Sunday, May 4, 2003

In a N.Y. minute - or two

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer


Photos of Kentucky Derby
The 129th running of the Kentucky Derby was one for the books. No regimes fell, and no empires were made. But history was.

Veteran jockey Jose Santos rode gelding Funny Cide to victory, marking the first time a New York-bred horse has won the fabled race.

Funny Cide is also the first gelding since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929 to win the Derby. Since then, 74 geldings have tried.

It was the jockey's first Derby win in seven tries and his first mount in the race since 1999.

"Today, Funny Cide was the best horse in the race," the rider said, adding, "He never quit. He kept digging and digging."

The heavily favored horses, Empire Maker and Peace Rules, came in second and third, respectively.

Funny Cide covered the 1-1/4 miles in 2:01.19, 10th fastest in Derby history.

His win brought some unexpected cash to race fans Sarah McCann of Louisville and friend Markus Botnick of Los Angeles.

"I just liked the name," McCann said. "We were going to celebrate tonight, but now we're just going to party a little harder."

Funny Cide, at 12-1 odds, paid $27.60 on a $2 bet to win.

On her bet, she took home $144.60. Botnick had the winner, too.

"The funny thing is, I didn't know what horse Sara bet on and she didn't know what horse I bet on," he said.

"Is that good karma or what?"

Cool day, cool celebs

The clouds began to break even before the first bugle sounded to announce the first race of the day. Temperatures in the 60s greeted 148,530 fans as they arrived.

It was the fifth-largest attendance in Kentucky Derby history.

Crowds squinted into the sun while waiting for their favorite celebrities to step out on the balcony above the paddock.

Football heroes and country music stars sat alongside pop icons and film producers to mull over the best strategy for picking a winner.

Among the celebrities were Janet and LaToya Jackson, Kidd Rock and Pamela Anderson, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and country singer Toby Keith.

NFL players Troy Aikman and Warren Moon also were on hand.

Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton, at his last Derby as governor, attended the race with his wife, first lady Judi Patton, and nearly 60 guests, including many family members.

Some Derbygoers came to watch the ride. Others clearly were there to party.

Infield as usual: wild

In the best of Derby traditions, the highbrows were far from those in the infield, where the beer, the girl-watching and the gambling were better than Mardi Gras, said Jonathan Dodge, 21, of Dayton, Ohio, of his first time at the event.

His friend Mike Mazal, 26, of Columbus added: "It's like a Girls Gone Wild video out here. I love it."

It was a mix of war and roses for some. Jamey Foley, 21, of Oakley said the infield provided a good break for a country concerned about troops in Iraq.

"I'm seeing a lot of beautiful women, but not a lot of horses," he said standing in a throng of people crowding the infield.

"Everyone here is having a good time.

"It's good mojo."

Hats, shawls, security wands

Hollywood to handicappers, hats were the mainstay. Traditional black-and-white dominated the ladies' attire with a sprinkling of pastel yellow and pink.

With cooler temperatures than in recent years, race fans draped shawls and light jackets across their shoulders as they waited in line to pass through security.

Increased security was implemented last year at Churchill Downs, including magnetic wand scans of everyone entering the track.

Lines snaked along below the famed twin spires as fans were reminded that coolers, backpacks, bottles and cans were not allowed.

Charles M. Matasich quickly discovered just how serious track officials were. His 71/2-pound hat got him into a bit of a bind as he walked through the front security gates. Metal Derby pins, roses and sundry other labels hung from the 61-year-old Proctorville, Ohio, native's hat and jacket.

"It has been 37 years since I started putting this hat and jacket together," he said. "I've got all the Derby pins on it that Churchill makes. You should have heard the metal detectors go off. They took me down into a corner and patted me down."

But Brenda Jones had no problems with her original pink-ostrich-feather-and-rose-topped outfit. The 41-year-old Walton native had created the perfect ensemble for the event.

"This is my first year and I love it," she said. "It's awesome."


Enquirer reporter Jim Hannah contributed to this report.

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