticipated horse race in the Western Hemisphere, let alone the United States, it occurred to me that it could be fun to share with you some great quotes from the 137 year history of this prestigious race.

In 1986 the Hall of Fame jockey Willie Shoemaker rode a fantastic horse by the name of Ferdinand to victory in the Kentucky Derby, which marked the fourth time in a career spanning four decades and over 8,300 victories that he had won the Kentucky Derby.  In doing so, Shoemaker set a record for being the oldest jockey in history to win the Run For the Roses at the tender age of 54.By sheer coincidence, Jack Nicklaus captured had stunned the sports world less than a month before the Kentucky Derby when, at the age of 46, he captured his unprecedented sixth Green Jacket, becoming the oldest man ever to win the Masters.  With that feat fresh on everyone’s mind after Shoemaker won the Kentucky Derby, Shoemaker said, “If Jack Nicklaus can win the Masters at 46, I can win the Kentucky Derby at 54.”

In the 1973 Kentucky Derby, Larry Adams was aboard Shecky Greene, a sprint horse that would go on to win an Eclipse Award as 1973’s top sprinter but was out of his depth at ten furlongs.  Adams knew that his only chance was to use the speed of his horse to get out front, then conserve as much as he could and hope his mount held on.  His plan was working beautifully, and Shecky Greene still had the lead midway through the final turn when Sham, who had been stalking him all along the backstretch, challenged him.  Adams knew he couldn’t conserve any more of the horse’s energy; he had to ask him for what he had left.  

Shecky responded beautifully, responding to Sham’s challenge, and those two horses were neck and neck around the final turn.  As the two horses were spinning around the turn in a pitched battle, all of the sudden Adams saw a giant, reddish blur zoom by him far to the outside.  It was Secretariat, flying past the quarter-pole, out of the turn and into the stretch.  At that point, Adams knew his horse was done.  Shecky Greene had been game for the first mile of the Kentucky Derby, but Secretariat and Sham both turned in fantastic final ¼ mile times, :23 flat and :23 ⅖, respectively.  But the thing that stuck in the mind of Larry Adams was Secretariat blowing past him in the final turn of that Kentucky Derby.  Secretariat was one of a kind in many respects, but perhaps the biggest impression he made on trainers and jockeys was the way he moved around turns.  No horse before or since has ever handled turns quite like the 1973 Triple Crown winner, affectionately known as Big Red.  Adams was a veteran jockey, and he was stunned.  When asked about Secretariat passing him and what he thought after the race, with wonder in his eyes he smiled and said, “He looked like the Red Ball Express out there!”

Author's Bio: 

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