A May 2001 trip
to Louisville by Carmen
Quote: One of my good friends lives in Lexington, KY, and so I packed in a visit with her with a trip to the Derby. It was certainly a great experience. One that I remember now every year on Derby Day.
1. Watching the horses be led into the gates, and trying to pick the one I had put good money on. (I had bet on lucky number 2 -- Millenium Wind, mostly because I liked the name.)
2. Singing "My Old Kentucky Home" which I learned in advance, I'm not even from Kentucky, and I got all weepy singing the thing.
3. Hearing that trumpet blow!
4. Hearing that bell ring, and the announcer say "And they're off!"
5. We had some of the best seats, in the bleachers, right near the finish line. And we saw Monarchos put it into high gear and cross that finish line with panache!
6. Watching my mom's excitement when she found out she'd won from a bet on Monarchos to win!
Oh, yes, and it wouldn't be the Derby without trying to notice all of the different hats! Each of us in our party bought a hat specifically for the Derby.
"The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home
'Tis summer, the people are gay;
The corn top's ripe and the meadow's in the bloom,
While the birds make music all the day;
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
All merry, all happy, and bright,
By'n by hard times comes a-knocking at the door,
Then my old Kentucky home, good night!
Weep no more, my lady,
Oh weep no more today!
We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home,
For the old Kentucky home far away."
Also, despite the fact it's the first weekend in May, the year I went it was a very warm day. Bring sunscreen - and lots of money for drinks. Just like any other event, they overcharge you for water.
Also, don't poop out and dress comfortably. Wimp! Get out your Sunday best, buy a hat, and suck it up for the experience.
Also, just go knowing that there are mobs of people. Be patient, and just enjoy the day.
First, the mint juleps are all julep with a little mint. In other words, they're almost pure liquor. With the sun and the heat, a few of those will give you a heck of a hangover.
Second, they taste awful! I've had some good mint juleps, but not at the actual Derby. :)
The highlight of the julep is that it comes in a commemorative Derby glass. There are some collectors that have one from each of the years. Note: If you stick around after the Derby, you're likely to find lots of glasses left behind for you to freely take. Just throw them in the dishwasher when you get home - plus, the alcohol will kill the germs. :)
You can pick a horse to either win (come in first) place (come in second) or show (come in third). You're given a book that names the horses running in each race, and if you look at the odds board, you can see the updated odds for the horses in that race.
Note: Place your bets long before the race ever starts. If you wait too long, you'll miss the race for standing in the incredibly long lines. However, I wouldn't place your Derby bet unitl an hour or two before the race, because the odds will change (unless you're like me, and just bet on the horse with the best name. Ha.)
Also, keep your ticket. If you win, you need your ticket. If you don't win, it's a souvenir from your day at the races.
When we walked in, there were just people everywhere. I mean everywhere. I'm glad I went just once, but I'm not sure anything could persuade me to tackle all those people again.
There are actually 10 races on Derby Day. We arrived around 11 after spending the moring at the Derby breakfast in Frankfurt, KY. There's one race each hour, each race is less than 5 minutes, so it's a long day.
The best way to fill the time is people watching. Certainly, the hats are the highlight, and then there's the occasional glimpse of someone that you just know has the primo seats on Millionaires' Row. I didn't see anyone famous there, but I saw in the paper the next day that Sarah Michelle Gellar (I'm a big Buffy fan) was there.
I was also surprised that not everyone was dressed to the hilt for the Derby. The attire ranged from prom-dressy to jeans and a t-shirt.
Our seats were in the grandstand, which was positioned just at the starting gate. Which means that the Derby started right in front of us, and finished right in front of us. I've got to say that I was a little emotional as the horses took off out of the gate. And my mom was so excited that she had placed a bet on the winner, Monarchos.
Cary, North Carolina