Political, horse races collide on Saturday

Conway hoping for two wins in May

jbrammer@herald-leader.comApril 28, 2010 

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Conway

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FRANKFORT — Jack Conway has two special goals in May: winning the Kentucky Derby on May 1 and capturing the Democratic primary election for the U.S. Senate on May 18.

Of course, neither is a sure bet for Kentucky's attorney general.

Obstacles abound in both contests.

Stately Victor owned, by Conway and his father, Thomas Conway, was an upset winner at this spring's Blue Grass Stakes at Lexington's Keeneland. But a slew of other Derby contenders also want to grab the roses Saturday at Louisville's Churchill Downs.

In the political race for Kentucky's next U.S. senator, five Democrats, including Conway, and five Republicans are competing.

The four major candidates in the Senate race — Democrats Conway and Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo and Republicans Secretary of State Trey Grayson and Bowling Green eye surgeon Rand Paul — plan to be at the 136th Kentucky Derby this Saturday to see the horses run.

They are expected to get the most attention of politicians at the tracks since President Barack Obama isn't coming and Gov. Steve Beshear, who will present the winning trophy at the conclusion of Saturday's big horse race, isn't running for anything this year.

Conway will be the most anxious politician at the Derby.

"To make the walk from the barns to the paddock on Derby Day will be a special moment with my dad that I will never forget," he said.

Conway said his father grew up on a farm in Union County "and always dreamed of owning a horse that would one day run in the Kentucky Derby."

He recalled his dad's memory that "the loneliest he's ever been is when he was in the Army stationed in Germany and heard My Old Kentucky Home while he was listening to the Kentucky Derby on the radio."

The Conways' horse was named after a family friend, Victor Perrone, who died in 1992 in a car accident at age 23.

Perrone was one of 10 children in his family, and his siblings will be at Churchill Downs on Saturday with the Conway family to watch Stately Victor run in the race, said Conway campaign spokeswoman Allison Haley.

Also joining Conway and his wife, Elizabeth, at the track will be family and friends, including Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and his wife, Bobbi.

Mongiardo and his wife, Allison, will host family and friends on Derby Weekend.

The couple will attend the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, where Mongiardo is scheduled to present the ceremonial cup to the winning owner.

On Derby Day, Mongiardo will be at Churchill Downs and then travel to Keeneland to picnic at the Lexington track.

"He may even visit the infield on Derby Day to say hello to his friends and supporters," said Mongiardo campaign spokesman Kim Geveden.

Grayson will attend the Derby with his wife, Nancy.

"The Kentucky Derby is one of the proudest moments each year for our commonwealth," Grayson said. "It gives us the opportunity to come together as Kentuckians, celebrate tradition, showcase our stunning landscapes and watch one of the greatest sporting events in our country."

Paul and his wife, Kelley, plan to attend the Derby and will try to work his campaign schedule "so he can visit with as many Kentuckians as possible," said campaign manager David Adams.

He added: "As you might imagine, the odds-on favorite to be Kentucky's next U.S. senator is in pretty high demand for the big day."

So what horse will the four U.S. Senate candidate frontrunners bet on Saturday? Will any besides Conway bet on Stately Victor?

Mongiardo spokesman Geveden only said, "Daniel wishes Jack, his daddy and their horse all the best of luck on Derby Day."

Grayson said his picks, in order of finish, were Awesome Act, Devil May Care and Stately Victor.

Paul's campaign manager did not specifically answer the horse race question but used it to try to get a leg up in the political race.

"Rand Paul's trifecta for the big race is a real sure thing: balanced budgets, term limits and a strong national defense," Adams said.

"That way, all Kentuckians can finish in the money."

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