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Thread: The Kentucky Derby

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    The Kentucky Derby

    I have never been to the Kentucky Derby nor do I follow horseracing, but will admit to being quite curious what the hoopla is all about surrounding the Derby. Sure it's a horse race, but that's over with in a matter of minutes - there's gotta more to the experience or people wouldn't flock to it from all over the world.

    Similar to the thread about Mardi Gras, we'd like to hear from locals and those who have actually attended the event to tell us about their Kentucky Derby experiences and explain to the rest of us just what all the Kentucky Derby pandemonium is about or any travel advice they might share for those who may consider attending some day.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  2. #2
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    To start getting the flavor and excitement check out the Louisville Courier-Journal:
    http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage

    Check out the photo gallery and the long list of derby headlines.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Well, I couldn't possibly attend: I don't like mint which means no mint juleps. And do the women wear those goofy hats like at English polo matches? No way.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I've heard the derby gets pretty rowdy in the infield.

  5. #5
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess View post
    And do the women wear those goofy hats like at English polo matches?
    You mean like this young lady?

    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  6. #6
    Ahh, Derby-time in Louisville. Splendid, just splendid

    The basics:
    This is the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby, also known as the Run for the Roses. It is the first leg of the Triple Crown, three races for three year old thoroughbreds (the Preakness and Belmont make up the other two).The Derby is 1-1/4 miles (10 furlongs) on dirt and has typically (though not always) been run on the first Saturday in May. The race is always held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. As many as 20 horses may enter, based on their earnings in Graded Stakes races. When the announcer says "They're Off!" around 6:00 this Saturday, you'll see a "cavalry charge" of horses dash through the Churchill Downs stretch, around the first turn, down the backside, into the second turn, then the long stretch for home. Secretariat holds the record for the race in a blazing 1:59.2/5. Typical times are right about 2 minutes and a fraction.

    The Derby Festival:
    Okay, so we celebrate a horse race that last perhaps two minutes for two weeks. The Festival usually kicks off with Thunder over Louisville, including an air show in the afternoon and early evening followed by the largest annual fireworks show in America (produced by Zambelli, the absolute best, IMO). This year, more than 800,000 people attended the show, along the Ohio River in downtown Louisville and Jeffersonville (In.). I finally succeeded in getting decent photos but have yet to download them from my camera (Travel Hint -- should you find yourself needing to pass through town two weeks prior to Derby, do not -- repeat -- do not try to drive through after Noon or 1:00 -- most of the interstates are either closed or backed up as far south as Bowling Green or north to Seymour. Find a different route.)

    Other events following Thunder include the two-week long Chow Wagon (think carnival mid-way) and Fest-A-Ville (new this year, also mid-way like, but I can't verify as I haven't been). Marathon and miniMarathon (which drew some 8,000 runners this past weekend). bed races are hilarious, The Run for the Rose` (wait-staff racing with wine-filled glasses) The Great Steamboat Race (Belle of Louisville v. Delta Queen for the famed and cherished *Golden Antlers*) is today. Belle, by the way, is the oldest steam-powered stern-wheeler still operating in the US and a National Historic Landmark. Thursday is Parade Day (think Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in super-microcosm), and then Friday.

    Friday used to be known as *Louisville's Day at the Track*. The hoi polloi that couldn't get box seats, or refused the infield, made the Kentucky Oaks (three-year old fillies) the day we could enjoy before the bigshots took over on Saturday. In the past few years, however, attendance at The Oaks has skyrocketed from 65 -75,000 to 110,000+ making Thursday the new "LDatT". Friday night are the various galas that raise money for all sorts of charities. (Truthfully, most of the events that charge admission are charitable events and there's lots of 'em. Louisville is a generous town.) Many "A-List Celebrities" and even more A-/B list celebritries will be in attendance at these events (which is how local Larry Birkhead met Anna Nicole, after all).

    I'll post again later about the actual Derby experience, but I can't slack all day: I'm off Friday to go to the Oaks.

