AND THEY'RE OFF! NO, WAIT! MIX-UP AT DERBY DRAW PROMPTS REDO
The new post-position draw for Saturday's Kentucky
Derby, which "was introduced to make more interesting
television for ESPN, turned into an embarrassing mix-up"
last night, according to Bill Christine of the L.A. TIMES.
This year, Churchill Downs decided to let trainers draw
numbers to determine the order in which they would select
post positions for the race. In previous years, the numbers
drawn were the post positions. ESPN host Chris Lincoln, who
was serving as both TV commentator and draw official, drew
the first twelve numbers, but then "appeared confused as the
selection order was drawn for the final three horses."
Following a commercial break, Derby officials "ruled the
entire draw would have to be redone." Churchill Downs
President Tom Meeker was "angry and chagrined" by the
developments. Meeker: "All of the pills were gone, and not
all of the horses' names had been accounted for. ... [I]t
was unfortunate and embarrassing." Christine adds that it
"wasn't clear" what happened, and that even Lincoln "wasn't
sure." Lincoln: "I held the pills too long" (L.A. TIMES,
4/30). In N.Y., Joseph Durso reports that the format change
for the draw was made after last year's Derby broadcast got
"exceptionally low ratings." Meeker, on the snafu: "It
happened because we let television control it. I'm
embarrassed. Racing officials should control racing" (N.Y.
TIMES, 4/30). Also in N.Y., Bill Finley calls the situation
"one of the most embarrassing moments in the history of
horse racing" and notes Lincoln misread one of the pills,
and assigned the number 15 to two horses (DAILY NEWS, 4/30).
BLAME, BLAME, BLAME: In N.Y., David Grenig writes that
it was Meeker's "idea to change the format" in the first
place. After the broadcast, Meeker "fumed" that he was
"through with ESPN." Meeker: "I'm through with Chris
Lincoln. He's totally incompetent." However, trainer D.
Wayne Lukas said that he is "still a big proponent of the
new draw." Lukas: "I think we take it a little too lightly.
We need to do it more like the NBA or NFL. We are not in
the comedy business" (N.Y. POST, 4/30). Trainer Bob Baffert:
"They wanted some drama -- they got it" (CNN/SI, 4/29). In
Chicago, Jim O'Donnell writes that ESPN's broadcast was a
"near-total disaster," adding that even after the draw
confusion the telecast "continued to drift in and out of
clarity." One veteran KY racing official: "This was all
quite embarrassing" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/30). In
Philadelphia, Dick Jerardi calls the draw show a "giant
embarrassment." Jerardi: "Mostly, it was just a ridiculous
episode. It should have been easy" (DAILY NEWS, 4/30).