Our city is always home to the most fabled two minutes in sports. This year, for the first time in over a century, the winning horse and Triple Crown contender belonged to a group of locals too. Drew Deener, who grew up with some of the team, shares their wild ride to the winner’s circle and beyond.
The guy on the left is Tom Mueller. I shattered his family’s back door into a thousand pieces of glass when I was about 15. The guy on the right is Clint Glasscock. We used to head to the racetrack after tennis practice at St. Xavier to catch the last few races. Both are my friends, both are owners of The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Justify. They, along with the rest of their partners in Starlight Racing, have been on a magical ride, and they’ve let me tag along with them into two winners circles and maybe a third by the time you read this.
It had been 114 years since a Louisville-based ownership group had a Kentucky Derby winner. (That was Old Rosebud in 1914). Starlight Racing, founded by Louisvillian Jack Wolf and his wife Laurie, purchased a percentage of the racing interest of both Justify and Audible in March. (Justify had only one career start, and zero points to qualify for the Derby.)
I remember talking to them when their group made that decision. Both were excited to have two chances to get a horse into the Kentucky Derby for their third time. Glasscock put it all into perspective: “Making the walkover on Derby Day was always the dream, but... once you’ve gotten that taste in your mouth, you want to win the damn thing.”
Which, it turns out, they did. Then Justify won the Preakness. I asked them what will stood out about that ride: “The best part about this was winning the Derby and where we watched the race. No one gets to take it in from there,” Clint said.
“There” happened to be the turf course right next to the finish line on the inside of the track. With about 30 minutes to go before the Derby, we had a decision to make. Clint, his fiancé, Jen Mutwalli, and I could go back to section 318 in his box, or Darren Rogers, Senior Director of Communications at Churchill, offered to let us watch it from the other side. We made the decision to get soaked, and it was worth it.
“To see the horse come down the stretch and cross the finish line from that vantage point and to be able to hug Jen and hi-five you just a few yards from the finish line... was a moment I’ll never forget,” Clint told me before the Belmont.
I’ll never forget making our way into the Derby Museum for the winner’s celebration and the first person to greet Clint was his doubles partner from St. X, Chris Bohnert. Bohnert revealed a secret: “I bought these tickets weeks ago... But I knew better than to tell you because I knew you’d think it was a jinx!”
Tom, who has gone by the nickname “The Gip” since I’ve known him, is a man about town who loves this town. He’s also an investor in horse racing, Louisville City FC, the radio station for which I work, and countless other local endeavors. Karma found its way back to him on the first Saturday in May. “The best part of the ride has been bringing the Derby Trophy back to Louisville and allowing my family and friends to be part of it,” he says.
Tom had been a part of four previous attempts to win the Run for the Roses, but knew this one wasn’t like the others. “Just prior to the walkover, I was with my parents in the box and I told them that I wouldn’t seem them until after the race and I got emotional... and I rarely get emotional. But something inside of me knew that this Derby was different.”
Going into 2018, there had only been 12 winners of the Triple Crown. Hopefully, by the time you read this, my friends can say owned lucky number 13.