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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Miss Jo’s Kentucky Derby Q & A

A brief Question and Answer segment for those who know nothing about the Kentucky Derby.

Because the Kentucky Derby is only a matter of weeks away, and because it is an American sporting institution no less than the Super Bowl, it is time for me to provide you with an extremely basic primer. I consider it my duty as a horseman (or would that be horsewoman?) and a patriot.

Q: What’s a “derby”, anyway?

A: A derby is a race for three year old horses, no younger, no older.

Q. OK, got it. What’s so special about the Kentucky Derby?

A: The Run for the Roses is a historic tradition that dates back to 1875. It brings together the best three year olds from the United States and beyond. It is the first “jewel” of horse racing’s coveted “Triple Crown”, which rounds out with the Preakness and the Belmont. This year, the Kentucky Derby has a purse of two million dollars. Dignitaries, celebrities, racing fans, and drunken revelers all have a place at the derby. If you’re the latter, it’ll be in the infield.

Q: Did you say “Run for the Roses”? What’s that?

A: An unofficial name for the Kentucky Derby. In 1904 the red rose became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby, and in 1958 the winning horse was presented a garland of red roses. Since then, the winning horse is given a garland of 554 red roses sewn into a green satin backing upon arriving in the winner’s circle. The Governor of Kentucky presents the winning jockey with a bouquet of 60 long stemmed roses wrapped in ten yards of ribbon.

A: Alright. What of these “drunken revelers” you mentioned?

Q: The Kentucky Derby is one heck of a party for a lot of folks. Which brings us to the official beverage of the Kentucky Derby: The Mint Julep. Here’s how to make one:

1. Fill a tall glass or silver tumbler with crushed ice.
2. Put 2 sprigs of fresh mint in another glass.
3. Add 1/4 oz. of water.
4. Add 1 tsp. Sugar.
5. Muddle ingredients well.
6. Add 3 oz. of Bourbon.
7. Stir gently, but thoroughly.
8. Strain into glass with crushed ice.
9. Garnish with fresh sprigs of mint.

Should you find yourself losing your ass, I recommend omitting the mint, sugar, water, and maybe even the ice. If your liver hurts, have a slice of Derby Pie with all that bourbon.

Q: Did you just say “losing my ass”?

A: Yes, I did, because it’s just not a horse race without a little gambling. You can place a bet online, but it’s better to go your local off track betting facility (or track, if you have live racing nearby).
Only bet what you can afford to lose, wagers can be as low as a paltry $2.00. Don’t forget, you don’t have to bet on a horse to win…you can bet a horse to “place” (finish first OR second) or to “show” (finish first, second, OR third.) While you won’t make as much money on these bets, you’ve got a better chance of getting your money back.

It always helps to buy a copy of the Daily Racing Form. It’s full of good information and a copy tucked under your arm can make a newbie look a shred knowledgeable…though it isn’t a fashion statement.

Q: Speaking of fashion statements, what’s up with those weird shirts jockeys wear?

A: They’re called silks. Think of them as the official flag of an owner/racing stable.
Back in the day before PA systems and programs, the silks were used to distinguish horses from one another. Now, modern day has caught up, but silks are still an important part of the tradition. Some are simple patterns, some can be complex. Polka dots, stripes, sashes, letters, you name it. Some designs have intensely personal meanings, some were probably picked because they “looked nice”. Click here for ideas. Silks still help make specific horses easier to spot, and their colors are listed by each horse’s name in the racing form.

Q: Fair enough. But what excuse have you got for those hats?

A: It is tradition for ladies to dress their very best on Derby Day, and this includes fine millinery.  Should I ever know a horse running in the Kentucky Derby personally, I plan to shed the tomboy image for a day myself. Hats like these are quite appropriate.  I particularly like this one.

Q: Nerd. I assume you must know something about that song they always play.

A: Of course. It’s “My Old Kentucky Home”, written by Stephen Foster. No one can be sure that Stephen Foster ever visited Kentucky, and it certainly wasn’t his “home”, but it is one of the more recognizable tunes penned by this folk icon who died tragically young.

The song is played as the horses step on the track. Many folks sing along. Some just get weepy. And if you’re in the infield, by this point you’re probably too drunk to know the difference.

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
Tis summer, the people are gay;
The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom
While the birds make music all the day.
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor
All merry, all happy and bright;
By’n by hard times comes a knocking at the door
Then my old Kentucky home, Good-night!
Weep no more my lady. Oh! Weep no more today!
We will sing one song for my old Kentucky home
For the old Kentucky home, far away.

Q: OK, so I know how to place a bet, I know what to drink and eat, I know how to identify my horse by the silks, and I can sing along with the song. Seems like fun. Maybe I should just buy my own race horse?

A: E-mail me. jolenexoxo{AT}yahoo{DOT}com

Q: Ha ha. Seriously, though…what do I do until Derby Day?

A: Follow Steve Haskin’s Derby Dozen, keep notes on who you like, and set aside your spare change. And try to drop by this blog and this one, too.

More to come in a few weeks!

Comments & Trackbacks
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That’s a good primer.

My mom used to really enjoy the races, too (although, to be honest, I think anything to do with horses made her pretty happy), so we used to watch the handful that would be televised. Oddly, I never knew that the horse had to be three years old to compete.

You’d think that would have come up at one point or another.

on Mar 29 2005 @ 12:16 PM

thanks! cheese

I do hope that as many people as possible send their “winning vibes” to Survivalist


Should he do well, I will explain better later.  wink

on Mar 29 2005 @ 12:42 PM

I’ll send all the good, winning vibes that I can. I’ll be pulling for him.

on Mar 29 2005 @ 12:49 PM

Jo, I admit my ignorance on horses and the races, except to say that one of our very good friends raises horses and hopes to get one into the show sometime (he recently moved his practice to Lexington, KY at his wife’s urging, because at least he wouldn’t be gone every weekend).

Oh, and that I really like Dan Fogelberg :D

Thanks for the first rate “eddication” (Sir Ector, The Once and Future King)

on Mar 29 2005 @ 08:40 PM


Should I ever get there, I will probably request your assistance in choosing an appropriate hat.  You’re better at the girl thing than I am. kiss

on Mar 30 2005 @ 07:49 AM
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