The Kentucky Derby
I watch this famous race every year in May and have no logical reason why I do because: (1) I usually don’t know what horses are running (2) I don’t place bets on the outcome and (3) I pick my favorites based on their names. In other words, I pick horse winners the same way I choose paint colors – if it sounds great, it must be. Yeah, right. I once repainted a mirror frame four times. Obviously, this theory of mine doesn’t work – so let’s move on.
IT’S AN OVER-THE-TOP SPECTACLE
The Kentucky Derby started in 1875 and is the longest running sporting event in the United States. It is known for offering “the most exciting two minutes in sports” and has never missed a year – not even during The Great Depression (1929-39) or World War I (1914-18) and WW II (1939-45).
There are few American sporting events with the history and popularity of the Derby. It has rich traditions: sipping a mint julep, donning a beautiful hat and joining fellow race fans singing “My Old Kentucky Home.” It is truly a celebration of Southern culture.
THE DERBY IS ALWAYS HELD THE FIRST SATURDAY IN MAY
In the racing world, there is a fierce emphasis on the Triple Crown. This is the Holy Grail that takes place in three spots:
The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky (run over a 1 1/4-mile dirt track) on May 4, 2019
The Preakness Stakes, (which is the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown), a 1 3/16 mile track at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland on May 18, 2019
And finally, the longest race, the Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles in Elmont, New York on June 8, 2019
WATCH A TERRIFIC MOVIE ABOUT ALL OF THE ABOVE
At the tail end of 2018 I accidently came across a very good film on TV titled “Secretariat” that chronicled the life of this remarkable racehorse, who won the Triple Crown in 1973 – the first winner in 25 years. The movie stars Oscar-nominated actress Diane Lane who portrays Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery and John Malkovich who plays his trainer, Lucien Laurin.
Since the horse himself had few problems on the track, the film focuses on the difficulties Chenery had to deal with: she was a woman in a man’s world, a woman no one believed in.
The film has a WOW ending that captures the true story of Secretariat perfectly: his Belmont run. It put his name in the history of racing forever. With only four competitors running against him, Secretariat was the favorite to take the 1 1/2-mile race. But no one expected him to blow away the field as much as he did. Secretariat opened up a lead on the backstretch and never looked back, leaving everyone else in the dust. He won the race by a total of 31 lengths in one of the most dominant athletic performances of the 20th century.
If you watch this race I guarantee you will be sitting or standing up with your mouth and eyes wide open – not able to say a word. Or, as his jockey, Ron Turcotte recalled in 1993, “Down the backstretch, with a half-mile to go, Secretariat was clearly giving me a rocket ride. Enemy hoof beats soon disappeared. They were too far behind for me to hear. What a race! What a memory!”
Secretariat crushed the competition: first by 10 lengths, then 20 and eventually 31 lengths – to become horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner since 1948. Later, Penny Chenery would have this to say about Secretariat and the Belmont race, “My gut feeling is that he was ready for that race. I just think he got out there and said to himself, ‘Okay, I feel good. I’m just going to show them how I can run.’”
CLICK HERE TO SEE “SECRETARIAT – THE LIFE & TIMES OF AN AMERICAN RACING LEGEND.
Make sure your sound is on + full screen
NOTE: It takes 10 hours (or 700 miles going south) to drive from Louisville, KY to New Orleans, LA. Of course, that’s nonstop. But even with food-and-fuel breaks it’s quite doable. We’d love to see you in May!