Micah Feingold has been a horse-racing fan for many years, and when he decided to get into the sport as an owner the first colt he invested in was Danza.
That proved to be a solid choice.
Danza will try to win the sport’s biggest race today when he competes for the first leg of Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown in the 140th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Feingold told the racing website twinspires.com. “It’s just been so much fun to follow a horse and see him when he’s running and hope you get your picture taken.
“For people who are thinking about doing this, it’s been an awesome way to get into the sport.”
Feingold, an Overland Park commercial real-estate agent, is part of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, which owns Danza. The group bought the horse for $105,000 at a Keeneland yearling sale.
Feingold has had confidence for quite a while that Danza would get to the Derby. After Danza finished third in the Saratoga Special last August in New York, Feingold made plans to be at Churchill Downs.
“I didn’t know (Danza would go), but I knew if he was gong to be there I wanted to make sure I was there,” Feingold said. “You don’t dream that high, you know? But you’re hoping. This is just a dream, particularly for someone who loves horse racing like I do.”
After racing at Saratoga, Danza didn’t compete again in 2013. He spent seven months nursing a knee injury before returning to action with a third-place finish in a March race at Gulfstream Park in Florida.
From there, Danza was sent to Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., where he ran in the Arkansas Derby. Danza was sent off as a 41-1 long shot, but he made it to the winner’s circle.
Danza made it through an opening at the rail late in the race and drew clear to win by 4 3/4 lengths. He finished 1 1/8 miles in 1 minute, 49 3/5 seconds.
“His comeback race in Florida was better than it looked and his Arkansas Derby speaks for itself,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He’s been doing well and we have been pleased with how he’s coming up to this race.”
The Arkansas Derby was Danza’s first race at a mile or more, and his connections think the extra eighth of a mile in today’s Kentucky Derby will benefit him. Danza will start from the No. 4 post position, which Pletcher likes.
“It’s a good spot for him,” Pletcher said. “He won the Arkansas Derby out of the No. 1 hole. He’s fine with being on the inside.”
Aron Wellman, president of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, likes the way Danza has prepared for today’s race since winning the Arkansas Derby.
“In the last month, he’s definitely become a boss,” Wellman said. “(Danza) wants to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it.”
Danza appeared to like the Churchill Downs racing surface as he worked out on it leading up to the Derby.
“It feels like I’m on air out there,” said Danza’s exercise rider, Nick Bush. “It’s so smooth. He’s really bouncing.”
After his win at Oaklawn and good workouts since arriving at Churchill Downs, Danza has a number of believers today. His opening odds were 8-1 after the field was determined. California Chrome is the 5-2 favorite in the 19-horse field.
“There are two schools of thought: One that says the Arkansas Derby had to be a fluke,” Wellman said. “The second is people delving deeper into his form and saying he hadn’t done anything wrong and that maybe it wasn’t a fluke.
“This could be the horse that’s in the right place at the right time.”
The colt is the namesake of actor Tony Danza, known for his work on “Who’s the Boss” and “Taxi.”
He’ll be at the race today.
“Very excited,” Danza tweeted. “Going to (the Derby) to root for Danza! That’s right!”