Stately Victor's owner, Jack Conway, will follow up Kentucky Derby with Democratic Senate primary

Stately Victor, a late entrant at Churchill Downs, will be owners Jack and Tom Conway's first competitor in the Kentucky Derby.
Stately Victor, a late entrant at Churchill Downs, will be owners Jack and Tom Conway's first competitor in the Kentucky Derby. (Charlie Riedel/associated Press)
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By T. Rees Shapiro
Friday, April 30, 2010

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway will try to hold back tears Saturday afternoon as he walks to the paddock with his 72-year-old father to send off their colt, Stately Victor, as a last-minute entrant and long shot for the 136th run for the roses.

For most thoroughbred owners, Conway said, an entry in the Kentucky Derby is the "thrill of a lifetime," regardless of the horse's finish.

But May could be an exciting month for the Conway family for another reason. In two weeks, Kentuckians will head to the polls to vote in the state's U.S. Senate Democratic primary and then it will be Jack Conway's turn to race.

Conway, a George Washington University Law School graduate, is running to be the Democratic candidate in the November election to replace retiring Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.). While Stately Victor is considered an outlier in his race -- early odds place him at 30 to 1 -- Conway is a rising political power in the Democratic party who has achieved success as attorney general.

Tom Conway, Jack's father, is a former teacher and football coach who is now a Louisville lawyer. He has been in the thoroughbred industry for 35 years and likes to say the most homesick he's ever been for his native Bluegrass state was listening to the Kentucky Derby broadcast on Armed Forces Radio while he was overseas.

The father and son have always shared a passion for thoroughbreds. When Jack was a child, Tom helped him memorize every Kentucky Derby-winning horse and jockey.

"We used to drag him out at cocktail parties like a trick pony," Tom Conway said. "I used to take him to the track with me and watch the horses work. He grew up with a love for horses."

Conway has spent the last year on the campaign trail trying to gather support against his main Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo.

"I try to keep the two things separate, the horse racing and running for U.S. Senate," Conway said. "I'm extremely fortunate that people who are passionate about the horse racing industry recognize my passion for horses as well."

Running a campaign is hectic enough without adding a racing schedule to it. On April 10, Conway spoke at a rally with the Northern Kentucky Women's Network and a young Democrats convention. Then, that same afternoon, he rushed from Louisville to the Keeneland racetrack in Lexington to appear in the winner's circle after Stately Victor galloped away with the Blue Grass Stakes.

The horse's surprising win was the first time in six starts that he appeared on the board after his maiden victory on the Saratoga turf last September. He went off at 40-to-1 odds and had the largest betting payout in the race's history.

Longtime turf writer Bill Nack said Stately Victor is "a horse to watch."

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