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Saturday, May 07, 2011

Kentucky Derby: Horseshoes (and a Horseshoer's Daughter) Ready to Run for the Roses

Here's the Kentucky Derby news you won't ready anywhere else. And the photos no one else would think to take. But by the time you've read this, you'll have to admit that it makes a good case for ESPN adding a hoof analyst for the Triple Crown. It's not just the shoes and hooves, either, as you'll read. It's the people.

Hoofcare and Lameness will be watching the Kentucky Derby from the comfort of home (darn it) this year but that didn't stop us from deputizing Dan Burke of Farrier Product Distribution in Shelbyville, Kentucky to snap a few backstretch photos for the blog this week.

Dan was at Churchill Downs to peek over the shoulders of the horseshoers and see if his Kerckhaert race plates were being nailed (or glued) on the stakes horses. It sounds like his trip to Louisville was not in vain; Plum Pretty (shod by Tom Doolan) and St Johns River (shod by Sonny Broaddus) finished 1-2 in the Kentucky Oaks today, wearing the European plates imported by FPD. By Dan's count, at least 9 of the 20 starters in the Derby will be wearing his shoes.

Mark Dewey was working on the hind end of Mucho Macho Man. You may remember that this horse, who is one of the people's favorites, pulled a shoe leaving the starting gate in his last race at The Fair Grounds in New Orleans. He ran the race on three shoes, swapped leads an awful lot, and still finished third. The gate crew returned the lost shoe, but trainer Kathy Ritvo opted for the glue-ons for Kentucky. (Dan Burke/FPD photo/ © Hoofcare Publishing)
Mark Dewey checks the fit of a Kerckhaert shoe on Mucho Macho Man's right hind. The New York Times says this horse is THE story of the Derby. Did you know he was born technically dead? I have never seen a medical explanation of what his problem was, but all his biographical materials remind us that his life is missing its first ten minutes. He only needs about two minutes to win the Kentucky Derby. Secretariat still holds the record for the fastest Derby at 1:59 2/5.  (Dan Burke/FPD photo/ © Hoofcare Publishing)
Last year's big winner in the Kentucky Derby was New York's Ray Amato.  Does this sound familiar? Trainer Todd Pletcher seemed headed for a Kentucky Derby win with the speedy Eskendereya. Pletcher had tried and failed to win the Derby with dozens of top colts. His horseshoer Ray Amato had been trying for half a century. He thought he had a winner when he shod Sham in 1973. In spite of scratching Eskendereya when he was injured right before last year's race, Todd and Ray ended up with their first Derby winner when Super Saver captured the win. Don't count them out of this year's race, either: Uncle Mo may be out, but Stay Thirsty is still in the race to keep hope alive for a Pletcher-Amato repeat. (Dan Burke/FPD photo/ © Hoofcare Publishing)
An intimate look at the horse with the name most fun to say: Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch. These hands should belong to Teddy Fires, brother of the horse's trainer, Jinks Fires. This will be Jinks' first starter in the Derby, although he has been training horses at Churchill Downs since 1961. According to the Blood-Horse, there are three shoers in the Fires extended family, including Justin Court, who is the son of the horse's jockey, John Court, who is riding Archarcharch. And it's his first-ever Derby mount. And Jinks is his father-in-law. (Got that?) (Dan Burke/FPD photo/ © Hoofcare Publishing)

No go. Isabel Escobar holds Uncle Mo while he gets a bath on the mats during the week. The two-year-old champion was scratched Friday morning after a week of speculation. He kept galloping but was reported to be ill with a GI tract problem. I'll keep drinking Vitamin Water; the company was started by the colt's owner, Mike Repole.  (Jessica Chapel of Kentucky Confidential and Raceday360 photo / © Hoofcare Publishing)

Uncle Mo's reinforced right hind foot didn't even enter into the conversation of his scratch from the Derby; hoof repair is pretty commonplace these days. An artificial hoof wall has been constructed from the quarters to the heels on this hind foot and the shoe is nailed into the PMMA adhesive, which is structurally similar to hoof wall and will hold nails. (Jessica Chapel of Kentucky Confidential and Raceday360 photo / © Hoofcare Publishing)

Jockey Rosie Napravnik is the daughter of New Jersey horseshoer Charles Napravnik. She'll ride Pants on Fire, who is not trained by the Fires family. Rosie thrilled the world today when she rode St Johns River to a roaring second-place finish to almost catch Plum Pretty at the wire of the $1 Millions Kentucky Oaks. Maybe that was just a warmup for Saturday. Watch for Rosie on the television broadcast of the Derby. (Read all about her career, including being this year's leading rider at The Fair Grounds, on ( photo)

Although we don't have any photos of him, partly because he just got here, I wouldn't mind if Ireland's Master of Hounds won, either; his hooves are under the watchful eye of Dr. Scott Morrison of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital's Podiatry Clinic and were probably most recently under the hammer of Rood and Riddle farrier Rodney King. Dr. Morrison also worked on three of the Derby starters as foals and yearlings. That gives him 20 percent of the race. 

There are people who think that the world of Hoofcare and Lameness is on the fringe of the horse world, that's it a niche. A specialty. A quirky aspect of the game. If ever there was a group of people more at the heart of the Kentucky Derby than the hands-on-the-horses people you've just met in this article, I'd be surprised.

Just try racing without them. The horses wouldn't get far and the backstretch would be a much less interesting place.

So we'd like Stay Thirsty to win for Ray and Mucho Macho Man to win for Kathy and Mark and to show off his glue-on shoes and ArchArchArch to win for everyone in the Fires family and Pants on Fire to win for Rosie Napravnik and her horseshoeing dad. And Master of Hounds for everyone in all of Ireland and the great people at Rood and Riddle. And those are just the horses I've heard about so far; there are plenty more horses in the race, and each one of them has someone (or more than one) watching out for its feet.

Look for Uncle Mo in the Preakness, maybe, or check him out this summer in Saratoga.

We'll have a whole new web of connections by the time we get there. The Derby is only one race; these people are out there making things happen every day.

Thanks to Dan Burke and Jessica Chapel for their great photos from Churchill Downs. Please respect their loan of these photos.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to  
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Timothy Helck said...


Your readers might be interested in this picture of Rosie's dad, the farrier Charles Napravnik. It was taken at one of Summit Tech's farrier clinics in the mid '90's.


Fran Jurga said...

Here's the link to the photo:

There are some great old photos there!

Thanks, Tim!

(Tim and his dad Jerry owned Summit Tech farrier supplies in Cranbury, New Jersey and are some of my very oldest friends in the horseshoeing world!)

Riley said...

Forgot about the being born dead part... always enjoy finding the interesting things to share on your blog.

Fran Jurga said...

Thanks, I'm glad you find it interesting!