Mike Hartnett's Derby Diary

Mike Hartnett's Derby Diary

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - My first year covering the Kentucky Derby was 1979. I was working at a television station in Lexington, and was just a few weeks into the job when -- bang! -- I was covering "The Bid."

His full name was Spectacular Bid and boy was he special. After his morning gallop at Keeneland, The Bid was cooling down, walking in his barn. As the photographers clicked away, the colt seemed to love it. He stopped and gazed over the media throng at the barn. It was as if he was trying to communicate to us that, "Yeah, I'm big, I'm bad and I am special."

At the time, he was training for his upcoming victory in the Blue Grass Stakes and he would go on to capture the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, only to come up short in the Belmont.

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We had just come off back-to-back years of Triple Crown winners with the great accomplishments of Seattle Slew and Affirmed. Little did I know that I'd have to wait so many years to see another Crown. I guess watching American Pharoah's magical and glorious run last year made the long wait worth it.

Over these many years of covering the Derby, the biggest change I've noticed is how the race has grown in popularity, mainly on a national basis. There was a bit of a lull in the 1980s. But the 1990s saw a surge kick in. The Kentucky Derby seemed to gain momentum, seemed to come with more sizzle. I'd say the success of trainers Bob Baffert, Nick Zito and Wayne Lukas contributed greatly to bringing in new fans and more buzz to the first Saturday in May.

Can't wait to experience more buzz and more thrills come May 7!

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