The Top Five Things I Didn't Know About the Kentucky Derby

May 4, 2009

In what I consider to be just about the luckiest score of my life, I got a call a few weeks ago from the people at Axe offering a totally free trip to the Kentucky Derby to experience "The Fixers" and report on my findings. The Fixers' shtick is that they can fix any ridiculous situation you can get yourself into. I've only begun to scratch the surface of my research, but so far they pretty much had an answer for every grimy, weird, and ill-advised mishap I created for myself. In honor of the Fixers team, I put together this list of lessons learned at the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby.

5. Don't Waste Your Money on the Racing Book


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Granted, it's only a couple bucks, but it's a total waste. For anyone who doesn't know, the racing book, or tip sheet, or whatever you want to call it, gives you all the stats and "inside info" on the horses. You know, bloodline, jockey, past race times, preferred racing conditions. I spent hours with my nose in that book crunching the numbers and figuring out trends and percentages, but in the end it's a total crapshoot. I didn't win a dime. Not a single race. And after it all the 50-to-one dog went home with the roses. The best thing to do is just sit back, watch the odds and make small bets on the biggest underdogs. Your success rate will be low but when you finally hit, the payoff will be worth it. And always remember, "You can win a race but you can't beat the races."

4. You Don't Mix Cheese Balls with Bourbon


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This was the last lesson I learned and it actually happened after The Derby... And after dinner... And after the bar. The group of us headed back to the house but after a very long day of drinking, I was still feeling like Superman -- obviously because of Axe's Fever -- and wasn't quite ready for bed. I quickly ruffled through the snack stash and found myself a fresh bag of cheese balls and a bottle of Kentucky Straight Bourbon, found a spot on the couch and settled in. The next thing I knew, the sun was shining in my eyes, I couldn't find my pants, and I had orange cheese residue all over my face. Time for a little Recovery.

3. Michael Phelps is Not Always High


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There was a brief Michael Phelps sighting. I immediately texted my two sisters, who were both college swimmers. Their automatic response of, "Was he high?" made me chuckle and then sigh. After everything he has accomplished, all people remember is his bong.

2. Rain is Good


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A little critical thinking on my part and I could have figured this out before hand, but I guess my head just wasn't in the game. When I first heard the weather report that rain was likely in Louisville all weekend, I was a bit bummed, but as I Derby time neared closer and closer I kept hearing more whispers from dedicated Derby-goers hoping for rain. I didn't fully understand why until I made my way to the infield and it suddenly became very clear: Rain=Mud. If there's one thing I learned in college it's that whenever you mix drunken sorority girls with mud, you get mud wrestling.

1. They Have Horses


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Okay, I guess I didn't really just learn this. I had long since suspected there would be horses, but was unable to confirm my theory until now. You see, my prior experience at a Triple Crown Race is limited to two trips to the Preakness I took in college. I stayed in the infield and could only loosely speculate that there were races going on. In my combined two trips, I saw a grand total of ½ horse -- the back half -- as it slowly trotted by.

But life is different at The Derby -- sort of. The infield is open in all its muddy glory, but there is another side to The Derby that was scarce at Pimlico Racetrack. There is a finer side -- at least finer in appearance. Being that I didn't have to pay for this trip, we sat in the Club House. Quite a different experience; it's actually much more about the horses in the Club House. There was less beer and more Juleps, there are blue blazers and big hats. Beyond that, the biggest difference I noticed is that all the women were fully clothed. At first, this might seem like a real downer, but it wasn't... I believe the term we're going with these days is "Cougar." The place was crawling with them and they were luscious.