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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Todd Pletcher couldn't have asked for more on Saturday.

  The 19-horse field approach the finish line during the 126th running of the Kentucky Derby.

Before the race was finished, he already had set a new record for the number of horses saddled in the Derby by a trainer in his debut. With Trippi, More Than Ready, Graeme Hall and Impeachment, the Lukas protégé broke the record that James Rowe Jr. set in 1931 with three.

So to have one of his entries finish in the money (Impeachment in third) and another right on his heels (More Than Ready in fourth), one can understand the excitement coming out of the Pletcher stable.

"I'm proud of all these horses," said Pletcher, who also started Trippi (11th) and Graeme Hall (19th). "Of course, we came to win, but hats off to the winners. I'm not surprised at all with Impeachment finishing third."

"We had a good trip, never brushed with another horse and got knocked off stride," said Impeachment's jockey Craig Perret. "Everywhere I wanted to go, we made it. We were able to save ground and he came running at the end. We just ran out of ground."

More Than Ready actually was in front late in the race before falling off the pace.

"I had a good trip and right near the eighth pole, I made the lead," said jockey John Velazquez.

That's when that fireball came storming by to win the race.

"My horse kept on digging. Then they just got me for third," said Velazquez. "I'm so proud of him. He ran his heart out."

Though two very fatigued horses -- Trippi and Graeme Hall -- were far back, Pletcher felt each horse had the potential to make something happen on Saturday.

Fond Farewell
The 126th Kentucky Derby marked the final time TV viewers heard Dave Johnson's call of "down the stretch they come!" from Churchill Downs.

NBC's five-year, $51.5 Triple Crown contract begins next year, which means ABC will lose the Derby after 26 consecutive years.

Tom Durkin, who calls the Breeders' Cup as well as races from Belmont and Saratoga, is set to take over Johnson's race-calling duties for NBC.

Curt Gowdy, Jr., who has produced every Derby since 1986, promised the network would go all out in its coverage Saturday.

"We'll have as much passion and fervor to make this the best Derby telecast we've ever had," Gowdy said. "No one's hanging his head."

But Al Michaels, who anchored the coverage on Saturday, said ABC wouldn't overdo it.

"This is our final Derby and hopefully some of that feeling will come out," Michaels said. "This is an event where the horses are the stars, yet so many of the moments have been about the people -- owners, trainers and jockeys."
-- Associated Press

"I've said all along that we came here with four horses we thought would run well and that we had a chance," said Pletcher, who was Lukas' assistant from 1988-95. "Now we've got to regroup and see what we do now. It's too early to tell."

In just his fourth year on his own, Pletcher is expected to have multiple entries in the Preakness Stakes on May 20. The 32-year-old should also be expected to be a mainstay at Churchill Downs for many years to come after making such a breakthrough outing in 2000.

Nothing doing for The Deputy:
The Deputy looked more like Barney Fife on Saturday by placing 14th in the 19-horse field. Trainer Jenine Sahadi -- the 10th female to saddle a Derby horse -- says her horse just didn't have it under the blaze of 82-degree temperatures.

"I could see him clearly and I didn't see anything. He just didn't have the fire," says Sahadi. "[Jockey] Chris [McCarron] said that he seemed to be struggling, but we don't know why just yet."

McCarron, mounting his 17th Derby horse, says the dark bay/brown colt wasn't himself.

"He broke OK, but he never did run a jump," says McCarron, who rode Alysheba (1987) and Go for Gin (1994) to the winner's circle at Churchill Downs. "I can't say it was the track because he trained well over it all week. He usually is pulling me the whole race. He never took a hold of the bridle."

The Deputy's Triple Crown career ended with his 14th place finish. Sahadi plans to take the Irish-bred colt back to California and skip the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

Being seen:
Celebrity watchers have gotten their eyes full over the past few days. For most actors, sports stars, politicians and performers, the Derby got kick-started on Friday night at either the Barnstable Brown party or the Mint Jubilee. With few hours of sleep to speak of, arrivals at Churchill Downs' famed "Millionaire's Row" were scattered from late morning to just before post-time for the Derby.

Leading the way was former President George Bush and his presidential-hopeful son George W., whose appearances were coupled with one too many secret service agents scouring around the press box. Causing nearly as much of a stir was three of the Backstreet Boys -- Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough and Brian Littrell -- who took the stage at the chic Barnstable Brown soirée around midnight to perform an impromptu version of Kool and the Gang's "Celebration."

Also in attendance: actors Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Dreyfuss, Bo Derek, Loni Anderson, and Dan Akroyd; musicians Chris Isaak, George Strait, and Emmy Lou Harris; past and present NFL stars Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning and Tim Couch; and Miss America Heather French.

Hoping for Hal to no avail:
If Hal's Hope had won the Derby for his 88-year-old trainer, Harold Rose, the Preakness might have broken all sorts of television records. But it wasn't meant to be for the Florida Derby winner, who finished 16th on Saturday. Ahead of the pack for most of the race, Rose says he knew he was going out too fast.

"When I saw the fractions, I got nervous," said Rose, making his second Derby start (1984 with Rexson's Hope). "He should have just let one horse [Trippi] go. That's why Lukas runs more than one horse in this race. I did think he would run a little better, but he just went too fast too early."

Jockey Roger Velez was still very impressed with his colt's efforts for getting out ahead of the pack so quickly.

"He showed me a whole lot of courage running the way he did for as far as he did," said Velez, making his first Derby appearance. "You know it had to be stinging him badly ? Considering, he ran great."

Great expectations:
It's a safe bet that D. Wayne Lukas will be back next May 5th for the 127th running of the Kentucky Derby next May. It'd be his 21st Derby in a row. The high-profile trainer already has started talking smack about his arsenal in 2001.

"Watch out," said the venerable Lukas. "We're loaded. I think I should be fired if we don't make it back with some of the ones we've got coming."

Globalize update:
Jerry Hollendorfer's scratched entry, Globalize, had six stitches applied to his left hind leg behind his hock on Friday after being kicked by his partnering horse on a gallop the previous morning. His prospects for the Preakness and Belmont Stakes aren't out of the question, but his trainer has to wait until his stitches are pulled in six to nine days before making any decisions.

"I'm taking him back to California on Tuesday," said Hollendorfer about Summer Squall's colt. "I don't know what we'll do with him next. We'll just get him home and take it from there."

They said it:
Jockey Brice Blanc on Ronton's 18th-place finish: "I asked him [to break] at the half-mile and didn't get a response."

Trainer Bobby Frankel on second place Aptitude's future plans: "We're going to the Belmont, but we're not going to the Preakness."

Winning owner Fusao Sekiguchi on his horse being the first favorite to win the Derby in 21 years: "I love challenges and we've been told many times that the favorite hasn't won in 21 years. So I love setting new records."

Winning trainer Neil Drysdale on how he watched the race: "I watched it on television. I have trouble seeing here. We were watching on a big screen." Help | Advertiser Info | Contact Us | Tools | Site Map | Jobs at
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