After the this morning's works, when we were searching the track for the possible presence of Square Eddie, I discovered he has succumbed to the latest Derby trend: bailing off the trail at the last possible moment. It seems this slacker sensibility is catching, because Indian Blessing, the champion 4-year-old mare we saw working today, is not going into the Humana Distaff, after all.
Here's one of my shots of Indian Blessing, since we won't get to see her at the Downs on Friday. And here is one of my shots of I Want Revenge working. It still has yet to sink into me I saw the favorite for the Kentucky Derby working this morning. It's been a surreal experience, for certain. Everywhere you look, the Derby is being advertised. I'm not exaggerating. On a Wal-Greens sign, they boasted 2 Derby glasses for $5 (which is a good deal), gas stations have banners that read "Derby it up!", and even a stripper joint's sign read "Welcome Derby fans." The Kentucky Derby truly does take over the city of Louisville the week before the first Saturday in May. I mean, I've always heard this before, but I didn't realize how far that arm stretch around the city and painted the town DERBY. The word isn't even used to describe a race here, it's more like a state of being; it's become a whole different animal than in any other town I've been to. In short: where have you been all of my life, Louisville? We belong together! Your town symbol is even the fleur de lis, like New Orleans! Clearly, this is some sort of sign I'm meant to live here.
I went back to the track for a few races this afternoon and was given a free pass by a Churchill employee who wishes to remain annonymous, and officially got what the scene Upstairs is all about. I have turned my nose up at the prospect of sitting upstairs until today. You're far away from everything, who cares if you can see more of the track! Well... it's easy to throw tomatoes at something you've never experienced before. The track call is turned up to an ear-splitting volume when the horses enter the stretch, the fans start screaming like banshees, and you can really see the margin of victory like you can't as well on the floor level. The fact you can actually make out the words of the race call is pretty special, since that's one of my favorite parts of the sport.
... must... not... give.... in! There's still nothing like leaning on the rail and feeling the rumble of the stampede pass you by. At least I now know what all the fuss is about.
I took some pictures of non-racing since there were no stakes on the card to get excited about. One of my favorites is of the just-unveiled Barbaro statue at the main entrance. The inscription on the back of the statue about made me cry. It's a quote by Eric Liddell:
"I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure."
There couldn't be a more beautifully moving tribute to this valiant champion.
I also took what I consider a hilarious picture of Julien Leparoux, a.k.a My Boyfriend, in the paddock on his way to a race he seemed to realize he wasn't going to win. At least, that's what his face tells me. What do you think?
All in all, it was one of those beautiful little days at the races. When I got back on the shuttle to take me back to my car at the looooong end of the parking lot, a patron sitting in the front was honking on his harmonica. As the racing fans were trickling out of Churchill Downs, the harmonica began to hum, "My Old Kentucky Home." Everyone was smiling. It was a great day, and it's going to be a great week. It's only Tuesday, and the party is just getting started.
I bought what I think is the most hilarious Derby-related shirt I've ever seen today. Just wait. There will be pictures of an equally hilarious me wearing it to come in the following days...