It’s Only a Number

It seems like a million years ago watching the 1986 Derby. – William Lee Shoemaker (The Shoe) broke from post one and saved ground around the historic oval. – The best part was how he had to weave through traffic after breaking from the worst post and draw off down the lane. Watching Bill Shoemaker win the race for his fourth time was worth the price of admission I’m sure, but to complete this herculean effort at 54-years-young made it one for the ages.

It hasn’t happened since 1986, and only 9.1% have ever won from the one post since using a starting gate in 1930. Add in the 54-year-old rider and getting (18-1) was an underlay. – Las Vegas prop bets would have probably been near triple digits. – We’ll have to wait and see how the 145th running does this Saturday.  History buffs love this as gamblers would be first to tell you they’re only numbers.

This Saturday another number is popping up. – Jon Court will be the oldest rider to compete in the Kentucky Derby. – According to Churchill Downs research, Bobby Baird currently holds the distinction, having ridden Raymond Earl to a 10th-place finish in the 1978 Derby at the age of 57. Bill Shoemaker is the oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, famously leading Ferdinand to victory in 1986 at the age of 54. – Court is 58-years-young and has a mount aboard Long Range Toddy.

Asked about the history he’s about to make, Court expresses a mixture of indifference and reverence. “I am laughing about it, but I’m taking it seriously,” he said. “I’m focused. I’m on the verge of making history. It just projects me that much closer to perhaps one day — if I keep going — to get nominated for the Hall of Fame. These are the things that add up when you start to accumulate these accolades. It’s an honor to be here.”

Court has 4,147 career victories, ranking 63rd all-time among North American jockeys, according to He’s earned more than $105 million in purses, ranking 43rd all time; according to the Courier-Journal.

His “magic” may be in the bio-hacking supplements introduced to him by retired rider Ramon Dominguez. Court said the use of bio-hacking supplements helps relieve oxidative stress, which is a natural occurrence and plays a role in the aging process.

“We slow down Father Time, so to speak,” Court said. “I’m always looking for ways to better myself nutritionally. To do what I do, I have to stay on top. “I was considering retiring in years to come, but since I started bio-hacking it’s as if I have a new lease on life. It’s extended my career. It’s fallen into place perfectly,” according to the Courier-Journal.

There’s something special about the Derby. – When I was a young boy my Dad would collect wagers from the neighbors and head up to the local bookie to get their $2 action down. Under normal circumstances, they would have talked behind the “old man’s” back about betting with a bookie. But the Derby makes everyone a racing fan one day a year. – The history, the pageantry, and the majestic Thoroughbred capture everyone on the first Saturday in May. Hope spring is eternal as these runners enter the starting gate this Saturday. It’s a long road on the Derby Trail and only one will prevail. Uttering the words of every gambler; “Who do you like in the Derby?”