Counting Down: The Kentucky Oaks

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The first notes of the National Anthem blare. You stand. Then they come again. You rise, pause, look around. Then they come again. You sit.

Kentucky Oaks morning. The sun rose over the quarter pole, now it’s high in the sky, ricocheting off white tents in the infield.

Beautiful, sunny, clear, Lumber Liquidators banner flying around the sky, fans whip picnic blankets in the air and place coolers on the corners, security guards secure their positions, photographers learn what they can and what they can’t do.

“Who do you like?” is the question. It’s asked on our morning radio show, it’s emailed from friends you haven’t heard from for a year, it’s asked by experts and texted by Alabama in-laws who root for Bolo and their hometown girl Carla Gaines.

Firing Line and Upstart come to the fore, right after American Pharoah and Dortmund. The rest scatter, Dad likes Frosted, Panagot offers Keen Ice, Jude likes El Kabeir, Aunt Stella roots for Bolo. I’ve narrowed it down to eight, then seven, wallet isn’t that thick, time to be ruthless, sharpen the knife.

The call to the post punches the action into motion.

Saratoga Special graduate Travis Stone relays the action from a couple of doors down the hall. He’s come a long way since he lived on a blow-up mattress in our summer office, off Union Avenue in Saratoga. Well, he had a curtain between his bed and the office. He told us then he wanted to be a racetrack announcer. He is now a racetrack announcer. Calling the Kentucky Derby. The Saratoga Special’s Flying Start Program still going strong.

We hear El Kabeir might scratch. Rumors? Hoof abscess. Too late for Dallas Stewart and Tale Of Verve, for better or for worse. Nineteen runners, one less berry in the jam.

Nephew Ryan, fresh off his 22nd birthday calls, rolls into the house, pulls out a sport coat and khakis from a duffel bag and bums a ticket for a suite.

R & R Limousines registers a change in venue for a Saturday pick up, the dispatcher laughs when asked if he’s busy, “Yeah, we have a bit going on today and tomorrow.” They have 250 limos ripping around Louisville.

The third race goes off, into oblivion, we look up to watch the last furlong. From seven floors in the sky, it’s a good view, at least.

Kentucky Oaks morning has turned to Kentucky Oaks afternoon.