LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The four of them will be sitting on Millionaires Row, which only begins to hint at their real worth, and rooting for a horse named Normandy Invasion.
"If he's as lucky as the rest of us," said 90-year-old Ray Woods, with a nod toward his friends, "he'll win."
Woods and the others will be rooting for Rick Porter's bay at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday because of what the horse owner has done for vets.
For most of his 20 years in the business, the ex-soldier has been naming horses to honor veterans.
Last year, after 10 years on the inactive list, the name became available again and Porter slapped the weighty moniker on his most promising 2-year-old. Once it began pinging around the web, e-mails from veterans followed. Porter answered as many as he could and finally settled on inviting four to be his guests at the Derby.
Awaiting their arrival at Churchill Downs, Porter stood outside his barn Friday morning and looked over at the four folding chairs set up in the shade.
"I wish," he said, "I could have brought 40 of 'em."
Alan Reeves, 91, of San Diego was the principal organizer, which made plenty of sense. He worked for Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, assigned to the Supreme Command, and later saw action in southern France. With Porter's help, he settled on three other soldiers who actually landed on the beaches at Normandy: Woods, Bill Wilch, and J.J. Witmeyer Jr.
Big upset in Oaks. Longshot Princess of Sylmar rallied with a huge stretch run to win the $1 million Kentucky Oaks on Friday at Churchill Downs. One of four fillies trained by Todd Pletcher, the 38-1 long shot upstaged 3-2 favorite Dreaming of Julia.
With Mike Smith aboard, Princess of Sylmar ran 11/8 miles in 1 minute, 49.17 seconds and paid $79.60, $29.40, and $14.00. Beholder returned $9 and $5.60, and Unlimited Budget, another Pletcher entry, paid $3.80 to show.