Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Kentucky Derby

Thanks to my friend Jeff, I got to sit in the grandstands for once at the Kentucky Derby. It was great to actually have a place to sit, and to be able to see the horses as they run by, unlike what little you can get in the infield. There is a Mardi Gras feel out there, if you know what I mean, which I missed a little, but I'm still grateful that I got a seat.

Of all the horses I thought could win the Kentucky Derby, Giacomo was near the bottom. I didn't even really register his name in my head until he won. I lost every bet because of it. Of course, the best bet is to not bet anything because the Derby is pretty much a crap shoot. Why oh why did I bet on Bellamy Road this year? Taking the favorite is a classic sucker bet. It's a longshot nine times out of ten. Goodness. But, I got a free ticket, so no complaints.

The big winner was my girlfriend. I called her and asked her to pick a horse. She didn't know any horses, so I asked for a number. She gave me 18, Closing Argument. I put down an across the board bet ($2 to win, $2 to place, $2 to show), and he placed, winning a profit of $88.80.

A few tips if you ever go. You can park three or four blocks away for $10. There are very few scalpers to be found - if you want a seat, find someone beforehand. It's best if you have a "guy" who can get seats for you. Last year I went to the Indy 500 at got an incredible seat just yards from the finish line for less than face value. It's remarkable what has happened to that race compared to the Derby, which is still going strong.

If you can't get a seat, there is room in the infield. It costs $40, and is an adventure no matter how you play it. If you want the college crowd atmosphere, venture to the third and fourth turn. The more "mature" crowd is on the other two turns. Make a friend of someone with a tent. I recommend going to the outside of turn one, which requires quite a walk, but its remoteness allows you to get very close to the track. Last year I was right on the rail. The only problem is that it's hard to find a television to really watch the race, so it's handy to have a radio on you.

Outside of the first turn is also a great place to make your bets and buy your food. When betting or buying food and beverages, always go to the extreme ends of the track, where few people dare to go. It's the difference between a betting line of four people versus a betting line of twenty.

With 156,000 visitors, security does its best, but there is plenty you can get away with. There are all sorts of places on the human body that you can hide alcohol, and every one of them has been used by the spectators. You can bring a picnic, if you'd like.

Bring sunscreen, and expect to be very tired at the end of the day, no matter where you sit. It's a looooong day.

Be prepared for the high food costs, as you'd expect. The best deal is probably the $3 lemonade. A mint julep will cost you $8, but you get the great glass Derby cup that is sold in Louisville each year. You can also get these at any grocery store in Louisville. I gave my mom four for Mother's Day, and she loved it.

And, there still exists that possibility that I got to see a Triple Crown winner. I've hoped for that all five years I've gone, and we got so close the last two years! I'm pulling for Giacomo. On to the Preakness!


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