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This horse farm is home to two Triple Crown champs - Sierra Leone's connections hope for a similar fate

Adrian Mansergh Wallace and Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh at Coolmore Ashford's Stud in Versailles
Samantha Lederman
Adrian Mansergh Wallace and Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh at Coolmore Ashford's Stud in Versailles

With just days remaining until the 150th Run For The Roses WUKY Samantha Lederman paid a visit to Coolmore's Ashford Stud in Versailles. It's the current home of Kentucky Derby winners American Pharaoh and Justify, and their connections will be represented by Sierra Leone. In Saturday's race.

"The Kentucky Derby is what makes Kentucky famous. It's what it's what makes American racing famous, and this year is the 150th running of it."

Adrian Mansergh Wallace works in the sales division at Coolmore. He measures his derbies in winners, not years.

"One of my first, most vivid memories of American racing, and one of the reasons I fell in love with American racing, was when I watched Thunder Gulch win the Kentucky Derby for Wayne Lucas in 1995, and he was owned at the time by Michael Tabor and was bred by Peter Brandt, two of the partners who are involved in in Sierra Leone."

Wallace first attended in person for War Emblem's Edition and has been hooked ever since. He came to work at Coolmore some 20 years ago and never left. The Kentucky Derby is the USA's oldest sporting tradition. Saturday will be the 150th continuous running.

"It typifies everything. I think that's good about sport. I think it it's got excitement, it's got razzmatazz, it's got drama. It's got a huge build up. You've got the the food, the culture, the music, the mint juleps and then the drama of one of the greatest 2 minutes in sports."

Wallace is now something of a veteran of the Derby and has some basic advice if you're going too.

"I think the thing to do is get there in plenty of time. If you, no matter where you are. It's a big day, so you gotta prepare accordingly. There'll be close to 160,000 people there, so get there in plenty of time. Get your spot. Get yourself a nice mint julep. Have something to eat before you go. Bring plenty of cash. And just soak it all up because it is a pretty special sporting occasion. I mean it's, akin to our Super Bowl, it's akin to the World Series. The Final Four. It's what horse racing is all about."

Coolmore stands American Pharaoh and Justify at stud at their Ashford Farm. Both Kentucky Derby winners and then famously Triple Crown champions.

"Both justify and American Pharaoh were brilliant with fans. They enjoy the attention. It's almost like they they're proud of themselves. They know people are there to see them. We're proud to stand them. These horses are bigger than the sport. They transcend everything. The sport is about and we're obviously, as I say, very privileged to stand them. We've had we've had couples get engaged in front of them. We've had people break down in tears when they see them."

Just the proceeds from the auction of American Pharaoh's halters, which go to equine charities, have reached almost half $1,000,000. Although it seems obvious now that these two horses, who live in the lap of luxury, are out and out, champions handicapping Saturday's Derby might be a fool's errand.

"But I mean...the Kentucky Derby is a race that is not always won by the best horse. There are 20 horses. You need a lot of luck in running. You need a lot of good things to go right. I mean, don't forget that these horses have never run this far before."

But Wallace has faith in Coolmore's Sierra Leone.

"I'm a big fan of Sierra Leone. I think he's got something different. I think he's definitely good enough to win the race. Will it happen on the day?"

Obviously, you shouldn't discount the likely favorite.

"Fierceness is the juvenile champion from from last year. He's trained by Todd Pletcher, owned by Repole stable, who he's one of the leading owners in the sport. And Todd Fletcher is obviously one of the greatest trainers that's ever trained. Uh, he's ridden by John Velasquez, who's won the race three times now himself."

But Wallace says it's unknown if Fierceness will cope with any adversity. If you prefer a long shot, Wallace advises taking a look at Domestic Product.

"He's going to be around 30 to one. He's been training very, very well. He came out of the Tampa Bay, which is not the strongest prep. He won the Tampa Bay Derby for Chad Brown and was very impressive in doing so. He's trained well. He worked against Sierra Leone in their final work last Saturday and looked very well. So I think he he'd be one to maybe give a shout to at a big price as well."

A safer bet might be Just A Touch.

"He's a horse trained by Brad Cox. He's got a very, very bright future. It'll be wouldn't be a surprise to see him be there at the end."

Or Forever Young.

"He's maybe the Japanese horse with the best chance to win. They're going to win one of these Kentucky Derby races one day. It's just a question of when."

The Triple Crown Trail starts at Churchill Downs this weekend, the Kentucky Derby is Saturday post time 6:57 PM and it will be televised on NBC.

Listeners might remember Lederman and her English accent from when she was a morning news anchor on WUKY from 1999 to 2001.