Monday, June 25, 2007

They're Off

I wasn't exactly eager to return to Louisville, given that the last time I was there I was looking for a place on the AP scoresheet to mark "Student dotted i's with little hearts and must be terminated immediately." Last week, however, somebody brought horses.

Churchill Downs is a true American landmark in the sense that the second you see it in person, you're all, "WAY smaller than I thought it would be." The bourbon billboards are higher than the bloody spires.Now I was curious to try an official mint julep, for, as longterm The Readers may recall, when I tried making these for a Derby party, the resultant elixir wound up tasting like a candy cane steeped in ethanol. Clearly this was my own ineptness at work.

Turns out they're supposed to taste like that, so here's to me and my outstanding bartending skeelz, for I can make a $7 drink double as Celestial Seasonings Frosty the Snowman Scat for way less than that.

The gentleman in the background raising the roof, BTW, is Mr. Pat Day of this fame.

It was Stephen Foster Handicap Day, which meant that the bugler prefaced each call to post with the refrains of "Beautiful Dreamer" and "Swanee River." This lent a delightful touch of nostalgia to the handicappers howling "I HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE YOU!" at the horses who skipped happily home four years after their gatemates were back in the barns.

Josh The Pilot especially enjoyed the bugler's little house on the infield, and decided that he lived in there. I decided that nobody looks good while accessorizing with an index card.

It was 92 degrees that day, and everyone wilted around all, "It's 92 degrees," including Josh. I did not. At one point I reflected casually upon the fact that my back was soaking wet with further perspiration on the way, but as the humidity was somewhat below the Florida average of eighty thousand percent, I deemed the weather rather pleasant.

At that moment realized that I am in for one fugly Northern winter. The first time I experienced wind chill after I became a Florida resident, I used my pregnant sister for a windblock. And now I'm going to lose my heat index immunity-- a small price to pay, however, for being cast into the Atlantic Ocean by low-pressure systems with fetching names.

Speaking of, please do meet the mare Quite a Bride, who was running in the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (it's not just a mixed drink apocalypse, it's a race.) My betrothed and I glanced at one another and contemplated betting on her, then agreed that this crashed right through the line of wedding-adorable into wedding-puke.

"Watch her win," I said as betting closed.

Or break a track record. See, it's never enough, in racing, to feel stupid. Horses often take care to flip you off as they cross the finish line.

Just before the main event, the Kentucky Derby trophy was officially awarded, the Colonel having gotten it back from the engraving counter at Things Remembered. All of Street Sense's connections, including winning jockey Calvin Borel, charmingly spattered from the previous race, were on hand to smile uncomfortably as the race was replayed on the track screens.

This was also the cue for one of the genteel public to heap congratulations upon the owners, who recently announced that Street Sense will stand stud at Darley, a Sheikh-owned breeding farm: "HEEEEEEEEEEEY! HEY! Why'd you sell him to an AY-RAB, if you love him so much!" It was almost as awesome as the time when I heard a fellow horse lover shriek "YOU'RE SHORT!!" at jockey Edgar Prado.

Todd Pletcher had a winner. You remember Todd, trainer of Belmont winner Rags to Riches.

This is Todd on the phone, and also holding what looks suspiciously like a purse. Todd was on the phone during the trophy presentation. Sorry to interrupt your day with the gigantic Waterford crystal bowl, Todd. I hope Todd is calling whoever was in charge of his pants cuffs.

Todd was formerly famous for training something like 99.9999999% of a field in Grade I races, then proceeding to lose horribly. I am glad to see things looking up for Todd. He had two entrants in the Stephen Foster. They both lost horribly.

Horseracing: The most dependable sport around.

also short at:


mike, still the wizard of odds said...

You do realize that had you bet on the horse, it would have lost, right?

Also, where's your fancy attire, with the poofy hat and everything? Or is that just something for the Derby?

Anonymous said...

Oh, to be at Churchhill Downs on the first Saturday in May with a Mint Julep in my hand, listening to “My Old Kentucky Home” and glancing lovingly at the “Twin Spires”, which used to be easier to see before the construction and they boxed them in. Oh wait, I’ve done that for the last 9 years, since 1999, the 125th Anniversary and before that in 1996 and 1994 with my daughter, who was 5 at the time, and has gone every year since, 11 times. Went also from 1966 to 1968, 1971 to 1977, to include the 100th Anniversary in 1974, and lastly in 1979, going kinda backwards. Have you ever made it to the Derby? Of course, you knew the "Derby" is the oldest, continuous sporting event in American History. I enjoy your writing, have bought your book recently and read it in one setting, in a couple of hours. Your writing seems to be spot on, whatever that means. Last year went to the Derby, Preakness and Belmont for the first time. Had talked about doing that for many years. This year went back to the Belmont, as the Yankees were in town and bet on the filly. Who wouldn’t with her blood line. Good to see her beat the boys. Plus that's what makes a horse race. Long time reader, first time commentor.

MB said...

Never been to the Derby, Anon, but my sister and dad have. You saw my "birth horse", Seattle Slew, win the first leg in '77! That's awesome! There was a "Slew baby" running when we were there, but he looked nothing like his dad, alas, and came in something like 80th.

Thanks so much for taking a look at the book. I sure hope you stick around.

smc said...

Ah yes, the mint julep. One cup bourbon, one cup sugar, and a mint leaf thrown in because-- well, why not?

How such a terrible drink got so ritzy, I'll never know.

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