Kentucky Derby 139 is in the books. The winner left Churchill Downs Sunday morning and was back the stall at Belmont Park he hadn’t seen since late last fall by mid-afternoon. Talk quickly shifted from the Derby to the Preakness. Happens every year. We live in such an instant age that nowadays its always about what’s next, but the Triple Crown will forever be like that. Two weeks isn’t much time.
It flies by, and you miss much if you don’t pay attention.
Watching the Derby from home this year made me realize how much I missed, or didn’t miss. So with apologies to colleague Sean Clancy, who did a much better rendition of this last summer at the end of the Saratoga meet, here’s what I didn’t and did miss.
I didn’t miss being away from home for a week. I did miss breakfast at Waffle House, lunch at Skyline and dinner at Doc Crow’s (agreed, one out of three nutritionally speaking isn’t great).
I didn’t miss trying to navigate through the crowds in the stable area in the mornings. I did miss seeing so many people so excited for an event that is essentially our sport’s Super Bowl, even if they’re not racing fans (yet).
I didn’t miss listening to people who don’t watch horses train on a regular basis extoll the positives and negatives of the Derby horses. I did miss trying to formulate my own such opinions.
I didn’t miss people asking how they can get Derby tickets. I did miss the chance to introduce people to our great traditions.
I didn’t miss making the 70-plus mile drive from Lexington to Louisville on Derby morning (I always went back home the night before for a good night’s rest). I did miss talking to good friend Dave Hudson on the way, to give him my thoughts what horses looked good all week (like he needed the help!).
I didn’t miss waiting what seems like hours every year for a shuttle bus to take me back to the remote press parking lot after the races. I did miss riding that same bus before the races and dropping me off at the main entrance gates.
I didn’t miss having to pack a waterproof overcoat, rain slicker, mud boots. I missed spending the day in the elements, enjoying the greatest game played outdoors.
I didn’t miss seeing the same old grump-bellies. I did miss reacquainting with old friends.
I didn’t miss sweating through a suit coat (not every year, but some). I missed slipping into the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association backside office for some A.C. and a cold beverage.
I didn’t miss bumping into television cameramen making the walk from the stable area to the paddock. I missed the walkover and watching and hearing the fans reactions when they realized the Derby horses were finally on their way.
I didn’t miss people saying they’re going to get emotional when they play My Old Kentucky Home because they think they’re supposed to. I did miss people getting emotional when they play My Old Kentucky Home
I didn’t miss Mint Juleps. I did miss the refreshing flavor of that first beer once the day’s work was done (or close to done).
I didn’t miss the deadlines. OK, maybe I did. A little.
I didn’t miss trying to find a spot either on the outside rail or up in the press box to watch the race. I did miss the chance to stand right next to a trainer, assistant, exercise rider, exercise rider when they’re about to win, like I did in 2005 with John Shirreffs.
I didn’t miss the less-than-thrilling feeling when the winner’s connections couldn’t hide from their checkered pasts. I did miss it when the right horse won for the right people who do it the right way.