LOUISVILLE — When horses take part in the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby, one with connections to Iowa will try to beat the odds for a win.
Keen Ice will break from the 14 post as a 50 to 1 long shot. He’s the third entrant into the prestigious race by Iowa-based Donegal Racing. His jockey is Kent Desormeaux, winner of six Triple Crown races — three of them in the Derby.
22 people make up Donegal, with investors from Muscatine to Council Bluffs. The Kentucky Derby is not something new for them, they’ve had two other horses place third in the Running for the Roses. Dullahan ran in 2012, and Paddy O’Prado in 2010.
This is a major achievement for Donegal, according to its President Jerry Crawford.
“There are about 35,000 thoroughbred race horses born each year, and 20 of them make it to the Kentucky Derby,” said Crawford.
Donegal Racing is also making history at The Downs this year because they have a horse running in each of this weekend’s three big races. This is only the second time in the 140 year history of the race in Louisville, Kentucky that one stable has done this.
Joining Keen Ice on the track are Puca, who will run in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks on Friday, and Finnegan’s Wake, who races Saturday in the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. The Kentucky Oaks is the race where the fillies compete each other, and is known for the lilies draped across the back of the winning horse.
Crawford says his horses have been working out well this week.
“Now I have to tell you, looking good doesn’t get you to the finish line first, but it’s a lot better than looking bad at this stage,” said Crawford. “The whole idea about trying to win the Kentucky Oaks or the Kentucky Derby, is to have your horses peak at the right time, and it is very clear we’re peaking at the right time.”
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Crawford has been a part of racing for years. His interest in racing horses started when he looked into the genetics of breeding race horses, and that led to the approach Donegal Racing has taken when choosing their racers. He said they look for horses bred to go the mile and a quarter distance, the length of the Kentucky Derby. When horses race in the Derby, it is the first time they ever race that distance.
“We decided some years back to take a very strict, moneyball approach to horse racing,” said Crawford. “I tried to figure out why do long shots win the Kentucky Derby. I was trying to figure out who to bet on.”
This year the Kentucky Derby will be simulcast at Iowa Greyhound Park in Dubuque, now that the track offers simulcasting from various horse race tracks across the country.
People can take part in the $1,000 Running for the Roses Drawing. Participants write the name of the horse they think will win the Derby on a slip of paper. A winner will be drawn from all those who correctly pick the winner, who will win $1,000.
The Kentucky Derby is the first jewel in the Triple Crown races. It’s followed by the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978.
The Kentucky Derby is the 11th race of the day with post time set for 5:34 p.m. Iowa time.