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Woolsey's Kentucky Derby dream comes true

Posted at 8:26 PM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-29 21:26:31-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Erv Woolsey is no stranger to show business. As the longtime manager for country music legend George Strait, he’s seen his share of great acts, but the story that’s led to his first-ever entry in the Kentucky Derby is right out of a Hollywood script.

“I had a filly in the Oaks three or four years ago, and that was huge,” Woolsey said from his house in Louisville Thursday. “Now to have one in the Derby really is a lifetime dream.”

Woolsey’s been in racing for nearly three decades, involved in the buying, training and selling of thoroughbreds. He bought his first horse with Strait and has since had multiple business partners including close friend Keith Asmussen.

Woolsey and Asmussen co-own Super Stock, a horse they bought for $75,000 in 2019 that is now a 30-1 long shot in Saturday’s run for the roses after a stirring come from behind win at the $1 million Arkansas Derby last month.

“I had to watch the replay about three times before it really sunk in,” Woolsey said. “It was just the greatest feeling. There’s no words to describe it.”

It was a win that almost didn’t happen.

The original plan for Super Stock was to sell him as a two-year-old. But when the pandemic canceled Lone Star Park’s yearly sale, the duo turned to plan B.

Keith’s grandson, Keith James, who had started a career as a jockey, convinced them to let him ride the horse in a race. He then directed Super Stock to a win at Lone Star in his maiden voyage on the then two-year-old.

After that early success, the Super Stock team decided to turn training duties over to Keith’s son, Steve, who is considered by many as the greatest trainer to never win the Kentucky Derby. He’s come up empty with entrants in 21 previous races.

Steve Asmussen guided Super Stock through an injury that ended his two-year-old campaign, and into form this year. After finishing fourth in his debut race as a three-year-old, Super Stock rallied past 3-1 favorite Caddo River for the win in Arkansas.

“I think he won by two lengths, two-and-a-half, something like that,” Woolsey said. “And he had plenty left, which gets me excited. The horse is feeling great. He’s so happy right now. I think he really enjoyed the attention there in Hot Springs. I think he really did.”

Now Woolsey, who is no stranger to the big stage and honors of the music world, is hoping to see an encore performance on racing’s biggest stage.

Super Stock will start from the no. 18 post, but with strong closing speed could challenge 2-1 favorite Essential Quality and other contenders like Known Agenda, Rock Your World and Hot Rod Charlie.

“I was talking to a guy that lives next door here, and he said, ‘You got the working man’s horse. You didn’t pay a million dollars for him. Everybody’s hoping that he’ll do well,’” Woolsey said. “So that’s a great feeling. It’s kind of like your first time at an awards show and you win an award, and that’s a wonderful feeling, too.”

After all these years just seeing his horse walk from the paddock at Churchill Downs to the starting gate on Derby day will be a great feeling for Woolsey. As for what might happen if Super Stock can pull another upset and reach the winner’s circle at the Kentucky Derby?

“I kind of don’t think about it like that because I don’t want to put the jinx on it,” Woolsey said matter of factly. Then chuckled, “But I am wearing my lucky green coat.”

It’s been a storybook journey for the racing fanatic, and Woolsey hopes Super Stock has one more magical ride in him.