JOHN YDSTIE, host:
The Preakness Stakes the second leg in horse racing's Triple Crown will run later this afternoon. All eyes will be on the favorite Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. But long before post time, Paul Rutherford will have already had a close and very personal look at the champion thoroughbred.
Paul Rutherford is an attorney in Louisville, Kentucky, for most of the day, but early in the morning, he's what's known in the racing world as a hot walker.
Before the Kentucky Derby, he bathes Street Sense, took him for a walk and helped him settle back into his stall to await the race. He will do the same today at the Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore. Paul Rutherford spoke with us from the barns of Pimlico on Friday.
You're with Street Sense right now, is that right?
Mr. PAUL RUTHERFORD (Racetrack Hot Walker): Yes, I am. I'm right outside his stall in the Preakness Stakes barn at Pimlico.
YDSTIE: And what's he doing?
Mr. RUTHERFORD: He's sleeping.
YDSTIE: He's sleeping.
Mr. RUTHERFORD: He's had his morning workout. He's been what we call done up and set for the day, and he's resting on the left side of his stall now. And that's a very good sign. It means he's relaxed and he feels safe. He's comfortable.
YDSTIE: You do this day in and day out back in Louisville.
Mr. RUTHERFORD: Yeah.
YDSTIE: Tell us about a typical morning for a hot walker.
Mr. RUTHERFORD: Well, you arrive at the barn usually between 5:00 and 5:30. And the job of the hot walker is to take whatever horse comes in to the barn, and after the horse has been to the track, and hold coats(ph) for the horse's bath or walk the horse for a few minutes after the horse's exercise. And then you also help with some, I guess you'd call, more menial duties - cleaning out some of the feed tubs that the horses have and the water bucket and that kind of thing.
YDSTIE: Tell us about Street Sense. What kind of a horse is he?
Mr. RUTHERFORD: The first thing I tell people about him is that he's the most intelligent racehorse I've ever been around. He's very calm, but once he set his mind to something, that's what he wants to do. For example, this morning, he really wanted to go to the racetrack, he saw a few other horses come out before him, and he saw that they had saddles on them. And the moment we started to put his equipment on him, he knew he was going to go to the track and he was a happy camper.
YDSTIE: How would the Preakness morning be special for you?
Mr. RUTHERFORD: He's one of 35,000 or so foals born in North America in 2004 who has a chance to win the Triple Crown. And so he's trying to do something historic. And to be able to be around him, just to get a small part of his trying to make history, is a great thrill.
YDSTIE: You actually got to be a part of it when he won the Kentucky Derby. You held the bucket when Calvin Borel washed him down after the derby.
Mr. RUTHERFORD: I was bucket boy to the stars, as I told the reporter in Louisville.
YDSTIE: What do you think? Does Street Sense have it in him to win again?
Mr. RUTHERFORD: Yeah. I think he definitely does. He knows his job and he loves doing it. He knows that he's a runner. What he's meant to do is go and run. And I think, personally, I think most of the people who worked around him would agree that he looks forward to it.
YDSTIE: Now, you're an attorney in real life. How did you end up doing this at 5:30 a.m. every morning?
Mr. RUTHERFORD: Well, I'm a Kentuckian since birth. I grew up in Louisville and it occurred to me - partly because I've always loved the animal - that, well, you know, you're in Kentucky. There are horses all over the place. Let's see if working with them is any fun.
What keeps me doing this is that it's the magic thing in my life. Because you're taking care of something besides yourself. You don't find thoroughbreds out on the wild like you go to Wyoming. I mean, thoroughbreds have been, since their beginning, they have been bred by people and they've been cared for by people. So they need people to take care of them.
YDSTIE: Paul Rutherford is an attorney in Louisville, Kentucky. He's also a hot walker for Street Sense, the winner of the Kentucky Derby who will compete today in the Preakness in Baltimore at Pimlico.
Thanks a lot. We'll be watching for you on TV.
Mr. RUTHERFORD: Okay. Well, look for the bucket. That will be me.
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