An expected thunderstorm burst forth shortly before the designated training time for the Derby and Oaks horses the morning of May 3, but fortuitously it ended a few moments before the horses were due on track. The anticipation waiting for the horses to appear before me was tremendous, and wonderful. I watched the horses gather at the gap on the large screen, only recognizing White Abarrio for his light gray coat and distinctive blue and yellow tack, and Ethereal Road because D. Wayne Lukas was beside him on a pony. Trainer John Ortiz adjusted the tack on Barber Road, as he also was alongside his charge on a pony. The adjustment seemed to reveal the point of pride having this Derby contender, his first, represented. Barber Road (his name quite reminiscent of Barbaro’s to me, though no doubt not intentional) stood calmly but with complete focus on the track.

Mo Donegal was the first of the Derby contenders to run by that day, then as always the action was fast and furious, so much that as I tried to get photos of some horses running by, others just making their way near the grandstand photobombed them!

I was glad to see Messier, Taiba, and Classic Causeway. While I don’t have a Derby pick – this year I want to see how it unfolds – those three intrigued me due to their sires, with the last named being interesting due to being one of the last small crop for Giant’s Causeway and carrying the torch for his sire one more time. This also is the only time I will see the Derby horses in the flesh Derby week, so it made it even better to see them and also that it was with a small crowd present.

Before the Derby and Oaks designated training period ended, Barber Road loaded into the starting gate for schooling. That is the first time I’ve seen gate schooling during Derby week.

As the analysts mentioned during their running commentary that morning, now all is maintenance and keeping the horses happy until the big day. The stage is set, indeed, with luxury merchandise tents and fencing in place outside the track, and the contenders on site. Wishing a safe trip to all!