Twenty--that’s the number of times you should view the Kentucky Derby replay if you want to know everything that happened in last Saturday’s feature race at Churchill Downs.

Or you could take our word for it: The best horse won and reversible bad-luck trips by others were not going to change Saturday’s outcome. It only would have made things a little more interesting. Here are some cliff notes:

ALWAYS DREAMING
is a very good horse and if he keeps this up he could become a great one; no hyperbole intended. Did he have a perfect trip? Of course, but it was one of his own making.

No need to watch him in replay. If you remember his Florida Derby, then you’ve seen his Kentucky Derby: Speed from the start, establishing position, then moving to a stalking position in mid-backstretch.

He took the lead when his rider pushed the button, was set down at headstretch and drew off, under pressure until the conclusion was foregone, winning with something left.

The only thing you possibly should review is the gallop-out. As Vic Stauffer might intone, he was straight and strong, very strong.

LOOKIN AT LEE was given a perfect trip by Corey Borel, err, Lanerie. He hugged the fence, went around one tiring rival at mid-far-turn, accelerating while he cut the corner into the lane.

That is highly unusual for a supposed one-run deep closer, and he continued his strong rally to the wire. This should have surprised no one. He’s made up ground in the stretch in top company all his two-turn life: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

IRISH WAR CRY: I think Graham Motion probably has it figured out but doesn’t want to say, at least not yet but for the second time this year his horse bounced off big efforts. First in the Fountain of Youth, now the Derby.

Still can’t get over how Irish War Cry, with Rajiv Maragh sneaking a peak backward curling into the far turn, went from loaded to empty in a matter of three jumps: Never saw anything quite like it, missteps notwithstanding.

The reason we think Motion has it figured out is because in the immediate aftermath of the heated battle, he mentioned a next possible target: The Haskell, which makes perfect sense.

This gives Irish War Cry recovery time and would be the shortest van ride for a million-dollar Grade 1 he will ever take from his Fair Hill base, the Pennsylvania Derby of fall notwithstanding. The colt was not a happy pre-Derby camper.

The distance, surface and natural bias favoring speed at Monmouth Park makes perfect sense, especially considering that, assuming good health, the Brooklyn Boys et al are likely to take the Jim Dandy route to the Travers.

Saratoga would be a great spot for a possible rematch between these Derby favorites unless, of course, Motion decides he will await the Pennsylvania Derby in the fall before a presumed challenge of his elders where the surf meets the turf in November.

CLASSIC EMPIRE:
Well, it wasn’t quite Seattle Slew’s Jockey Club Gold Cup, but after the gate wipeout, to recover, re-rally while losing ground, getting bumped again by inside rivals coming out for the midstretch drive, to keep coming was an amazing effort.

Clearly, the 2016 juvenile champion is one classy and tough sonuvabitch.

With a clean trip we don’t believe any horse was capable of handling Always Dreaming on Saturday, although the stretch run would have been a lot more exciting.

Let’s hope that the colt recovers from an eye injury sustained during the race—it improved markedly on Monday--sufficiently to make a trip to Baltimore.

BATTLE OF MIDWAY deserves some love. On the engine and stalking three wide throughout, he put pressure on the winner bending into the far turn while Irish War Cry put pressure on him, and he stayed well for show.

Yes, the wet track kept the speed alive throughout the day and that the slow last half-mile is the result of a fast first half-mile.

THROW OUTS:
The following horses had their chances compromised by circumstances during the running. So draw a line through your troubled horse of choice and is deserving a chance to win next out given proper spotting:

Girvin (clobbered and eliminated), J Boys Echo (clobbered and eliminated), Thunder Snow (propped, buck-jumped, or as rider Christophe Semillon put it post-race: “I don’t know what happened after the start”).

To a lesser degree, Untrapped, Tapwrit, McCraken, Patch and State of Honor’s disappointing runs were mitigated by circumstances.

DERBY NUMBERS:
As a fan, I’m hyper-sensitive to the recognition that horse racing gets from the public and media. This is written in Vegas. Here, in New York, and back in SoFla, it was as if May was missing its first Saturday. There was an astonishing lack of buzz surrounding this year’s Derby in mainstream-sports America.

So it’s nothing short of amazing the numbers this event generated on a number of metric scales. Handle, despite rainy-dark-day sloppy conditions was through the roof—all-sources wagering at record levels of $209.2 million for the day, up 9% year over year, $139.2 million of it on the Derby, an 8% increase over the previous record.

All-sources handle for Derby Week also set a record of $284.1 million, a yearly increase of 7%.

On-track handle figures were not made available. Attendance for the week of 349,455 was down 7% from last year’s record total, spearheaded by rainy Oaks Day’s 15.6% decrease with temperatures the lowest since 1940.

Derby Day attendance of 158,070, the seventh highest figure in track history, was also eye-opening. Having covered 18 Kentucky Derbies and all but one Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, I was happy to be comfortably ensconced inside the Orleans Race Book.

Overnight ratings also were quite surprising given the lack of advance equine star power. The overnights were strong and much improved at 10.5, a 9% gain over 2016. It was the second-highest rating in the last quarter-century.

Additionally, Equibase.com reported record pageviews of 3.8 million according to Google Analytics, an 18 percent increase over 2016. Traffic on the Today’s Racing app had 5 million screen views, a 6 percent increase.

DERBY IN VEGAS:
On a personal note, I did not meet a single staff member of the Orleans staff who did not make us feel like valued guests, from the registration desk to race book staffers. The registration desk quickly resolved issues and provided professional top grade service.

If there is anything lamentable, it’s that the Orleans--horse racing’s first best friend in Vegas and still home to the Handicapping World Series Tournament each March--has de-emphasized horse racing in their product offerings.

Given that sports betting has trended higher in recent years and, in light of the numbers generated by classics like the Derby, other major event days and prestige race meets meets such as Saratoga and Del Mar, the Orleans should make a concerted effort to recapture a brand identity horseplayers have long related to.

Since my last visit in 2016, Boyd Gaming has invested heavily in the property and has given the Orleans a tasteful and much appreciated facelift. We understand they intend to continue making upgrades.

Should further improvements happen, we hope and recommend that the Race Book and the services provided therein are included. Horseplayers are loyal gamblers that show their appreciation for amenities with faithful economic support.

May 8, 2017