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Billy Reed: Drawing for Derby post positions today — no fillies to be in field; only three fillies have ever won

LOUISVILLE – When the entries are taken this morning for Saturday’s 147th Kentucky Derby, followed by the draw for post positions, no filly apparently will be in the field. This is not surprising because it takes a special kind of filly to beat the colts.

Only three fillies have won the “Run for the Roses” since it began in 1875 – Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980, and Winning Colors in 1988. You may be surprised to know that I missed Regret, but I did cover the other two.

Within the racing community, it was no big deal when Regret won the Derby. For one thing, the Derby was still more of a regional event than the national treasure it is today. For another, she had swept the major stakes for 2-year-olds the previous year.

The Derby was her first start as a 3-year-old and she went wire-to-wire, becoming the first unbeaten Derby winner. She got more publicity than any previous Derby because Churchill president Matt Winn pushed it hard to his newspaper buddies.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon. This week Billy is covering his 53rd Kentucky Derby week, counting down to Saturday’s Run for the Roses.

Some thought no filly would ever repeat her achievement, and none did until jockey Jacinto Vasquez won the roses in 1980 for owners Bert and Diana Firestone and trainer LeRoy Jolley.

What convinced the Firestones to try her in the Derby was her victory in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, long a major Derby prep race. She was a beautiful chestnut, but probably a bit lighter than her male rivals.

I never could decide if the Firestones were intensely shy or New York snobs. They only gave a few interviews, and Bert, especially, was so humorless that he was impossible to like.

As big as her Derby story was, it was surpassed by her Preakness. Codex, a horse trained by D. Wayne Lukas, tried to intimidate her at the top of the stretch, forcing her to the far outside. That cost her the race that Codex won, and her many fans were livid.

Without Codex in the field, she came back to finish second to Temperence Hill in the Belmont Stakes.

Interestingly, Lukas, the trainer of Codex, also was the trainer of Winning Colors in 1988. She was a big, strong filly who stood out on the track because she was a gray.

Lukas decided to try her in the Derby after she demolished a field of colts in the Santa Anita Derby. In the “Run for the Roses,” she gunned straight to the lead and stayed that way, withstanding a huge rush by Forty Niner in the final furlong.

I was standing next to Lukas in the paddock runway, watching the race on TV. As soon as she hit the finish line, he pivoted, whacked me on the back with his rolled-up program, and proclaimed “My turn, my turn.” The he took off for the winner’s circle to greet his first Derby winner.

Yesterday fillies were the big story at Churchill Downs. Entries were taken and post positions drawn for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks, known as the Derby for 3-year-old fillies.

The undefeated Malathaat, trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Shadwell Stable, was made the 5-2 morning line favorite and will break from post No. 10 in a 14-horse field.

If she wins the Oaks authoritatively, the second-guessing will start immediately about whether she should have tried to become the fourth filly to win the Derby.

Which, of course, is another reason to love thoroughbred racing.

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