Observations of Kentucky
Iíll admit itís impossible to be an expert after a lone experience, but Iíll go out on a limb and say there are five ways to experience the Kentucky Derby:
Buy a horse (a real expensive horse) and enter it in the race. I think then they give you a seat. Then you dress up, wear a big hat, and look good on TV.
Be really rich and watch from the luxury boxes of Millionaireís Row. This involves dressing up, big hats, etc.
Be semi-rich and sit in the grandstands. This also involves dressing up, big hats, etc.
Watch on TV at home and get the best possible view of all the action and enjoy all the replays you can stand.
Get a general admission ticket and watch it from the infield, wearing shorts and T-Shirts (or, for pale people like me, long pants and shirt sleeves to avoid the sun).
Option 5 is the one that Angela and I took this year when we attended our first Kentucky Derby. We bought two camping chairs from Wal-mart and arrived early, staking out some prime real estate near the middle of the backstretch almost directly across from a large video screen where odds are posted and the races (and replays) are displayed. This was key, because the infield is fenced all around (to keep people from wandering onto the track, I suppose) and itís a bit of a challenge to directly see a horse from the infield. So each race, weíd watch the video screen to see the start, look back to the track and watch the horses streak by, and then watch the end of the race on the big screen.
I heard that about 130,000 people attended the Derby, and it seemed like 129,000 of them were in the infield with us. The lines for the betting windows were impressively long, and you had to work your way through impressive crowds to get there. The majority of the folks are college aged, and they act like theyíre at Mardi Gras, with the drinks and the beads andÖ and thatís all the detail Iím going into, this is a family newsletter. There were 11 races during the day, with the derby being the ninth race. I started out well, picking a daily double for the first two races of the day, but never brought back another dollar after that. Angela had some scattered winnings later in the day, including picking the third horse in the derby, but all in all we didnít break their bank or our bank at Churchill Downs.
The rest of the trip we spent enjoying the Ohio River Valley. On Derby weekend we stayed in nearby Scottsburg, Indiana, and were impressed with all the beautiful brick houses in the little towns of southern Indiana and Western Kentucky. We went down to Mammoth Caves, driving through the infinite fields of bluegrass and old wood forests. After two different treks through the cave, we stopped and saw the log cabin Abraham Lincoln was born in (in Kentucky, not Indiana nor Illinois as I used to think) before returning to Cincinnati to see the Reds beat the Brewers at Cynergy Field (aka River Front Stadium), which will be torn down before next springís opening day.