    Oh, one more thing: This young lady looks SMASHING and she'd be perfectly attired to attend Derby with those folks in the fancy seats. Me? I'm infield for Derby baby, through and through.


  7. #7
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    As I said before
    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    natski -
    in that ensemble and some skill in making the picks you are ready to visit The Derby in Louisville on May 5th.
    Don't forget to exchange the beer/champange for a mint julep.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    Ahh, Derby-time in Louisville. Splendid, just splendid

    The basics:
    This is the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby, also known as the Run for the Roses. It is the first leg of the Triple Crown, three races for three year old thoroughbreds (the Preakness and Belmont make up the other two).The Derby is 1-1/4 miles (10 furlongs) on dirt and has typically (though not always) been run on the first Saturday in May. The race is always held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. As many as 20 horses may enter, based on their earnings in Graded Stakes races. When the announcer says "They're Off!" around 6:00 this Saturday, you'll see a "cavalry charge" of horses dash through the Churchill Downs stretch, around the first turn, down the backside, into the second turn, then the long stretch for home. Secretariat holds the record for the race in a blazing 1:59.2/5. Typical times are right about 2 minutes and a fraction.
    Do the local papers have entire sections devoted to the race weeks in advance? All the latest and greatest in handicapping etc? Does every inhabitant of Lousiville consider themselves an ‘authority’ in horse racing (in other words does the typical inhabitant actually know more about or follow horseracing more closely than, say, a typical resident in Milwaukee?)
    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker
    The Derby Festival:
    Okay, so we celebrate a horse race that last perhaps two minutes for two weeks. The Festival usually kicks off with Thunder over Louisville, including an air show in the afternoon and early evening followed by the largest annual fireworks show in America (produced by Zambelli, the absolute best, IMO). This year, more than 800,000 people attended the show, along the Ohio River in downtown Louisville and Jeffersonville (In.). I finally succeeded in getting decent photos but have yet to download them from my camera (Travel Hint -- should you find yourself needing to pass through town two weeks prior to Derby, do not -- repeat -- do not try to drive through after Noon or 1:00 -- most of the interstates are either closed or backed up as far south as Bowling Green or north to Seymour. Find a different route.)

    Other events following Thunder include the two-week long Chow Wagon (think carnival mid-way) and Fest-A-Ville (new this year, also mid-way like, but I can't verify as I haven't been). Marathon and miniMarathon (which drew some 8,000 runners this past weekend). bed races are hilarious, The Run for the Rose` (wait-staff racing with wine-filled glasses) The Great Steamboat Race (Belle of Louisville v. Delta Queen for the famed and cherished *Golden Antlers*) is today. Belle, by the way, is the oldest steam-powered stern-wheeler still operating in the US and a National Historic Landmark. Thursday is Parade Day (think Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in super-microcosm), and then Friday.
    Clearly the Derby is a huge money maker for Louisville but I bet the locals are relieved when it’s over in much the same way that Hawaiians look upon mainlanders – ‘Welcome to Hawaii. There’s the beach. There’s the surf. There’s the volcano. Now give us your money and get back on that plane’

    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker
    Friday used to be known as *Louisville's Day at the Track*. The hoi polloi that couldn't get box seats, or refused the infield, made the Kentucky Oaks (three-year old fillies) the day we could enjoy before the bigshots took over on Saturday. In the past few years, however, attendance at The Oaks has skyrocketed from 65 -75,000 to 110,000+ making Thursday the new "LDatT". Friday night are the various galas that raise money for all sorts of charities. (Truthfully, most of the events that charge admission are charitable events and there's lots of 'em. Louisville is a generous town.) Many "A-List Celebrities" and even more A-/B list celebritries will be in attendance at these events (which is how local Larry Birkhead met Anna Nicole, after all).
    Are celebrity sightings quite common (I mean outside the track), or do the rich and famous know all the right people and places to go escape the cameras and the public?


