The consensus of most people about The Kentucky Derby is that it is indeed the two most exciting minutes in sports. And know what? It's true. Several months ago, my husband and I bought a trip to the derby at a charity auction. Included in the package were tickets to the derby with seats at the finish line! Also included was a stay at an historic bed and breakfast and a custom designed hat for yours truly. I have been wanting to attend this event since I was little, and as I am also a hat person, I was beyond thrilled. In fact, I experienced a pure and simple excitement about this that I have not known since childhood. Literally, whenever I told someone where I was going, I had to restrain myself from jumping up and down!
Kentucky is bourbon country, so included in the above-mentioned package were tickets to the Maker's Mark distillery tour which we followed with whiskey infused food at a well-known local restaurant. At the distillery, we were plied with several samples of excellent whisky. By the time I was offered alcohol-laced tiramisu at the aforesaid restaurant, I was a pretty happy camper.
Another item in the package was a trip to a shooting range where we were given a pair of 38s and told to fire away! Needless to say, this was not your typical vacation.
The day of the derby dawned overcast and chilly. It took us about an hour and a half to reach Churchill Downs in Louisville. I could hardly contain myself! Clutched in my hot little hand was my cheat sheet, which gave all the scuttlebutt about the various horses running in the derby. After much deliberation, I made my tentative choices for Win, Place and Show.
Now about THE HAT. Black, huge broad brim meant to be worn at a slant. Large red and white flowers and feathers! Sound ostentatious? Oh, it was. But so was everyone else's. There were 160,000 of us at the derby, approximately half of whom were women and there was not a single woman without a hat. That's 80,000 hats to look at and I didn't see any two that were alike. The breadth and scope of the designs was amazing. In short, hat heaven.
But it wasn't just the women who were strutting their stuff. Most of the men were heavily into displaying their inner peacock as well. Most wore panama hats or some variation thereof. The bowtie was popular, but the real statements were made with jackets and suits. Every color of the rainbow was on display, with cigars completing the southern gentleman motif. Whether you were into horses or not, this was people-watching at its finest.
I AM into horses. So as the day wore on, I became ever more excited as the Race for the Roses approached. It was the 12th race of the day, so by the time it started, the energy and vibrancy of the crowd were palpable. The University of Louisville marching band accompanied us while we sang "My Old Kentucky Home" and then the bugle sounded and the horses were loaded into their gates. Moments later, at the ring of the bell, the gates sprang open and they were off! From where we were seated at the finish line, we had to watch the start of the race on a monitor, so things didn't really get exciting until the horses came into view as they headed down the home stretch. It was a muddy track that day and also a crowded one, so when they appeared in the distance, they looked like a tiny knot of tangled mane and tail with the jockey's colors splashed on top. Mud flew in all directions and enveloped them in a brown halo. Closer on, you could see that the pace was furious, every horse and jockey running for their lives! Twenty horses, tails and hooves flying, thundered toward the finish line. And then "Always Dreaming," my horse, showed himself to be the champion I thought he might be and flew past us in the lead! Thrilling...exhilarating... electrifying...
The most exciting two minutes in sports!