Kentucky Derby 2013: A View from the Grandstands

Elsa

Despite calling Louisville home for the past 6 years, I had never been to the Derby. Now I had been there when Churchill was packed (or so I thought) for days like the Stephen F. Foster, Downs After Dark, etc. But I’ll tell you what: Derby is an entirely different animal.

I tried to tweet as much as I could, but about half of my tweets didn't send, solely due to the fact that the 3G coverage was so spotty. But amazing things I saw on Saturday, in no particular order, include:

  • A girl wandering around in the rain covered in a space blanket
  • A guy, in sweatpants and a wife beater, just standing in the rain
  • A dozen people proselytizing about how I, apparently, am going to Hell
  • ATM lines about 100 people long (really? You came to the track without a lot of cash? Rookies...)
  • Mark Johnson announcing 3 track condition changes in about 30 seconds
  • Churchill seemingly screwing up the consolation payout for the SCR of Point of Entry, and me quizzically staring at the money in my hand after cashing three tickets at once trying to figure out why I'm so bad at math
  • A woman crying because the track was downgraded to sloppy
  • A mint julep vendor selling out before he reached the top of the stairs to the grandstands (Question: what percentage of the national annual mint julep consumption is at the Derby? 50%? 75?)

But honestly, other than paying $20 to a meth head to park behind the sketchiest apartment complex ever, the Derby is the best orchestrated sporting even I've ever been to. Plenty of security, ushers, vendors, bars, tellers, and traffic control to keep the 151,000 people as organized as possible is quite a feat. But CD pulled it off.

It really was a great day for me betting too: Lots of churn, only a couple bucks in the red on the day (including drinks and parking, excluding tickets). By the time we actually got to our table, settled in, toured the facilities (my guests had never been to Churchill before) and got to the window, I had just enough time to lay a win bet on Berlino Di Tiger, my longshot pick in the turf sprint.

Then I scrambled for a couple races, trying to make up for the extremely off track. Oh, and bad handicapping, I had to try to make up for my bad handicapping too. I thought I still had a winner with Byrama, with the turf performances and such. But no dice there. Marketing Mix scratched, so I had to make something up there, to no avail. Delaunay was terribly low odds, so I went with Unbridled's Note in my win and exotic wagering. Wrong again. So I was off to a rough start. U-G-L-Y, I ain't got no alibi. Or as S&B would say:

Terribad.

But then Wise Dan took to the track. And I'm not sure if it really is possible to be a huge overlay at 1-2, but if there ever was one, Wise Dan was it. He was so much the best that even if he dumped his jock, he might have had to time remount and still win. And when he ticked back to 3-5 after start, well that was just free money. After singling Dan in a couple Pick 3s and hammering him to win, I was moving in the right direction. (Note: How was Dan not 1-10? I'm not sure what anyone saw once Point of Entry was a SCR, and even with PoE in the race, I still saw Dan handling him, just in a different fashion). Also, I saw Dan run two years ago in the Firecracker at Churchill, and I'll tell you what: if he was great then, he's plain magnificent now. I'm not sure I've seen a classier horse in person in my life. And honestly, I'm not sure I ever will.

So then it's Derby time. Wait, before I get to that, it really must have sucked in the infield. And there was NO WAY that 151k people showed up. No way at all.

Ok, so NOW it's Derby time. Trying to figure out my bets, place bets for my parents (Mom: Goldencents, really?), and make sure I have everything that I want covered. My buddy, with whom I go to these events, is a pretty sharp numbers guy, so combined with my impeccable usually horrific sense for pace and class we go to work building Tri and Super tickets. Well, actually, putting the finishing touches on both. Wheeling around Orb, we did a pretty good job (though my buddy wouldn't let me single Orb; he's a risk manager-type in the finance world, so he's against singles, drives me nuts) putting both tickets together, nailing everything in the top 5, other than Golden Soul. No excuses there, just didn't see that coming.

I skipped ahead a bit, so we're out on the 2nd floor, just past the finish line, and all of the pomp and circumstance happens. Awesome. But then the important part starts, and the starters in the in the post parade. I said as much on Twitter, but Orb looked spectacular. If it were a regular day I literally would have run back to the window and hit him hard to win (which, ironically I didn't bet him at all to win, seeing that I had my futures bets on him at more than doubt his PT odds). Mylute also looked unbelievable.

So Scott Jordan gets them out of the gate. The first thing I say is, "Well, Vyjack's done." The second thing, "Is that Palace Malice? What the hell?" and the third, "Gary Stevens must be pissed." And then the field disappears behind all the stuff in the infield and we're just watching on TV, same as everyone else. By the time they emerged at the top of the stretch, everyone was so mud-covered that the entire section around us says, "Who is that? Who's leading?" Even Tom Durkin said he was only 80% sure it was actually Orb taking the lead. While it looked like Normandy Invasion had it under wraps from my angle at the top of the stretch, Orb was clearly the best and when he crossed the line in front of us, there was no doubt that he was the best that day, and the best overall.

But there was no doubt in my mind that other than the winner, there were two top performances.

1. Gary Stevens on Oxbow.

2. Rose Napravnik on Mylute.

How Gary managed to keep Oxbow from running off with the unexpected leader in Palace Malice is pretty remarkable. How Gary managed to keep Oxbow in the mix in the stretch when every other speed horse fell to the bottom 5 is downright ridiculous. With a tamer pace, Oxbow could look to steal one up front.

Rosie never ceases to amaze me either. Mylute got a tough trip but still got through traffic to get up near the lead. According to the Trakus Twitter account, he traveled just 20 feet less than Orb, who took the long way round the field, and still got up 5th. I thought it was a very good ride and good run. I was extremely impressed.

But not quite as impressed as I was when I got back to my car and found that the crackheads hadn't broken a window, put it on blocks, or even tried to charge me another fee to leave. But I did get invited to a sweet album debut, which we unfortunately could not attend due to prior obligations

Great event. Great wagering. Great Racing. Can't wait to do it again next year!

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