Saturday, May 02, 2009

A day at the races..

Today was the 135th running of that great American classic,the Kentucky Derby.
I don't remember how old I was the first time Pops took me to Hollywood Park,..10 or 12 maybe,..but I do remember hanging out with the big guys,trying my best to emulate their mannerisms,affectations,and that overall demeanor of certain confidence that comes with being a real 'savvy' participant in the festivities.
..Not all that difficult really.

Take a few minutes to bury your face in the racing form,pencil in hand,..repeat one or two of the handicapper's notations out loud,giving the impression that the weight of it bears heavily on your decision making process..
'Shannon's Blueboy does better on the turf ',..and squint intently at the magnificent beasts when they pass the grandstands,as though a toss of the head,or rippling fetlock will betray which horse is just not in the mood..
'I don't know why yer whippin' me?..There's no one behind us!',
..and which one is hell-bent for leather to reach the finish line first.
So,when Pops asked me which horse I liked in the next race,I could proclaim with confidence,..'Fighting Felix!'
Because,..you know,..Felix The Cat was my favorite cartoon.

Hey!..He has a magic bag o' tricks!..bound to give him the edge,I reasoned.

I remember standing in line with my dad at the window,and heading back to our seats,ticket in hand.
'You get to keep whatever you win'..
Okay..This is serious grown-up guy stuff!

The crowd,and the anticipation,and the pretty girls,and the smell of cigars,and the jockeys maneuvering their contestants into the gate,..aaand,
THEY'RE OFF!!..

I have no real recollection of the race itself.
It was all way too intoxicating.
But I do know this!..When it was all said and done,I followed Pops to the window,and collected my three dollars and change in winnings!

In later years,he and I would take off at our whim,and spend the day at Hollywood Park,or Santa Anita,or Del-Mar,..convincing each other of the wisdom of our preference.

..'I like the grey one!'..See how he holds his head?'..

OH!..The Kentucky Derby..I almost forgot.

'Mine that bird' astounded everyone by coming in first to win the two-million dollar purse,against the incredible odds of 50 to 1!!..
A two dollar win bet paid $103.20!

This was the second biggest upset since 'Donerail' won the 1913 Derby,at 91 to 1.

The third biggest upset?..
Pops and I weren't there.

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24 Comments:

At 9:10 PM , Blogger austexgrl said...

My first race? Hot Springs Arkansas with my wonderful grandfather...the horse? Timely ztip. It won, I won..and I have LOVED horses ever since...

How r you Sling, its been awhile!

 
At 10:38 PM , Blogger Sling said...

austexgrl- I've wondered on occasion,if Fighting Felix really did 'place',or if my dad just invested a few bucks in nailing down a memory.
..I've been well doll. :)

 
At 10:47 PM , Blogger more cowbell said...

Yeah that was truly an amazing race!

 
At 6:40 AM , Blogger billy pilgrim said...

i can't understand why horse racing is so much more popular than turtle racing.

it would have been nice to see a couple of mexicans coughing in the crowd of rich woman with fancy hats and over weight husbands.

 
At 8:55 AM , Blogger Sling said...

Cowbelle- I only got to read about it.
I guarantee,at 50-1,I'd at least put down two bucks to 'show'..The payoff wouldn't have been as good,but it would have been fun!

Billy P.- I understand Donald Trump is thinking about building a turtle race-track in Vegas..so things could turn around real soon.

 
At 9:01 AM , Blogger jan said...

In my first and only trip to Churchill Downs, I picked the most beautiful red horse to win. He was spirited, he couldn't wait to run like the wind. Unfortunately he had a hard time understanding when it was time to leave the starting gate and came in dead last.

But he was beautiful.

 
At 9:38 AM , Blogger Random Thinker said...

I once bet on a horse that missed the turn because he was running back to the barn... Don't forget the seasoned veterans move of throwing your losing bets onto the ground while cursing the damn nag you bet on.

 
At 10:21 AM , Blogger yellowdog granny said...

I've never personally seen a derby race or a regular horse race..but used to go to Ruidosa, NM and watch quarter horse races all the time with A-Hole #3..the first time I went I put my $50 on a horse called Maud something or something Maud..why? my grandmothers name was Maud..Jack was a very seriouos gambler(that's how he made his living) and gave me a ration of shit for putting money on a horse with such crappy odds...he picked the favorite and guess who's horse won?....I never let him hear the end of it either.

 
At 10:40 AM , Blogger citizen of the world said...

There's a cool place outside of Lexington called the Kentucky Horse Park - among other horses they have several Derby retirees.

