The Delaware Derby?
The First State has become a perennial player in the Run for the Roses.
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It’s a rite of spring: A horse owned by Rick Porter racing in the Kentucky Derby.
But this year could be even more exciting for the Wilmington businessman. If colts Old Fashioned and Friesan Fire meet expectations, Porter will field two entries in the Derby on May 2.
“We just need to keep them sound between now and the beginning of May,” says Porter, owner of Fox Hill Farm.
For the past several years, one of the roads to Churchill Downs has run through the First State. Past Triple Crown hopefuls Afleet Alex and Barbaro won their career debut races at Delaware Park. Other contenders have had Delaware-based trainers or were stabled just over the state line in Maryland or Pennsylvania.
“It used to be that a horse had to be from California or Florida or New York,” says John Curran, track announcer at Delaware Park. “Now you could have a future Derby horse making a debut right here during the summer.”
Porter’s success has come from finding exceptional horses and pairing them with successful trainers. Porter’s Hard Spun and Eight Belles, both trained by Larry Jones, finished second in the Derby in 2007 and 2008, respectively. The Porter-Jones combination is working toward its third straight Derby appearance this year.
Porter’s 3-year-old colts have been rated among the best horses in the United States. Old Fashioned was leading the national rankings until mid-March when, as the heavy favorite in a Derby prep race, he finished second to a longshot. Until then, he had won his first four career races in impressive fashion.
Friesan Fire won his first three races this year, improving by leaps and bounds with each run. The idea is for each horse to reach its peak as the Derby approaches.
“The ultimate in horse racing is to get to the Derby with a horse that belongs there,” Porter says. “It’s a great thing to chase, and we’ve been lucky enough to be in the chase the past few years.” —Drew Ostroski
Page 2: A Solid Foundation | A Wilmington philanthropist is taking his successful brain tumor awareness movement national.