Saturday, May 2, 2009

Derby Day

The Kentucky Derby is today! I've loved Derby Day for about as long as I can remember. I'm not sure why exactly, the Preakness and the Belmont are exciting races too, but the Kentucky Derby is, well, the Kentucky Derby! What is the pull? Of course it's the horses, and it's held in race horse country, and maybe it's the hats and the mint juleps and the hoopla. But I think I've always liked it best because it's the first race of the big three. The excitement of the win is pure. There is hope for the Triple Crown. For the Preakness the focus has shifted from the race itself to whether or not the Derby winner can do it changes it somehow....OK, I'll stop now.

Since it's Derby Day I thought I'd share some pictures I took a couple of years ago when I worked at our local racetrack, Canterbury Park. A Canterbury horse had qualified for the Derby but was scratched last week....I was really hoping Win Willy would run....I would have placed a bet on him!

Ok, back to the track. I worked in the sign shop at Canterbury. During the spring and summer months I'd walk in from the parking lot to a scene like this. This picture was actually taken after a race, but the morning workouts had a very similar feel....minus the fancy silks. I always felt like I was transported to a different place when I'd see the horses in the morning.

Race days were always exciting. That was when all the hard work came together. The horses would be led out into the paddock area where the people could look them over to see which one to bet on. Number 2 caught my eye on this day. I don't remember his name, I'll call him Blacky.

Hi Blacky! Blacky winked at me when he was walking around the paddock, sounds like a good reason to bet on him don't you think?

The jockey hops up and they go out through the tunnel and onto the track. Ooohh, I have a good feeling about Blacky.

The horses warm up on the track while the bets are placed. I don't have pictures of them warming up because I was placing a bet. And no, I wasn't working this day. You can't be betting if you're working.
This race was on the turf. There's Blacky getting ready to load into the gate.

This is one of the race stewards, they make sure that everything is going the way it's supposed to. Sort of like a mounted race policeman. :-) I liked his horse.

They're all loaded up...and they are off!
See those black and white numbers on the gate? They are big magnets. 18" squares, black vinyl on a white magnetic surface. One of my jobs was to make those. Looks like 8 needs to be replaced, 5 too....oh yeah, back to the race.

It looks like Blacky is jumping out to a good start. Go Blacky!

Oh, I think I'm going to be glad that I bet my hard earned money on Blacky! Racing is so exciting!

Go Blacky, go Blacky!

Here's the race steward again, doesn't he have a pretty horse? Do you think I get distracted easily?
It's a little hard to see them on the far side of the track. See those barns in the background. Horses and people live there. It's a whole little community. The horses live in stalls, the people live in dorms. Aren't you glad that I cleared that up? I put vinyl numbers on the stall doors a couple of times. You wouldn't want the horses to get lost you know. Oh yeah, back to the race. Where did Blacky go? Must be behind the gray.

Here they come around the final turn. See those guys in the red shirts? They are the ones that load the horses and then stand in the gate to make sure that everyone behaves. They are also the ones that would throw my numbers onto the ground when they took them off the gate. Darned number crunchers. Glad I don't have to worry about that anymore! Oh yeah, Blacky. Things can be looking pretty good in a race, then comes that final turn.

Oh...looks like that darned gray horse has passed Blacky! Hmm...did I bet on him to win? or show? or place? Come on Blacky!

The hooves are thundering as they come into the final stretch. Oh no....the number 3 horse pulls into the front!

Can 3 hang on?

And it's 3 by a length! And Blacky..... doesn't...... seem...... to..... be...... anywhere..... in.... this..... photo. you get anything for last place?? I guess it wasn't Blacky's day....or mine.

And with my fine horse betting skills, it was much better for me to stay in the sign shop at Canterbury than to be placing bets. But all wasn't lost that day on the track. The photo I took of Number 3 coming down the stretch became a part of a few signs. This one was 6 feet long and placed at one of the entry gates to the park.

I miss working there this time of the year. If the horses were there for the other 8 months, I probably would have stayed. Such is life.
Well, I think it's time to go and find a big hat and start checking the morning's Derby Day! Wonder if there's a nice black one to bet on.....

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