When the mournful notes drifted away, track announcer Luke Kruytbosch announced the ceremony was to honor several firefighters from the New York Fire Department, who then stood at attention during the playing of the National Anthem.
The theme was continued as the horses walked from the stable area over to the paddock for saddling. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas surrounded his starter, Proud Citizen, with a huge American flag and his supporters passed out smaller flags to fans along the outside rail.
The stewards had almost as much impact on the stakes events leading up to the Kentucky Derby as did the horses themselves. In two of the five pre-Derby stakes, losing jockeys filed objections and were upheld by the stewards. In the $200,000, Grade I Humana Distaff, just two races before the Kentucky Derby, jockey Mark Guidry said his mount, Celtic Melody, was impeded in deep stretch by the winner, Gold Mover, under John Velazquez. After a long look at the video, the stewards agreed and reversed the order of finish.
Two races earlier, in the $150,000, Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap, jockey Mike Smith inadvertently struck rival D'wildcat on the nose with his whip just before the wire. Smith's mount, Snow Ridge, finished first, a neck in front of D'wildcat. The mis-aimed whip stroke, however, cost Smith the win after a long review.
A filly upset the colts in Saturday's $100,000 Three Chimneys Juvenile Stakes for 2-year-olds. Holiday Runner, trained by D. Wayne Lukas and ridden by Jerry Bailey, broke alertly, contested the early lead with heavy favorite Posse and edged clear in the stretch to win by 1 length. Zavata came from far back to take second from Posse.
"I thought it was extraordinary that a filly could look a colt in the eye and put him away," Bailey said. "She broke good and she's very quick." Added Lukas: "She's an amazing little filly."
She is also well-bred. Her sire is Meadowlake and her dam is Dixie Holiday, a daughter of Dixieland Band. She was sold at the Keeneland September yearling sale last year for $35,000.