Every year since 1995 the Indiana Derby has not failed to capture imaginations of adults and children alike. In 2010, Indiana's biggest race reached a groundbreaking milestone, having Lookin at Lucky become the first winner of a Triple Crown race to win the Indiana Derby. In 2009, Misremembered set a new record in the race, and in 2010 Bob Baffert become the first trainer to win two straight Indiana Derbies. In no way can you say the Indiana Derby isn't a key race leading up to the Breeders Cup, being a month behind it.
The 2011 Indiana Derby in my eye was the best one yet. The field included Shackleford, the 2011 Preakness winner, Caleb's Posse, a horse that speaks for himself, Little Drama, Wilburn, and Decisive Moment.
As the horses made their way to the paddock, everybody was waiting for Shackleford, the "great horse" of the race. As he was led into the paddock, a small but hearty applause came from the spectators of the paddock. It was his race, or so everybody thought. The big horse shipping in can't lose, can he? No Decisive Moment (shown in picture) or Little Drama, or Caleb's Posse can stop him...can they?
Yes, they can. Breaking from the start of the homestretch, specatators like myself witnessed the horses breaking cleanly and a game Decisive Moment setting the pace in the early race. Little Drama strode up to rest second, while the big horse set himself content with 3rd. Wilburn didn't feel the need to be left out, so he took up the spot 4th along the rail through Hoosier's small backstretch. I remember saying "If Shack isn't closer to the lead, he's not going to win." And that's what happened. Coming into the far turn, Shackleford stole the lead, and had smooth sailing with no competitors. Or so we all thought. We had clued out all factors up to this moment besides one horse, the one with the rail: Wilburn. "Inside, finding a seam, WILBURN!" as the caller of Hoosier Park Steve Cross said to everybody at Hoosier Park.
Wilburn took the lead and never looked back. He opened up by numourous lengths, while leaving Shackleford and an oncoming Caleb's Posse to battle it out for second. Decisive Moment and Little Drama faded into oblivion until their next race.
Julien Leparoux, the jockey of Wilburn, had just won the Indiana Oaks upon Juanita, a fillly just coming off of a 100k stakes race at Penn National. He became the first of 2 jockeys to win the duo, the other being Brian Hernandez Jr, in 2012. He came into the winner circle, took a few pictures, shook a few hands, and then came over to greet some fans waiting for him. "How long will you be smiling?" my father asked, curious. He looked back, and said "Well, tomorrow's always another day!" It was a day I know I'll never forget, so why should you not get the chance to come see the majestic Hoosier Park, built in the middle of a cornfield, the track that had no hope except as a place for bettors to spend their days? The track rose up to the best Indiana has, and it's not disappointing its fans.
Written by Madison Jackson (aka TBDF)