For if you take the “Clara”, “Shana” “Elizabeth” and “Sprite”, the “Jennifer” “The Run for the Roses” and the grand dame “Patty” – all bold and bright - your bulging, disbelieving, barely conceiving eyeballs will know that this spectacle, this event, this race of races, this show - is unique in flaunting the garish and the gorgeous, the colorful and the atrocious – and let’s not even mention the bows in tow…
For those that want to showcase their hats (as opposed to merely using them to block the views of others they don’t know or don’t like) they can enter hats into the Kentucky Derby Museum yearly contest. The winners will have their hats on the rack – displayed - for others to gosh, guffaw, and gawk at.
Hat’s aside, if, happily, the race turns out to be a rat race or, sadly, one for the dogs, the atmosphere, as this writer can attest, feels electric, even if watching the whole show on TV. Of course being plied with mint juleps, the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, and being pricked with red rose thorns, the official flower of the Kentucky Derby, adds to the tingling. One can only wonder what the mood must be like at Churchill Downs which has hosted this horsey hootenanny - uninterrupted - since 1875.
And Travis Stone has just been hired as the new horse hooter, track announcer. He should be around for a while – he’s the eighth to hold this job since that 1875 inception!
For those thousands of folks that are hard of seeing, “The most exciting 2 minutes in sports” the mammoth “Big Picture” a High Definition LED standing 170 feet high by 171 feet across, will show their picks and pans. Their losses and wins, loans and windfalls, will be magnified.
Of course, in a field of 20, the average-sized field the past decade or so, there will be 19 horses that will blame and rag on the winner on having “horseshoes” for the reason that that nag won. Of course, luck doesn’t have much to do with it. In a track this size – you can’t fake speed, or a good start, or a great close, or fantastic strategy.
California Chrome won in 2014. Fantastically. The unheralded horse won the Preakness but came up short in the Belmont. Will the winner of the 2015 Derby have the legs to go all the way and seize the Triple Crown? No matter that we haven’t seen a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed did the deed in 1978, what is also so fantabulous about the Kentucky Derby is that it’s run on Saturday. That way, the winning horse can party hearty, and sow his wild oats, Saturday night and recover Sunday before returning to work Monday. (Why couldn't the Super Bowl follow this lead?)
Now about the losses and wins mentioned above. What are the best tactics and strategies to minimize the losses and maximize the wins when betting on the Derby? The website: Equinometry tells us to be aware that a lot of money bet on the Derby is “dead money” that is, money bet without any research or due diligence, money bet on a favorite color, number, horse name, and so on.
If one can wade through the plethora of information made available via interviews with trainers, owners, and jockeys; articles from the racing and general media; and previous race histories; a bettor who utilizes these facets will be a better handicapper than one who throws money down on a whim or whinny.
If you play your cards right, in betting and in life, perhaps you’ll watch the finish at the “Finish Line Turf Suites.” Considered the best seats going, bring your wallet if you want to hang out there all year – a suite will set you back somewhere, and these are 2011 prices, between $200,000 and $250,000. They have a wet bar. Good thing – having a dry bar wouldn’t do the trick.
Of course with the beauty of these animals, the grounds, the pageantry, and even some of the people, there is a beastly ugliness underlying much of what goes on - what with the torture of horses through the testing and steady administration of drugs.
The New York Times reported extensively on an undercover, no pun intended, sting operation conducted by PETA, that showed how one super successful trainer, Steve Asmussen, allegedly ran an operation where his horses were routinely given supplements, tranquillizers, and painkillers.
Needles go into joints. Or muscles. All for the hope that a jolt can eke out a good performance one last time before the horse croaks.
And croak they do. “The Times found that 24 horses a week died at American tracks, a rate greater than in countries where drug use was severely restricted.”
Asmussen, for his part, is being investigated for cruelty to animals by both federal and state government agencies in Kentucky and New York.
Let’s elevate the discussion and don our rose-colored glasses…So, who is favored to take the 2015 Kentucky Derby this 141st running? These horses figure in:
American Pharoah; Dortmund; Firing Line; Upstart; and Materiality.
We can talk of these horses, but we’re out of space and nearly out of time. Thank heavens the Kentucky Derby is but a month away. If the horses run in a style as cool as their names, it should be another terrific race.