So he had done it. The old infield habitué had bought himself a share of racing royalty. Neither he nor the filly, as it turned out, had much of a year. In December, Wolford nearly lost the horse to a virus, and he ended his NFL season in surgery again, to repair a tear in his right rotator cuff. Wolford spent months in arduous rehab, and this spring showed up at the Derby fit and relaxed and looking forward to the coming season. "I'll have my first healthy season in a while," he says. "The strength will be there. As far as lifting and working is concerned, it was in some ways better than any off-season I've ever had."
Wolford named the filly Graceful Minister—after her sire and his new daughter, Grace—and following her recuperation she was already breezing three eighths of a mile when she sashayed into McGee's camp at Churchill Downs in early July. "After what she went through, anything she does now will be a bonus," Wolford says. "I just hope she shows the class of her parents. The more I'm around horses, the more I enjoy them. They are beautiful to watch run. They are tough and determined and have all the qualities you want in an athlete. The winner is the fastest and strongest and toughest. That's the way it is in racing. In football. In life."