Even though I’ve never been to a running of the Kentucky Derby, this is a very special time of year for me. It begins, as most important things do, with early family memories…
I think every little girl grows up loving horses; those who do not are few and far between. Perhaps that’s why horse racing is one sport we women gravitate towards so early on. It’s not just the fancy hats and fashions. Horse racing seems like the perfect sport, melding the hearts and spirits of men with those of the majestic animals themselves.
Plus, no matter how long the race is, there’s not the mind-numbing boredom and/or nauseated dizziness of repeated noisy trips around the track of car racing.
I recall many summer afternoons spent with my family at county fairs and even smaller fairs and festivals with horse racing — usually harness races. The trotters and pacers.
My parents, sister and I up in the bleachers, making bets on which horses would win. We knew nothing of what or how those horses had run before. If there was a program with any information or odds, it never meant anything to me. I fancied myself an expert, able to look at a horse, hear its name, see how it carried itself onto the track and into the gate, if there was one, and just “know.”
After all those Black Stallion books, I was virtually as horse savvy as Henry Dailey. Surely I had an eye for horses after studying all those C. W. Anderson illustrations. I figured all those years of reading horse books, of properly mounting and dismounting the chair on the back porch, that I’d be able to spot a good jockey who not only could ride, but who loved his horse enough to inspire a win.
And I must have learned something from my love of horses, for I still hold the family record for predicting the number of winning horses.
Once I discovered that you could watch The Derby on TV, it became my favorite thing about spring, surpassing Easter and spring break from school.
I’d rush to get my chores done early on the first Saturday in May, just to be certain I could watch the race. My parents would tease me how hard I’d work for just a few minutes of racing.
As I got older, I still kept Derby Day alive. I’d request that day off at work, schedule events around the run for the roses. That day was reserved for me and the horses, honoring them and nourishing my inner little girl.
Until I had my first child, that is.
Somehow parenting and life has gotten in the way, making me wince knowing I’d miss the Kentucky Derby.
But this year, the kids are each old enough to be doing their own thing — and I’ll be getting my chores done extra early so I can watch the horses carefully, pick my winner, and watch the race as breathless with excitement as when I was seven.
I’ve got to add to my 35% of picking Derby winners — which I still think is pretty good since I only watch them parade to the starting gate. (I think anything else is worse than cheating; it’s unnecessary.)
In a full field of 20 horses, there’s no clear favorite for this year’s Kentucky Derby. Bodemeister has been made the early favorite, at 4-1. Union Rags is the second choice, listed at 9-2. The undefeated Gemologist is the third favorite at 6-1. This leaves lots of longshots; Covers gives their top three picks. When you think you’ve spotted the winner, you can bet online here.
Obviously, this year writing the blog means I’ve looked at a few of the horses, but I will save my bet for those moment just before the race. (Though I do love the name Union Rags, and wasn’t he an adorable colt!)
This year’s Triple Crown schedule:
The 2012 Kentucky Derby will be held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on May 5.
The 2012 Preakness Stakes will take place at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Md., on May 19.
The 2012 Belmont Stakes will be hosted by Belmont Park in Elmont, NY., on June 9.
You can bet on Triple Crown races here.
Image credits: Vintage harness racing coloring book; photo of baby Union Rags.
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