LOUISVILLE, KY. — The Kentucky Derby is always a pageant of equine beauty, featuring some of the best-looking thoroughbreds on the planet. Before arriving in Louisville on Wednesday, a group of Derby-bound Minnesotans got an appetizer.

Friends of Barry and Joni Butzow, whose colt Zozos will run in the Derby on Saturday, spent the early part of the week visiting horse farms in the Lexington area. They saw both of Zozos' parents. His mother, Papa's Forest, lives at Woodline Farm near Paris, Ky. Zozos' father, Munnings, is among the premier stallions at Coolmore America/Ashford Stud, a palatial complex near the Kentucky town of Versailles.

The staff at Coolmore America brought out a few of their top stallions for the group to view. Among the highlights:

  • American Pharoah, who won the Triple Crown in 2015, was roused from a nap; even though he had reason to be cranky, he was as sweet and easygoing as he was during his racing career. Coolmore's Adrian Wallace said Pharoah is beloved for his good nature, and it probably contributed to his racing success.
  • 2018 Triple Crown champ Justify is drop-dead handsome. That glossy, coppery chestnut coat is dazzling in person. At nearly 17 hands, he's enormous.
  • Munnings is a looker, too. He's a chestnut with lots of chrome, including a broad white blaze. Zozos got his dad's flash, but he's a bay like his mom.
  • Uncle Mo also came out to pose for pictures. With a fee of $160,000 this year, he's Coolmore's most expensive stallion. He's the sire of Mo Donegal, who gave Minnesota a third Derby connection when Pete Mattson of Prior Lake bought a 1% share.

The most impressive horse on Tuesday's tours might have been Medaglia d'Oro. He's the flagship sire at Jonabell Farm, home to the U.S.-based stallions of Darley Stud, owned by Sheikh Mohammed, ruler of Dubai. Medaglia d'Oro looks far younger than his 23 years and appeared to be the king of the barn, shared with fellow luminaries Street Sense, Nyquist and Essential Quality.

Back at Churchill Downs, the two Minnesota-owned Derby horses, Zandon and Zozos, each galloped a mile and a half Wednesday and continue to thrive.