 
At 11:18 AM , Blogger Sling said...

Jan- I think I'd rather have a horse just run last,than have it lead the pack,only to drop back to last place on the final turn.
..That happens a lot.

Thinker- I meant to put in that part about throwing the tickets on the ground.
It's a beloved part of the tradition.

Yellerdawg- I almost never bet on a horse to win.
I like 'place' and 'show' bets on a horse with odds around 8-1.
I never have won big money,but many times I've paid for the day,and had a ball doin' it. :)

Citizen- I love horses in general,and have owned a fine Palomino that was trained to barrel race(which I never did),and a sturdy Tennessee Walker.
That was a long time ago,but the memories remain.

 
At 12:18 PM , Blogger Mom said...

That was a great race. I loved the come from behind win and emotional jockey.
I want to go to the Derby someday so I can wear one of those wonderful hats.

 
At 7:41 PM , Blogger John said...

I always wondered why so many tracks are called "Something Downs", as in "Churchill Downs". Other than that I just love to watch them run.

 
At 9:24 PM , Blogger cs said...

I frequented S-Anita a few times. Learned to drink greyhounds there and pick the horse by the colors the jockeys wore...had fun. Then Del Mar once or twice but the Rancho crowds were a bit much...fun times to be had at the beaches nearby.
Preferred the drags most of all down at OC raceway...couldn't drag me away---ha ha!

 
At 7:12 AM , Blogger Lorraine said...

My first race? Emerald Downs. A few years ago. But I loved it. Except I'm not so good with the math part of it. I bet on a horse if I like its name. If it's a stoopid name then I don't bet on it. Even if it means losing. Which it usually does.

 
At 10:00 AM , Blogger sageweb said...

I pick horses by how pretty there Jockey's outfits are...I never win.

 
At 6:44 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

What cool-ass memories... *smiles*

 
At 6:46 PM , Blogger booda baby said...

Isn't it wonderful, being at a horse race? We lived very close to Newmarket in Suffolk and although I never went, I got all excited being around racing horses.

They had way better names than Mind That Bird. What the hell is up with the universe that a horse with a stupid ass name like THAT wins?

 
At 9:11 PM , Blogger austexgrl said...

......it's a horse that has heart...looks aren't everything....plus, he had a great trainer..from Dalhart, Texas!! no less..

 
At 9:31 PM , Blogger Sling said...

Mom- Let's go!..
You can wear the hat,and I'll drink mint juleps.

John- Well,you got me wondering about the use of the word 'Downs' so I did some exhaustive research and found an Old English reference to 'down' as a place separate from the main population...works for me.

CS- Oh,Del-mar is my favorite.
It has that whole Bing Crosby thing goin' on.
Remember Lyon's drag strip in Long Beach?..good times. :)

Rainey- Like all gambling adventures,I don't look at it as losing money,I think of it as spending money having a good time.
For less than 50 bucks you can join in the excitement,have a few beers,and lay down 2 dollars on each race...more or less.

Sage- That's probably as good a reason as any to pick a horse.
Seriously,I did have favorite jockeys.
Fellas that would likely finish in the top 3 (or 4..dammit) no matter what horse they rode.

Miss HP- Plus!..they are brought to you with only a little nostalgic embellishment. ;)

Booda Babe- It's a world gone mad kid!
Makes you wonder what those fools over at 'Google' were thinkin'.

austexgrl- Training,the track,the jockey,..who knows what combination of details go into something like that?..not me.

 
At 10:23 AM , Blogger rosemary said...

Ahh sling....you and pops....great story. Steve and I used to go to Santa Anita all of the time. We would buy all the tip sheets and watch the horses walk along the route to the line. I'm with Sage....I picked colors and names not odds. The results? Well, we live in Idaho and drive Subarus....

 
At 11:11 AM , Blogger Sling said...

Rosie- You have CARS??..You must've made a killing at the track!

 
At 12:19 PM , Blogger Middle Child said...

Don and his dad loved...I mean loved the races...one of the few times I went with don, he asked me what did I think about "Colonel Blimp." I had a bit of a smirk at the name...as if it could win with a name like that...so don didn't put any dough on it...it romped in at $25 to one which was a quarter of a weeks wages for one dollar...he never let me forget the one that got away...

 
At 2:13 PM , Blogger LostInColor said...

That jockey was something else. some reason he reminds me of gollum... hmmm.

 
At 3:09 PM , Blogger Sling said...

Lost- Damm!..I didn't get to see it.
I'm guessin' the jockey was calling Mine that Bird 'My Precioussssss'.

 

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