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Wagners

The Wagners Pharmacy Diner is the primary destination for Derby goers Derby week.


It's all racegoers and backstretch workers, trainers, jockeys.


I have sat at the bar with rider James Graham, Dallas Stewart, the Foley gang, it's a tradition.


I have many stories, From Wayne Catalano flirting with my girl at the time, 'are you two together?' a half hour later...... to my favorite story, which also included Wayne.


Keeneland 2010 watching replays for the Blue Grass that weekend, a horse caught my eye, a big bay that looked powerful over the Arlington Park synthetic, Animal Kingdom.


The aforementioned Wayne Catalano trained, and owned by Team Valor.


He showed up later that meet, on the Keeneland, at that time synthetic, to break maiden.


Fast forward to the spring of 2011, he is entered in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway. Animal Kingdom is now with Graham Motion.


Turfway Park's synthetic was a hybrid surface, you couldn't reproduce that surface in a million years, horses simply didn't want to run through the kickback.


Animal Kingdom's trip is forever etched in my memory, he didn't break and was last or near the back of the pack, taking a wave of that sandy kickback in the face. He moved inside, where horses simply vanished at Turfway Park, he made a long run to get right behind the leaders into the far turn.


"This is where he hangs and tires'' I whispered to myself, he made another move, angled out, "he has to flatten out now," I said out loud.


He moved outside and got along side the leaders, 'he has to flatten out now', I thought, well, he didn't, he kicked on, and won with something left.


I looked at my partner, and said "that's the Derby winner''. She just stared at me.


We did a podcast later that weekend, and we were adamant about the Animal Kingdom trip and result over a synthetic track.


Animal Kingdom had no experience on dirt.


Fast forward to Derby week, Animal Kingdom had a superb 1:13 flat work on the Churchill main track and I was at Wagners having breakfast.


The place is buzzing, it's electric on Derby week.


A tap on my shoulder, and it is Ahmed Zayat. He had Nehro in the Derby with Steve Asmussen.


I was friendly with Ahmed from his days in California with Bob Baffert.


"When you finish breakfast can I take a minute of your time" said Zayat, in a very formal manner.


What did I do? or say" or write, went thru my mind.


After breakfast, I was like dead man walking to the back of Wagners restaurant.


"You know, I Iisten to your podcast and you couldn't stop talking about Animal Kingdom", Zayat said, "I thought you were crazy", tagging his statement.


Before I could comment, he continues "I was with Baffert when he galloped by today and we both looked at each other, 'that's the winner' I said" Zayat said with a smile.


"You are right", and here is a man that had Nehro, a very live Derby runner in the race.


The rest was history, Animal Kingdom goes off at 20-1, of which after the fact, every body had him, loved him, yet he paid over $40. Nehro finished second.


Everybody is a genius after the Derby, they knew Rich Strike would win, they knew Animal Kingdom, but none of them had Ahmed Zayat tell them 'he thought they were crazy'


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