Return Trip

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While working for a racing publication in Lexington I sometimes found myself feeling a bit envious, downright jealous even, of friends and family who would annually watch the Kentucky Derby comfortably from their living room couch.

Right until I watched the Kentucky Derby comfortably from my living room couch.

All right, technically it was the couch in the “sun room” that doubled as a home office/storage space for wedding gifts/spot to put the mini college-boy beer fridge in the garage apartment we rented the first eight months of our residency in Saratoga Springs. But I think you get the point.

Ironically, the last time I’d watched the Kentucky Derby on television at home was from an apartment I rented on Phila Street in Saratoga back in 1997. Our small group of friends made a mini party out of it and most of us scored out when Silver Charm beat Captain Bodgit and Free House to the finish in what is still one of the better editions I’ve seen live or on TV.

It made sense to watch on TV back then. In my mid-20s, I was scraping by on a full-time sports writer’s salary that went for bills, too many rounds of golf, definitely too many beers, pizzas and dozens of chicken wings and too few dates. The paper I worked for didn’t have the budget to send me south, but it did in 1998. Covering my first in 1998 – an upset by Real Quiet over the hard-charging Victory Gallop – was like living a dream.

The dream eventually became routine while living and working in Lexington.

Figuring out the best way to balance social engagements and work responsibilities was a challenge made more difficult when other responsibilities like getting in good runs while training for early summer races or coaching soccer came along.

It all worked itself out and became a part of normal life.

Moving back to Saratoga last April essentially ruled out a trip to the Derby and my personal streak of 15 straight for the race came to an end.

That was the longest I’d ever had of any of racing’s four marquee events – one more than the 14 straight editions of the Breeders’ Cup (1998 to 2011) and Belmont Stakes (1995 to 2008) I’d covered. The longest stretch I’d ever covered the Preakness, oddly enough since it’s now my favorite of the four, was four from 2006 to 2009.

Of course these streaks are nothing to really brag about, considering those of others. I’ve even got a friend who hasn’t missed a day of running for something like 15 years, so it’s really quite insignificant.

But alas and thankfully, the streak will pick back up again this year with a trip south planned for later this week. (Read about missing last year.)

As with any trip this far away and for long a duration, there are more than a few side excursions and diversions planned.

First up is a marathon (for my wife) and a half marathon (for me), then visits with family in Cincinnati, reunions with friends and a meeting of my Bourbon Chase masters (over 40) team in Lexington, sales-related meetings in Lexington and Louisville and feature-story interviews for Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred.

And oh, I almost forgot, the Kentucky Derby.

Like I said, one year on the couch and watching on TV was more than enough. Not even the latest round of changes and bizarre additions to the NBC broadcasting team are enough to keep these eyeballs fixed to a screen.

See you soon Louisville.