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Giacomo Comes From Behind to Win Derby

LIANE HANSEN, host:

Thoroughbred horses were celebrated yesterday at Churchill Downs in Louisville for the 131st running of the Kentucky Derby.

(Soundbite from Kentucky Derby)

Unidentified Announcer: Giacomo, Don't Get Mad, late charge on the final stretch. Coming down to the finish, Closing Argument short lead. Giacomo, Afleet Alex--it's a three-horse photo finish, and on the wire, it's Giacomo who has won the 131st Kentucky Derby.

HANSEN: Long-shot Giacomo with jockey Hall of Famer Mike Smith aboard became only the second horse in derby history to pay off in triple digits. Giacomo's 50:1 odds rewarded a $2 bet with winnings of $102.60. More than 150,000 people packed the grandstands in the infield for the race. Jenny Rees was there. She's a reporter for The Louisville Courier-Journal. She's covered the derby for the past 20 years, and this morning, she's back at Churchill Downs.

Good morning, Jenny.

Ms. JENNY REES (The Louisville Courier-Journal): Good morning, Liane.

HANSEN: So what's the morning-after scene like at the track?

Ms. REES: Well, I am eyeballing from a few yards away the rugby scrum that is surrounding Mike Smith, the winning jockey, the press. He's only winning connection that is here. Trainer John Shirreffs and the owners, Jerry and Ann Moss, flew back to California last night, but Mike is--like I said, I can't see him, but I can see all the big reporters around him.

HANSEN: Have you been able to talk to him yet?

Ms. REES: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I've been talking to him earlier this morning, and he's still in a state of shock. He acknowledged that his left arm, sort of under the rib cage, is a little bit sore. He was getting pretty energetic into the horse those last couple of furlongs there to ensure the victory and he did win by half a length. It was a masterful ride by Mike Smith.

HANSEN: So what are the trainers saying about the performance of their horses?

Ms. REES: Well, I was just talking to Nick Zito a little earlier and he said, you know, essentially, `We got whooped,' you know, making no explanations and no excuses, saying, `Praise the winner. He ran a huge race. This is what racing's all about. If it was an easy end, we'd all have huge winning tickets and we wouldn't be working.' But I figured some of them anyways will be seen up again with Giacomo in two weeks in Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes and then we'll see what happens then. I mean, the race was hardly official and people were saying, `Well, I don't think we have a triple-crown winner this year,' but Mike Smith thinks, `Wait. We're the Derby champs. They've got to knock us off. We're the triple-crown winner until somebody beats us in either the Preakness or the Belmont.'

HANSEN: Now the favorite Bellamy Road finished way out of the money. It's owned by George Steinbrenner who also owns the Yankees who are in the cellar, so to speak. Has anyone seen him this morning?

Ms. REES: No. No. There has not been a George sighting anywhere. No.

HANSEN: No. And is the track pretty neat, I mean, after this kind of race? I mean, they clean up pretty well?

Ms. REES: Oh, the infield is a garbage pit. They let the horses train till 8:00 and then they bring in the cleanup crews. But leaving the track last night, I mean, 155,000 people, you can imagine there was a lot of garbage that needs to be cleaned up and a lot of, you know, scout troops and Little League teams come in and that's how they raised money. They bring in these groups to do the massive cleaning up that is required after a derby.

HANSEN: Jenny Rees is a reporter with The Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, and she spoke to us from the barns of Churchill Downs. You can hear that.

Thanks so much, Jenny.

Ms. REES: Well, thank you, Liane. Sure appreciate it.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Singers: ...on my old Kentucky home far away.

HANSEN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.
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