    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker
    Oh, one more thing: This young lady looks SMASHING and she'd be perfectly attired to attend Derby with those folks in the fancy seats
    I agree! natski looks quite the sophisticated young lady in that picture!
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Do the local papers have entire sections devoted to the race weeks in advance? All the latest and greatest in handicapping etc?
    YES.
    Did you see my posting (2nd in this thread) about looking at the Louisville Courier-Journal ?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    YES.
    Did you see my posting (2nd in this thread) about looking at the Louisville Courier-Journal ?
    I did, but I guess I wasn't looking in the right place. I saw lots of photos of the 'run for the rose', though. I'll look more carefully.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    I have to admit that I'm very intrigued by the whole Kentucky Derby hoopla and would like to attend at least once in my life.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  12. #12
    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Do the local papers have entire sections devoted to the race weeks in advance? All the latest and greatest in handicapping etc?
    Derby is always on the radar here, so the C-J sports section is regularly publishing something about the Derby -- the up-and-coming two-year olds, hot trainers, etc. In late January the C-J publishes the name and connections of every three-year old nominated to the Triple Crown (300-400 horses or so, typically). After that, Derby becomes much more frequent in the paper until early April, when it fairly consumes the region.

    Does every inhabitant of Lousiville consider themselves an ‘authority’ in horse racing (in other words does the typical inhabitant actually know more about or follow horseracing more closely than, say, a typical resident in Milwaukee?)
    Only those that lie. I'll get into this a little deeper in a later post.

    Clearly the Derby is a huge money maker for Louisville but I bet the locals are relieved when it’s over in much the same way that Hawaiians look upon mainlanders – ‘Welcome to Hawaii. There’s the beach. There’s the surf. There’s the volcano. Now give us your money and get back on that plane’
    You betcha (bad pun intended) -- both in terms of the economic impact in the area, as well as the utter exhaustion when it's over. But, this is the south, and Southern Hospitality would never presume to let us show anything but the finest manners toward our guests.

    Are celebrity sightings quite common (I mean outside the track), or do the rich and famous know all the right people and places to go escape the cameras and the public?
    Well, there's the whole red carpet thing for the galas. Barnstable Brown is the biggie. (The gals that run this even are twin sisters, famous from the Wrigley's Double-Mint advertisements in the early 70s(?)). Otherwise, yeah, you can see celebs hanging out in Louisville's cool/weird places, but those are mostly the folks without the maniacal Hollywood egos. Personally, I don't fawn over them, so I don't pay too much attention to it.

    Quote Originally posted by Planderella
    I have to admit that I'm very intrigued by the whole Kentucky Derby hoopla and would like to attend at least once in my life.
    Consider this a standing invitation any time you make it up this way.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    It seems like a lot of pomp and circumstance to watch 10 bags or dog food and glue get beat like a rented mule to see who will finish first.
    "You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it,..." -Bane

  14. #14
    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    It seems like a lot of pomp and circumstance to watch 10 bags or dog food and glue get beat like a rented mule to see who will finish first.
    Lots of people, including lots of local people, feel much the same way. Here in the genteel south, however, they'd never dream of saying such a thing out loud.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    If one of the Triple Crown Races is on TV, I'll watch. Do I care who wins or do I follow horse racing? No to both.

    However, I'm hoping that one day I'll be able to say I saw so and so win the Triple Crown, since I was a baby when Affirmed, Seattle Slew and Secretariat won in the 70s.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian natski's avatar
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    Gees, i leave you guys for a couple of hours to have a sleep and look what happens!!!

    Thanks for the compliments- i love the races- so much fun!!!
    "Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?" Zoolander

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    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Horse racing, as well as dog racing, should be illegal, IMO.

  18. #18
    Too bad we don't have similar events like this at Suffolk Downs! It's a fun afternoon on occasion.

    I'd love to get an opportunity to go. I love horseracing and getting gussied up with hat and all - what's a better combination? Probably a little more controlled than Mardi Gras....... now that's an experience!

  19. #19
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    My big concern with the Kentucky Derby is the conflicts it creates with Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Do I attend a Derby Day party or a cookout with a bunch of other gringos celebrating the day that is not even really Mexico's independence day? Maybe I'll just wear seersucker and a sombrero and hit both.

  20. #20
    One last note about Oaks Day (the Friday before Derby Day): It is still an extremely popular day to go to the track. So much so, that school's are closed because they can't find enough substitute teachers. All work-place productivity goes out the window as well: If they're not at the track, folks are setting up office Derby draws or other schemes for wagering on the race amongst co-workers. (Think along the lines of NCAA brackets).


    Derby Day
    Traditionally the first Saturday in May, Derby Day in Louisville is unlike any other day. If you intend to ignore the Derby, well, good luck. Derby is omnipresent in this old river city and by Derby Day, the only place to escape it would be someplace well outside the Commonwealth. The good citizens of Louisville have two options to celebrate the Derby: they can go to The Track, or they can attend a Derby Party.

    Parties
    Derby parties are ubiquitous and run the gamut from relatively low-key, family-friendly events, to soirees, replete with women dressed to the nines (with hat, of course) and men in suits and quite often hats (boaters being particularly well-suited for the day). Most parties begin in mid-afternoon and can go well into the night. The local affiliate for whichever network owns the rights broadcasts every race on Derby Day (NBC, again this year), so you can have wagering basically from First Post, at 11:00 a.m. (Race 1) all the way through Race 12 (Derby is Race 11). Many, many, many parties include illegal bookmaking, but even those that do not have some sort of wagering. Betting and winning is, after all, why they run the races.

    There aren't any truly iconic foods associated with the Derby, as opposed to the Mint Julep which is indeed entwined with it. Mostly, folks prepare stuff that's good and easy to eat on your feet. I suppose the one staple from most parties would be fried chicken.

    Many parties take a quick break to watch the University of Lousville Marching Band play "My Old Kentucky Home", but not all.

    Around 5:30, the crowds tend to gather in front of the TV to watch the horses being saddled in the paddock. About ten minutes before post time, the trumpeter will play "the call to the post" and the horses will come under the grandstand and onto the track. By now, most of the guests -- if not all of them -- are watching the TV. The horses parade along the stretch, turn back toward the second turn, usually gallop a short way past the starting gate and begin loading for the race.

    It's now race time. I'll post the experience from the track later.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    snip..... I'll post the experience from the track later.
    In a lot of ways, it sounds like how locals celebrate Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Note the emphasis on locals and not drunken-azz tourists hoping to make their debut on "--- Gone Wild."
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  22. #22
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    I also see that Queen Elizabeth II will be at Churchill Downs for the race this year.

    Any good British entries in the field?



    Mike

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    It's now race time. I'll post the experience from the track later.
    Well?......

    So what is the 'infield' experience like (as opposed to the seats)? Are infielders at the Derby synonymous with the NASCAR crowd?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  24. #24
    Work (imagine that!) interupted more of my response last week, and trackside fun got in the way the rest of the weekend. Looks like I won't have much time today, either. But I'm off work tomorrow (for Primary Election Day) and will post some images from the track then.

    But, WOW, what a race! Street Sense went off the favorite, was 19th (of 20) on the back side and picked 'em off one by one to win by 2.25 lengths over my horse (Hard Spun) who was 4 lengths in front of second favorite Curlin. Third largest crowd in Derby history (157,000+). Friday's announced crowd for the Oaks was a hair over 100,000 though I have my doubts -- there wasn't a line to wait through for anything except to place bets and they were only 3-4 people deep (usually much, much longer).

    I'll post again tomorrow.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    The Preakness in Baltimore has similar hoopla, but nowhere near as many top level celebrities are coming to northwest Baltimore. My friends have been to the infield at Pimlico but it's not my cup of tea.

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