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What does it take to raise a Kentucky Derby winner?

LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — Winning the Kentucky Derby is a dream many horse owners fantasize about, but for breeders who have actually won the run for the roses, the reality is a mix of hard work, good breeding and luck.

“The Derby is everybody’s dream in this business,” Mark Toothaker, stallion division at Spendthrift Farm, said.

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With over 18,000 breeding-registered foals born annually, the chances of raising a Derby winner are slim. But if you’re lucky enough, the odds may be in your favor.

“It’s one of those things that is the gold ring we’re all trying to reach for and strive for, and a lot of dreams came true here at Spendthrift,” Toothaker said. “Great day that day. We will always remember the 2020 Kentucky Derby.”

After years of hard work and hours of practice and preparation, Spendthrift Farm won the 2020 Kentucky Derby trophy with Authentic.

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The horse, foaled by Into Mischief on May 5, 2017, was an 8-1 favorite to win the Derby. After taking home that dream trophy, he continued to build his resume by becoming the 2020 Horse of the Year, the highest title a horse can hold.

But the question still lingers: what goes into raising a Derby winner?

“Well, the biggest thing is being here in Kentucky,” Toothaker said. “We have so many advantages. We have not only the best health care vet services that are here, but the land is absolutely the best. This limestone soil just grows a bigger, stronger colt, and that’s one of the big things about trying to get to the Derby is. You need a horse that can
withstand the daily rigors of training, but you also need a horse that’s talented. And one thing you need the most of is a lot of luck.”

If the horse shows signs of becoming a contender, trainers will make a specialized workout plan specific to each horse, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.

“Most all these horses are going to go to the track each day,” Toothaker said. “They’re going to train normally a mile-and-a-quarter to a mile-and-a-half. Every Saturday is typically when they have a breeze or what we call a real workout, where they’re asked for their best and so each Saturday, there’s just an absolute ton of workers at Churchill and at Keeneland. That seems to be the day, as long as the weather is good, that most every trainer breezes their horses.”

From then on, horses will start competing in races and hopefully continue to win, making the road to the Derby a little easier.

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Authentic is now retired at Spendthrift Farms, where he meets thousands of fans annually and keeps the tradition of siring future Derby winners.

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