Kentucky Derby 2009
We're Going to the Kentucky Derby!
Since our Grandmother was coming Janice asked her if there was any place in particular that she wanted to go. My Grandmother asked how far Janice was from Louisville, Kentucky.
As it turns out Janice was only 3 hours away. My Grandmother said she always wanted to see the Kentucky Derby (which was to be held on May 2, 2009) and would it be possible to do so. Janice said of course! So off we went to the 135th running of The Kentucky Derby.
All photos on this lens were taken by myself Otto Phillips.
Where do we sit?
Our hotel was in Elizabethtown, Kentucky which is located about 45 minutes away from Louisville. This also meant that we would be getting up at 5am to be at Churchill Downs by 7am. For you see we were not going to be sitting in the grandstands, those seat costs were in the thousands of dollars. Instead we would be in the infield. The earlier we arrived the earlier we could find a reasonable place to sit and be able to see everything.
Churchill Downs is located in a residential neighborhood so parking was challenging. Homeowners had signs in their windows offering all day parking for the event. We ended up paying $15 to park in front of someones house and we were still at least 3 blocks away from Churchill Downs. So we walked the 3 blocks while carrying our lawn chairs, cameras and wearing our coats as it was supposed to rain that day.
The main entrance to the racetrack is reserved for those who sit in the stands or have box suites. Unfortunately, we did not have those kind of tickets, so we had to jaunt around to find side terminals for people watching in the infield. The cost to watch the Kentucky Derby in the infield is $50 per person. When we arrived at the terminal there were many many people ahead of us so the wait was quite long but we toughed it out and finally made our way in.
Upon entering the facility i wondered how we would get to the infield. Would someone pick us up and take us around the track? The answer to that was no when i realized the path that i and several hundred other people at that time was taking us underground. We would walk thru a concrete tunnel and emerge in the infield.
Do you watch the Kentucky Derby on TV?
A BIG Party!
Once we were inside we wondered where we should be setting up our lawnchairs. As it turns out, we ended up in between turns 1 and 2 of the main racetrack which was in the exact opposite direction from where we came in but, one of the security workers advised us to head in that direction. Turn 1 is considered the more family-oriented area while turn 3 is the more college-party area. At the time there was virtually no one in turn 1(Boy, would that change) so we figured we had made our best possible choice for seating.
It was just before 8am when we went inside and the first race was not slated to start until 10:30am. There were a total of 13 races for the day with the Derby being the 11th and slated to start that evening at 6:24pm so we had a long day in front of us. There was a 60 percent chance of rain and it did rain but only enough to make the dirt track muddy and not nearly enough to curb peoples enthusiasm. Slowly but surely the area around us starting filling up, concession and souvenir stands started to open and helicopters carrying banners of restaurants and businesses started to fly overhead.
Did you know there is a turf track inside the dirt track? I sure didn't but there it was being used for the first few heats. In addition to the heats and the betting going on i cannot stress enough how much of a party atmosphere the infield would soon become. There were people from all over the United States, Canada and the World from all age groups just purely enjoying each others company. We met a young man from Cleveland named Michael who had lost his friends in the sea of humanity. It was around noon and he had had probably too much to drink already and had also broken his phone as he tried calling his friends. There was a wonderful couple from Minnesota right next to us who were there for at least their 30th Derby. The drink of the Derby has been and always will be a Mint Julep. My Mother and I decided we should try this traditional drink so we each went to a concession stand and ordered one. I was told by many people back home that i must try this drink and was quite eager to do so. My eagerness was quickly swept away, however, when i watched how the drink was prepared: 3 quarters Bourbon, 1 quarter Water and Mint Leaves placed inside the glass. It was by far the strongest and most unappetizing drink i had tasted to that point but at least the glass was a 135th Anniversary collectible.
The day had not been good to me as far as winnings were concerned. I had maybe made $12. My Mother, Grandmother and Brother-In-Law had not fared any better. My sister Janice however had won big in the 4th race, enough in fact to be able to treat all of us to dinner that night. We ended up dining at the Texas Roadhouse Grill which was located right across from our Hotel in Elizabethtown.
The Porta-Potty Gauntlet
In addition to the Kentucky Derby and the other horse races there was another event that definitely caught our attention in between races. It is called the Porta-Potty Gauntlet and i am not sure how long it has been going on but it is entertaining i assure you.
A few people full of liquid courage would jump up at one end of a long row of about, i would say, 15-20 porta-potties to try to run across. Seems harmless maybe even easy to someone sober but to anyone who has had a few to many Mint Juleps it is very challenging. Oh and i should also mention that while these people are trying to make it across the spectators below are throwing cans of beer and other debris to try and throw off the participants. The whole spectacle of the Porta-Potty Gauntlet brings new meaning to the term "You have to see it to believe it".
The 135th running of The Kentucky Derby
There were 19 horses running in the race and they are all uniquely named. Usually there are 20 horses running but "I Want Revenge" was scratched (Horse would not race) that morning due to injury. "I Want Revenge" was a 3/1 favorite to win the Derby so this really changed the fabric of the race.
The 19 horses running in the 135th Kentucky Derby were: "WEST SIDE BERNIE", "MUSKET MAN", "MR. HOT STUFF", "ADVICE", "HOLD ME BACK", "FRIESAN FIRE", "PAPA CLEM", "MINE THAT BIRD", "JOIN IN THE DANCE", "REGAL RANSOM", "CHOCOLATE CANDY", "GENERAL QUARTERS", "ATOMIC RAIN", "DUNKIRK", "PIONEER OF THE NILE", "SUMMER BIRD", "NOWHERE TO HIDE", "DESERT PARTY", and finally "FLYING PRIVATE". The favorites now to win win were "PIONEER OF THE NILE" at 4/1, "DUNKIRK" also at 4/1 and "FRIESAN FIRE" at 5/1. So the field was set and now it was time for the 135th Kentucky Derby to begin!
Before the race was to begin the traditional Horn could be heard meaning the race was going to start. I don't remember an announcer or gunshot all i remember was seeing the start gates open and hearing the roar of the crowd as the horses raced. The race itself took less than 3 minutes to complete but it was indeed a memorable one. In one of the biggest upsets in Kentucky Derby history "Mine That Bird" came back from being in last place on the back stretch of the track to winning by multiple horse lengths! Everyone in our area was scrambling to look at their tickets to see if their horse had won. No one picked "Mine That Bird" to win but a gentleman in a group next to us did win a Trifecta meaning that he had picked the same horses that finished in the top 3. He was extremely excited as he had won i believe close to $30,000.
Even though none of us had won anything on the Derby race itself, we still had a wonderful experience that I believe everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. At least i can say that i have been to The Kentucky Derby and boy did i have a lot of fun!