Minutes after witnessing his horse, Shackleford, lead the Kentucky Derby field nearly the entire 1 1/4 mile distance, but fall back at the stretch to finish fourth, trainer Dale Romans led the winning trainer, Graham Motion, to the winner's circle.
Graham Motion, whose home base is the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, was unfamiliar with the layout of Churchill Downs and became disoriented after watching from the clubhouse above as his horse, Animal Kingdom, closed strongly to take the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby. Fortunately for Motion, he bumped into Romans in the clubhouse hall and told Romans that he didn't know how to get down to his horse. Romans quickly responded that he'd show him the way.
As Romans led the exuberant and emotional Motion through the hallowed Churchill Downs hallways, one might wonder how could a man who had just lost the biggest race of the year so graciously escort the winning trainer to collect his prize? After meeting Romans, you would know the answer. Romans is a tried and true Louisvillian, raised in Shively, graduated from Butler High School, and still residing in the Southend of Louisville. He's a gentleman and a kind soul that knows his time is coming. Romans' Paddy O'Prado finished third in last year's Kentucky Derby and went on to a successful turf career. Shackleford looks like he will go on to do great things as well.
As Romans led Motion through the Churchill hallways and outside into the grandstand, Motion wiped a tear from his eye as he walked out into the sea of adoring race fans, down the stairs and out to the track. Once they had reached the first floor clubhouse and the track was laid out before them, Romans said to Motion, "Now, go get your horse."
In the aftermath of the Kentucky Derby, the money won or lost, and the whirlwind of emotions that have kept us running on adrenaline the past week, it's nice to know that at the end of it all, the people we have been idolizing all week are no different than us. Their career paths just happened to lead them to the Kentucky Derby. They haven't forgotten their Louisville roots or their Southern hospitality. A seemingly insignificant event, something that most of us would instinctively do--our Louisville hospitality, may be the thing that leaves an impact on all the visitors that have traveled to Louisville this year for the Derby and the thing that brings them back next year.
Shackleford is now headed to the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico race track in Baltimore, Maryland. Maybe Graham Motion will be called upon to return the favor and be the one that leads Dale Romans to the winner's circle next week.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby