Whoa. Hello Reality. My Derby Week seemed to be more marathon endurance contest than the series of fortunate events I had planned. That’s not a complaint. But here it is Monday, and I’m overloaded with notes about the experiences of a schedule I loaded up just to see if was possible.
In an nutshell, it was two mornings on the backside, three consecutive nights at big t0-do’s — Oaks Eve Bash at the Seelbach, Mint Jubilee at the Palace, Night of Silk at the Galt House — and squeezing in Oaks and Derby at the track.
So here’s some thoughts and photos from the weekend:
Shackleford Wins? Sitting on the media bus last Saturday with Debbie Eisenback of the LouisvilleKY.com team, she got a text from WAVE3: Shackleford Wins the 137th Derby. Ooops. Best not to send out the text with the horses at the half-mile pole. Debbie, of course, has bragging rights for all time. When Animal Kingdom crossed the finish line, she showed me here $5 win and exacta ticket. It’s great to be with a winner — she bought the Mint Julep.
Most Awkward Moment in Sports?: I basically neglected by TV critic duties, and have the newscasts backed up on my DVR to prove it. But I was watching WLKY-TV on Friday when Rick Van Hoose was doing an interview with Pat Day. They were discussing the Barbaro statue at the track, and Van Hoose said to Day that there ought to be a statue of Day on the grounds. Awkward silence. Then Day figured out a way to say, politely, that, well, Rick, there is a Pat Day statue in the paddock that’s been there for five years.
I asked Day about it later at the Night of Silk event Saturday night, and gracious as ever, he said that he was trying not to embarrass Van Hoose, but that he couldn’t let the moment go by without telling him about the statue.
First Turn Blues: On Friday, I walked over to an area of the track that had been kind of a well-kept secret. For several years, I had enjoyed the Derby in the grassy area outside the track on the first turn. Not only was it a great vantage point to see part of each race, you could get a good look at the connections from each horse, and the horses, walking to and from the paddock. Anyone with a general admission ticket could get in and set up along the rail. Apparently, though, some of the corporate suits got wind of the first-turn party, and paved over half of it to create a seating area. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one shocked when security asked for a ticket to get in over there.
The Infield Calm: Everyone I talked to about the Infield was amazed at how calm it was. That’s ample evidence of the corporatization of the place. Whereas my wonderful memories are of a land grab in a sea of people in the Infield of the ’80s, with drunks and nudity and people passed out on the lawn, there are now so many tents and asphalt out there it really curtails the fun. You can’t see the track from anywhere in the Infield, and getting a p icture with the Twin Spires in background has become a real challenge. But you can go inside a tent and order a drink.
The Paper: Remember when the Sunday C-J after the Derby was the biggest paper of the year? On Mother’s Day, my mom told me she couldn’t believe the paper “had nothing in it.”