Kentucky Derby #137

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I know, I know—the Derby is, like, SO yesterday.  But I can’t tell you all about the The Oaks and not about The Derby!  And if you’re like me, you have no idea what a day at the Derby is like, so I’ll fill you in… {I really knew nothing going into this weekend, so this is kind of long…}

We were up bright and early Saturday, despite the lack of sunshine outside… It was cloudy and overcast all morning, but the forecast was similar the day before and turned out beautifully, so we were optimistic.

After showering, rolling, plucking, and letting my hat air out…

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I was all ready to go!  Luckily, I’d packed a white trench coat and even had ponchos stuffed in my clutch should worse come to worst. {I won’t lie, I put a lot of time and effort into my Derby outfit and in NO part of my Derby daydreaming was there a poncho.  I was really hoping these would not make an appearance…}

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We boarded the charter bus outside of the Marriott and headed west to Louisville.  A lot of our group also lacked Derby experience, so we received the full rundown on how to bet on horses, who to bet on, how the weather factored in to the race, trifectas, superfectas, boxed bets, and perfectas… We learned it all.  And everyone who seemed to know anything about horses seemed to agree: this year’s Derby was wide open—any horse could win it.

And just as we pulled into Churchill Downs, the rain that had held off all morning began to dot our windows.


Luckily, the drizzle never really amounted to anything significant and we never needed those God-forsaken ponchos {though there were a few close calls}.

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The red carpet outside of Gate 10, where we came in.  We stood and watched for a bit, but the only person we saw come in was the guy from “Man vs. Food.”  We don’t watch it though, so I had no idea who he was.

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Once inside, we waited in line for our bracelets so we could come and go without showing our tickets.  We headed straight for our seats to check out our view—it did not disappoint!  That white pole sticking out from the left of my hat?  That’s the finish line pole.  Front and center, baby.

Our seats were front row, but despite the view, these were not the posh seats.  Behind us were the balconies and the higher you go, the nicer the seats were.  The top balconies held all of the enclosed “jockey suites” and while there was no line for the bathrooms or betting windows, there also seemed to be a lot snotty, old rich people so I enjoyed our “cheap” seats…

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Behind the seating area is all of the food and betting windows, similar to a stadium.  There was everything from stadium food to lobster rolls and champagne.  We passed the area for the “$1000 Mint Julep Experience”—a silver engraved Tiffany’s mint julep cup filled with the best bourbon and mint.  My very first mint julep {above} was not purchased from this fine booth.  Thank God I didn’t pay $1000 for it because a mint julep is just bourbon and water over ice with some mint leaves in it.  And while Tyler warned me over and over “You’re probably not going to like it,” I was still imagining it tasted something like Firefly.  No dice. They say there’s simple syrup in it, but I only tasted bourbon and water…

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I quickly switched over to drinking Lilies—the official drink of the Oaks.  Not sure what was in it, but it was pink and came in a really cute stemless wine glass. Smile 

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Our first of many two celebrity sightings: Guy Fieri from the Food Network.  You can kinda see his platinum blonde spikes sticking up back there…

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Not a celebrity, just liked her hat…

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Another losing ticket… We bet on horses all day long and didn’t win a single dollar!  The minimum bet in horse racing is only $2, and you can win a lot only betting a little, so we put money on horses throughout the day to keep us interested in the races {The Derby is the tenth or eleventh race of the day}.  We were chatting with friends we ran into {yes, my husband seems to knows people everywhere}, whose mother-in-law placed an $8 bet and won $2,400.  Sadly, this was not our story.

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The friends we were with had an all access pass to the Downs, so we headed down to the paddock later in the afternoon.  Despite my lack of Derby experience, I knew that this was kind of a big deal…

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This is the area where the horses are prepared for the race and the jockeys and owners all gather.  Then they trot out to the track and everyone cheers them on.

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Calvin Borel, a jockey who’s won three Kentucky derbies {I have typed and re-typed Derbys and Derbies about eight times and just can’t get it to look right… I give in.}

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Everyone talks about how short these guys are, but all I could think about was how crazy their hip range of motion was and how many issues they must have.  Unfortunately, there were no other physical therapists nearby for me to discuss this with…

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While we were out hunting for lunch, I saw a food stand with these cute little sticks with fruit and, what I thought, were cheesecake balls on them drizzled with chocolate.  I asked Tyler to grab one for me and he came back with this… Cheesecake on a stick!  Just a straight up huge piece of cheesecake with a lollypop stick in it. {What I’d seen earlier was not, in fact, cheesecake…}

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You spend most of the day chatting, socializing, and drinking until a few minutes before each race and then everyone lines the balconies and rails to watch and cheer.  Even if you have no idea what’s going on, the roar of the crowd and all of the buzz and excitement  seems to come out of nowhere and it’s really fun.

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The day gets busier and really crowded as the last race of the day draws near… And at its height, Carson Kressley walked by.  Second and last celebrity sighting of the day.

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The photographers came out and set up for the perfect shot…

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And they’re off!

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Here they come aaaaaaand Animal Kingdom wins!!  All of our money was on Mucho Macho Man…

It was a LONG, fun day for us and the best people watching experience I’ve ever had.  And even though we’re fond of dressing up for football games in the South, I have never participated in a sporting event quite like this.  The atmosphere, the history, the attire, the food… It was so fun and I think everyone should experience it at least once in their life—be it from the stands, the infield, or the backside

And to wrap up this post, I have to share the two most meaningful things I learned from my day at the Derby…

#1: It doesn’t matter what you wear.  I mean, it kind of does, but it doesn’t.  I was so worried about finding the perfect hat and the perfect outfit, thinking that I was going to stand out as an imposter if I didn’t replicate Jessica Simpson ala Newlyweds episode #2.16.  There were 165,000 attendees there from all different walks of life.  There were thousands of people who looked better than I did and plenty that didn’t.  There were be people in $400 BCBG dresses and $50 Loft dresses.  And no one stood out.  I share this not to disappoint you, but to relieve your stress if you happen to google “What to wear to the Derby” and stumble across this blog.  Wear a cute spring dress, find a cute hat and you’ll be fine.  And if you want to have a crazy Lady Gaga moment and wear something ridiculous, go for it.  It’s one of the few places you’ll be able to get away with it.  One more word to the wise: I saw a ton of the same Lily Pulitzer dresses… If you’re mortified of being spotted in the same dress as someone else, Lily is not the way to go… {Prediction: LP stock plummets tomorrow. Sorry.}

#2. I made it my mission to find the biggest hat I could… Bad idea.  I LOVED my hat and am quite excited to get some summer use out of it {The Royal Wedding has made me determined to bring back the hat}.  However, the brim was so long that I was constantly tilting my head up to make eye contact with people.  It was hard to hold a conversation, I couldn’t get within a foot of Tyler, and it was very difficult to navigate the very heavy crowds with something 3 feet in diameter balanced on your head.  I thought I needed a huge hat to blend in.  Next time, I’m going for vertical height… Because there will be a next time!


And this concludes my Derby talk for 2011…I think I’ve met my quota, right?  We are SO thankful we were able to experience The Kentucky Derby and so appreciative of our friends who invited us to share in it with them.  Of all the people they could have asked, they invited us and that thought was not lost on me.  Thank you Jamie and Michael—we had a blast!

Happy Wednesday.

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