The Latest: Track at Churchill Downs downgraded to sloppy

The Latest: Track at Churchill Downs downgraded to sloppy
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Latest on Saturday’s 144th running of the Kentucky Derby (all times local):

3 p.m.

The track surface at Churchill Downs has been downgraded to sloppy about four hours before the Kentucky Derby is run.

Showers have been falling since mid-day in Louisville. The surface was listed as fast to begin the racing card and then went to muddy and is now sloppy.

Fans are seeking shelter under any overhang they can find, while donning plastic ponchos over their outfits and hats.

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2:20 p.m.

Celebrities are making their annual walk down the red carpet at the Kentucky Derby.

“Friday Night Lights” star Taylor Kitsch is attending his first Derby, but he’s no stranger to picking a good horse. He says he won’t settle on a choice until he sees the horses just before the race.

“I love to see them first, see what they’re dealing with, see the energy of the horses right before they get in there, and then I’ll know,” said Kitsch, who has starred in HBO’s “True Detective” and the films “Battleship” and “Lone Survivor.”

Former Dallas Cowboys star Jason Witten turned ESPN football analyst on Monday Night Football made his way to Churchill Downs just days after announcing his retirement from football. Witten says he’s “still on the high right now of going through so many emotions.”

Figure skater Johnny Weir made his usual splash on the red carpet with his choice of head-wear. This year it was three crowns put together to symbolize the Triple Crown.

His horse is Mendelssohn, “simply because I love classical music, classical music is so important to my sport and my life.”

“Blackish” actor Anthony Anderson wore a canary yellow suit and is picking Audible to win the Derby.

Other stars appearing on the red carpet included Kid Rock, Joey Fatone of NSYNC and country star Travis Tritt, attending his 23rd Derby.

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1:40 p.m.

The dirt track at Churchill Downs has gone from being fast to listed as muddy.

The surface has been sealed or packed down, allowing water to run off and reduce the amount of precipitation being absorbed. Wet tracks are sealed to provide a safe and even racing surface.

Of the 20 Kentucky Derby runners in Saturday’s race, 12 have never raced on a wet surface.

Bettors might want to consider Flameaway, currently a 50-1 shot that is 2-for-2 on wet tracks.

Justify, the 7-2 favorite, is 1-for-1 on wet tracks, as is Lone Sailor, My Boy Jack and Enticed.

Firenze Fire has one win in two starts under such conditions. Free Drop Billy and Combatant have both finished second in their only starts on wet tracks.

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12:35 p.m.

Kentucky Derby day got off to a drizzly start for the second year in a row, with spitting rain and the forecast predicting downpours to last all day.

Women traded heels for galoshes and wore ponchos over their dresses. Some in the infield constructed elaborate tents out of tarps to try to stay dry and avoid the forming mud puddles. The weather for some was a disappointing twist after forecasters had for a week been promising perfect weather on Derby Day. It had been sunny and warm leading up to Saturday with temps in the 80s.

Amanda Phillips and Sarah Hoffman bought their mother infield tickets for Christmas, and the trio traveled from Orlando. They’d had their outfits meticulously planned for their first Derby, but eyed the sky Saturday morning, scrapped their dresses and made a last minute run to the store for ponchos and rain boots.

“We don’t mind a little rain, we adapted,” Phillips said, as they stood under an overhang at a wagering window to try to stay out of the rain. “Our hair looked great like two hours ago.”

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12:15 p.m.

Steve Asmussen has earned his 8,000th career victory on Kentucky Derby day.

The 52-year-old trainer saddled Lookin At Lee to a 2 1/4-length win in the third race at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

Asmussen is second to the late Dale Baird in career wins among trainers. Baird notched 9,445 over 46 years.

A year ago, Lookin At Lee finished second in the Derby to Always Dreaming by 2 3/4 lengths.

Asmussen has a chance to win his first Derby later Saturday with 76-1 shot Combatant.

He could add to his total with 16 scheduled starters on the day, six at Churchill and 10 at Lone Star Park in Texas.

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2 a.m.

Bob Baffert is seeking a fifth victory in the Kentucky Derby and he’s got the favorite, too.

Justify is the early 7-2 favorite for Saturday’s 144th Run for the Roses that features a full field of 20 colts. Baffert trains Justify, who has just three starts, and longshot Solomini.

Justify, along with undefeated Magnum Moon, didn’t race as 2-year-olds. They’ll be trying to disprove an old jinx: No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won without racing as a juvenile.

Todd Pletcher will saddle four horses: Audible, the co-third choice at 6-1, along with longshots Magnum Moon, Vino Rosso and Noble Indy.

History would be written if Ireland-based Mendelssohn pulls off a victory. No European colt has ever won the Derby.

The forecast calls for a chance of rain at various times Saturday. Post time is 6:46 p.m. ET.

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