I've lived in several places since I was born. Met a lot of different sports fans. Some smart, some not so much. What's interesting is the vast majority of them share a common wish to see the same sporting event before they die: The Kentucky Derby.
I'll openly admit it: I'm not a horse racing connoisseur. Don't really know many people that are. But at least for one day, the rest of the country and I get caught up in the most historic horse race of all time.
Maybe it's because the race brings a promise of warmer weather. Landing on the first Saturday in May gives the event a beacon-like quality, shining the way to summer.
There's a pureness to the Derby as well-it's guys riding on the back of horses. They've been doing that for hundreds of years. There hasn't been any technological advance to change the way a thoroughbred comes barrelling down the stretch (the fastest Derby time was set nearly 40 years ago.)
Then there's the hope of a Triple Crown run. I wasn't alive when Affirmed last did it in 1978. I do remember how people got excited when a horse won the first two, only to come up short in the Belmont (Big Brown and Smarty Jones, among others.) There's a level of respect for winning the Triple Crown that rivals nobility.
And finally, there just seems to be an atmosphere, an aura about the whole thing. Whether it's the extravagant hats, the mix of high society and commoners, the food, the buglers, all of it creates a masterful melting pot that sounds as sweet as the mint juleps they serve.
I hope to experience all of that someday, seersucker suit and bowtie in tow. It won't make me a horse racing connoisseur. But at least I'll know when I leave Churchill Downs, having experienced the oldest continuous sporting event in the country, the weather will be getting warmer.
If you've been, want to go or simply find The Kentucky Derby entertaining, I want to hear from you. Leave your comments, stories and suggestions.
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