I was up early this morning.
Derby Day always holds the excitement of what will come – the anticipation of what could be – and I feel lucky today. After making a steaming cup of New Orleans-own Community coffee laced with some fine Kentucky bourbon to set the mood, I sat down to study the morning line from Churchill Downs.
My bets have all been placed and cloyingly sweet Mint Juleps will soon begin to flow.
This afternoon the ladies will don their fancy bonnets and we will gather with smart friends at the Daytona Beach Kennel Club (a far cry from the veranda of ‘The Mansion’ on the exclusive 6th floor of Churchill Downs) with thousands of others to watch the 142nd running of the most famous horse race in the world simulcast on the big screen from Louisville.
Shoulder-to-shoulder, dilettantes and degenerate gamblers alike will join together, drink heavily, scream, shout and cheer. It’s high-energy to be sure, and I encourage you to join in the spectacle of it all.
A lucky few will walk out the heavy glass doors like champions – many others will attempt to run and hide from their bookies in the pine scrub off Williamson Boulevard, some who get caught up in the frenzy of it all and bet their gut-feeling will face forced eviction from their homes and be thrown into debtor’s prison.
But enough of that maudlin crap – there is possibility in the air and we are, after all, the anointed ones; veteran aficionados of the Sport of Kings.
I know Churchill Downs and it has always been good to me. I have walked the Grand Foyer and drank Blanton’s Gold Edition in the elegance of the famous Millionaire’s Row – the ultimate venue where Kentucky Blue Bloods gather away from the boozy crowds – and the Smarty Jones Lounge, a private in-track chalet where local politicians and rich furniture salesmen pay a premium to escape the heat, humidity and throngs of drunken college students. . .
Late yesterday, like clockwork, I received a much anticipated annual phone call from a mysterious gentleman known only as, ‘Satch.’ A serious drinker and veteran gambler who has been banned from every casino in Indiana and is followed by large men in dark SUV’s whenever he ventures too close to Louisville or Miami Valley Gaming.
We have, as a team, been wildly successful and unapologetically toasted our winnings on many a sunny first Saturday in May.
He was calling from an exclusive luncheon in the clubhouse of the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati to discuss in whispered tones the latest odds and formulate our strategy for Saturday.
Unfortunately, our exact picks – by gentleman’s agreement with several gaming commissions – is shrouded in complete secrecy, committed to memory with no eyewitnesses, and never written down so as not to throw the handicappers into a twitter. But let’s take a look at the morning odds from Churchill Downs:
- Trojan Nation – 42-1
- Suddenbreakingnews – 25-1
- Creator – 16-1
- Mo Tom – 20-1
- Gun Runner – 9-1
- My Man Sam – 19-1
- Oscar Nominated – 39-1
- Lani – 28-1
- Destin – 20-1
- Whitmore – 33-1
- Exaggerator – 5-1
- Tom’s Ready – 42-1
- Nyquist – 2-1
- Mohaymen – 12-1
- Outwork – 28-1
- Shagaf – 72-1
- Mor Spirit – 12-1
- Majesto – 61-1
- Brody’s Cause – 16-1
- Danzing Candy – 30-1
The Kentucky Derby is a wonderful piece of Americana, steeped in history, and while it may not be the most important race in the sport, it is certainly the most famous. I hope you and yours gather together as we will, get some serious money moving around the room, and take in the beauty of the jockey’s colorful silks and the majesty of well-groomed thoroughbreds on a warm spring evening.
After all, Champions will be crowned today – and I want to be in that number.
Best of luck today. And every day.