As Badminton gets into gear, Newmarket hosts the first Classic of the season, and the UK and Commonwealth stop at lunchtime for the coronation of King Charles III. But, on the other side of the Atlantic, it's crunch time Stateside. 150,000 pilgrims are preparing to pack a Churchill Downs couldron in downtown Louisville, gathering faithfully for an annual spectacle that stops the US nation all but in name. Since 1875 they've descended on the spiritual cradle of North America's thoroughbred passion. It's the undisputed capital of a colourful racing heritage... Secretariat and American Pharoah, just two of this whiskey heartland's heroes. Tapit Trice and Forte, successors seeking to tread a path in their footsteps.
And, after months of speculation, it emerges there's no double booking for our ambassador, Frankie Dettori, who, back in Europe, stays on for a ride at the Rowley Mile. Unfashionable of him, certainly, to have performed a Newbury flying dismount on Chaldean before even departing the stalls, but we wish him luck as Chaldean bids to run clear (hopefully, this time, with Frankie onboard) at 4:40pm. For a live Kentucky Derby tune in, you're faced, of course, with a late night (the gates open at three minutes to midnight our side of the water). But you'd do well to sit back with a crowning wind down, the voice of Larry Colmus gushing over you, guiding you through 1m2f on the dirt of the rock-ribbed state.
For the Kentucky Derby was, by design, a domestic celebration. And, fundamentally, that's how it remains. But the 2023 edition goes off with some inescapable Japanese raiders in its midst. Derma Sotogake, Continuar and Mandarin Hero carry the flag of a nation flying in fresh from world domination at the Dubai World Cup. Not such a native hero, however, Mandarin Hero has known nothing but American dirt, having touched second to Practical Move in the Santa Anita Derby at the start of April. It was, indeed, his only start, and the two face a private rematch tomorrow. Facing up again, too, the class duo of compatriots Continuar and Derma Sotogake, impregnable in the UAE Derby this March, Continuar trailing third in his wake.
But, that said, there's no need to disregard native hopefuls. Forte arrives unbeaten but for his maiden, and that includes a Florida Derby and Breeders Cup Juvenile. And while last year's contest saw late supplement Rich Strike soar to victory, as jaws dropped and ice teas tumbled, Tapit Trice would be the cause of no such gasps. It's a string of ones for Todd Pletcher's entry, going clear in the Keeneland Blue Grass last month, in the follow up to a take down of the Tampa Bay Derby. "They're into the stretch!" cries Colmus. But who'll be in front tomorrow night?