A dream of mine came true this weekend. Anyone who follows me on twitter is probably sick of me talking about the Kentucky Derby, but I can't help it. Since I was a little girl I have dreamed about going to Churchill Downs, wearing my hat and my sundress, and watching those red roses drapped over the winner's shoulders. I read books and books, always so intrigued by the world of horse racing, always wanting to be the exercise rider, or the owner, and knowing I could never be the jockey. When the 1st Saturday in May roles around, you better believe I am glued to that tv for HOURS. Listening to the stories of the favorites, the underdogs, the unlikely owners, and the hard work it takes to make it there. There's no feeling quite like watching them load in the starting gate, seeing those horses turn down the back stretch, and yelling as the winner crosses the finish line with that fist in the air. Lifelong dreams of the owners, trainers, jockeys, grooms, exercise riders and everyone connected to the horse finally come true. The names of the trainers and jockeys bring a sense of familiarity as year after year I watch them enter new horses to run in the Derby. I love every bit of it. I hate when its over, making me wait yet another year.
And to actually BE THERE this year...
A dream fulfilled. To smell the cigars, drink mint juleps, wear the hat and the dress, bet on horses, see those twin spires, and basically touch the track that so many lengendary horses have run on was just as great as I thought it would be. It's "the most exciting two minutes in sports." But, it was so much more than that. From the culture/atmosphere to the rich tradition, it's one of the greatest sporting events in the world. Yes, maybe I am a little "horse-crazy," but I know that anyone could appreciate the beauty of the Kentucky Derby. I needed to go. I needed to know what this quote by Steinbeck meant..."The Kentucky Derby, whatever it is--a race, an emotion, a turbulence, an explosion--is one of the most beautiful and violent and satisfying things I have ever experienced."
I understand that now. I love Kentucky. I love Bardstown Road. This year I may have been an in-fielder, but next time I'll be in those grand stands. As you see, I could go on and on but I will end with a paragraph I read tonight that so accurately explains my feelings of this weekend.
I walked away today with empty pockets, but it didn't matter. Seeing Calvin Borel stand in his stirrups after the wire, crop held high in salute to the moment, all I could feel was euphoria for the horse, the jockey, the trainer and owner, the women at Kroger who stitched the rose blanket, the mass of humanity who stood and sang "My Old Kentucky Home," the balloon handlers in the Pegasus Parade, the waitress at Wagner's who called me "honey," and the child who stroked the nose of the statue of Big Brown. I have never felt so much a part of a spectator sport. For this I have to thank the entire city of Louisville. I have never seen so much community effort surrounding an event. I have never felt this much warmth and comradeship with strangers. Perhaps it rests in childhood fantasy, but how often does something live up to your world of make-believe?