Jennie Rees of the Louisville Courier Journal will be covering the Derby as she has for the last 26 years. And she joins me now from Churchill Downs. Jennie, welcome to the program.
JENNIE REES: Well, thank you very much, Melissa.
: Jennie, let's talk first about the woman jockey. Rosina Napravnik, 23 years old. She'll be riding Pants on Fire. How does she look?
REES: Usually the female riders are picking up, you know, long shots and horses that were maybe third or fourth in their last race. And it would certainly break down, I think, a lot of barriers if Rosie Napravnik - not only if she won the Derby, but even if she hit the board. No female rider has even hit the board in the Kentucky Derby.
: And when you hit the board, you mean what?
REES: One, two, three and some people consider it four.
: So a woman jockey this year in the Derby, and two women trainers. Only 13 have been in the Derby before now, and they are Kathleen O'Connell, who is the trainer for Watch Me Go, and Kathy Ritvo, trainer for Much Macho Man. And she's got quite a story.
REES: She's a 42-year-old mother of two, and when she was 38 years old, after being very ill for 10 years, she had a heart transplant. And she had hoped to use this platform to encourage and educate about organ donation and also to send a message out to organ recipients that you can still have a very full and active life. And she is a very active person, I can tell you.
: So who looks great to you, Jennie?
REES: And I actually ended up with him as my pick, thinking if you pick a favorite and they win, nobody pays attention, but if you pick a homerun horse and they win, then you ought to be able to milk that for another season here.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
: And the favorites, according to the odds makers, are Dialed In and Nero, Nero?
REES: He's a stretch runner. He's going to have to get through traffic or come extremely wide, and that can be a tough way to win the Kentucky Derby. You don't have to only be the best horse, you've got to be the luckiest horse. And if you can only be one or the other, you'd better be the luckiest, rather than actually the most talented.
: Jennie, I can hear one of today's races going on behind you. As long as you've done this, as long as you've covered the Derby, 26 years, is it still a thrill for you?
REES: But it's still going to be a great race. It's going to be the most heavily bet- on race of the year. I'm really looking forward. I think after a month of rain, we're finally going to get some sunshine. And there won't be a dry eye in the joint when they start singing "My Old Kentucky Home."
: Okay, Jennie Rees will be at Churchill Downs covering the Kentucky Derby tomorrow for the Louisville Courier-Journal. Jennie, thanks so much. Have a great time.
REES: Thank you, Melissa.
: And in case you're wondering, there are no fillies in this year's Derby.
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