My interest in the Derby has always been
casual and I remember having some conversations with my father-in-law, Gene, who was an avid fan of this race. He always bet on it, I don't know if he ever won. He knew the winners of many races and the circumstances under which they won. He was usually animated when he spoke about the Derby, and that was a big deal for him since he was always so quiet and gentle.
The channel was on early for the race and I watched as the camera panned through the crowd. The ladies all wore brightly colored hats of various shapes and decorations. They were all very, very well dressed. They panned through the clubhouse and most had drinks in hand. Males were dressed in suits with colorful ties. Everybody looked healthy, wealthy, tanned and beautiful.
There is a parade when the horses are moved from the stables to the paddock. This day the track was muddy from a previous rain. Looking at the track it appeared to be glassy from a thin layer of water over the mud. As the horses start toward the paddock they are joined by the owner, the trainer, wives, children and relatives. Each horse is surrounded
by an entourage. The route to the paddock crosses the track and everybody was walking in the mud, nobody seemed to mind. All were happy and smiling. Curiously, there is no music at this time.
Here is my knowledge about this particular race. I do not know the horses, do not know the owners, do not know the trainers, do not know the jockeys. What I do know: it is always colorful, the mint julep
is the drink of choice, there is betting and there are many losers but few winners, My Old Kentucky Home is always played before the race.
At the paddock the riders are instructed to mount their horses. This command is similar to that of auto-racing when they say: "drivers start your engines." This is the time the owner has one last talk with the rider, he bends over to whisper into he jockey's ear: "Come in last" or, "If you win I will double whatever they promised you to lose" or, If you ever touch my
wife again I will make you a gelding" or "win one for the Gipper
". One by one the riders mount their horse, being helped by one person who lifts one shoe of the mounting rider. They ride onto the track in single file. When all the horses are on the track and walking over to the starting gate the singing of "My Old Kentucky Home" is sung.
During the singing of My Old Kentucky
Home the camera panned over the grandstand and most people were singing as loud as they could with a big smile on their faces. Some ladies were so animated their hats went askew. This is an emotional time for many, the camera focused on one of the jockeys and tears were streaming down his face.
In this race there was no trouble at the starting gate, all horses got into their stall and shortly after that the
race was underway. The gates opened and horses of all colors bolted out of the gate with their jockeys in their colorful duds. Just after that everything turned a muddy brown as a watery haze lifted above, and moved along with, the pack. All the jockeys wear goggles, but strange, none of the horses do. They get that yuck right in their faces, unless they are in front.
The winner of the race, Super Saver, had odds at 7-1. Prior to the race, the camera showed one better who was betting $100,000 on Super Saver. He had a briefcase full of cash just as we have seen on so many TV shows or in the movies. Very suspicious, it appeared to me to be money laundering. It's a great laundry, however, that will give you back $800,000.
The owner had never won the Kentucky Derby (neither had the horse) but for the jockey this was his third time in a span on four years. And surprise, surprise, he was the jockey that was tearing up during the singing on My Old Kentucky Home.