"Matty's Corner", they call the area farthest from the door in Churchill Downs' rectangular-shaped jockeys' room.
And it is from valet Matty Browns' little corner of the racing world that four of the last five successful Kentucky Derby riders have gone forth. Down the steps of the old wooden chairs, across the tanbark walking [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to the green synthetic center of the enclosed paddock to climb aboard the 98th, 99th, 100th and 102d Derby winners.
"The only one I didn't have lately was in '75, when (Jacinto) Vasquez won on Foolish Pleasure," Brown recalled today. "Vasquez is a nice boy, but I've never worked for him.
"My first Derby winner was (Braulio) Baeza, with Chateaugay (in 1963). Then I had Ron Turcotte with Riva Ridge and Secretariat, in '72 and '73, (Angel) Corder for the 100th with Cannonade in '74 and Cordero again last year (with Bold Forbes)."
In 1975, when Brown didn't have the winning jockey, it wasn't for lack of trying. His riders finished fourth, sixth, ninth, 10th and 12th.
Saturday, in the 103d Derby. Brown will have Cordero, Darrell McHargue and Turcotte among the jockeys in his corner. They will ride For The Moment, Run Dusty Run and Western Wind, three of the five top rivals toodds-on Seattle Slew, to be piloted by Jean Cruguet.
"No one's sure who will have Cruguet." Brown said. "The last time he was here (to ride Media, in 1975) Smokey Herscheron had him. Smokey's had a heart attack. So Cruguet's an open jockey' so far as the valets know."
Jockeys are notorious for their jockeying for choice mounts, with their agents help, in rich stake races. Valets, accordingly, have been known to jockey for jockeys.
It's done mouth-to-mouth, mostly," Brown declared. "A valet who has a friend at another track recommends that valet to his rider. Me. I'm not looking for any more comers. Derby Day is hectic enough as it is, with time being so important, for television."
Brown has been working at the race track since age 13. He began as a stable hand, then galloped horses in the mornings. He has been a valet for nearly two decades.
"Some people say that no jockey is a hero to his valet, that valets are too close and get to know jockeys too well, but I think that's a lie," Brown said. "This job is only as tough as you make it. You have to know what each jockey expects in terms of being helped with his boots and clothes and equipment. That's your job.
"All the top riders I've worked for have acted like gentlemen. There's nothing phony about them. They're down to earth, and they really come here to win the Derby. It's not the richest race in the world, but they want to win it more than any other. You can tell it. But there are few bad losers."
Not that jockeys aren't different, in style and character.
"Compare Cordero or Baeza. Or look at that guy over there, with his pink shorts," the valet said. "Cordero's the Puerto Rican Flash, Real colorful. Very outgoing. Baeza says hello only when someone says hell o to him. He's very quiet. It's a case of different strokes for different folks."
Does that apply to what the jockeys pay their valets, too"
"Definitely. The usual here is two and three. Two dollars for a mount, five dollars for a winner. But some pay three and six adn one goes four and 10."
The Derby, naturally, provides the biggest payday for valets on the Kentucky circuit.
"Roughly about 500 to 600, from winner," Brown said. "The jockey gives about 5 per cent of his share of the purse to his valet here, and gives another 5 per cent to his regular valet back home. I have only one little complaint. They pay by check. I wish it would be cash, so I wouldn't have to declare it."
Not all jockeys tip their valets this freely, however.
"I'd estimate 80 per cent are quite liberal," Brown said. "A few are cheaper than hell. We get to know which ones quickly. The next time they come back we see to it they get a different, or maybe a new, valet. But the guys I've had have come through like tigers for me."
Brown in turn, is expected by the jockeys ato anticipate their every want and need. Most riders place a premium on how meticulous the valets are with their tack, their equipment. They don't want to be sent onto the track with worn stirrup webbings, for instance, and they don't have time, during a busy afternoon, to attend to every detail for each race.
"They have a right to expect the best treatment possible," Brown said. "They're putting their lives on the line every time they go out there, whether it's the Derby or the little claiming race early on the Derby program.
"But the Derby is special." Brown added. "I think we all give it a litle extra in terms of spit and polish: in terms of the riders' appearance. This is the biggest race of their lives. Not in money, maybe, but certainly in glory.This is the one they really want.
"There's an escalator out there to bring them back up the stairs from the padlock when the race is over. But after the Derby the winner doesn't need the escalator. He's flying."