Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The 2010 Kentucky Derby - The At-Home Guide

Mint Juleps, Southern Chicken Pot Pie, My Old Kentucky Home, Millionaire's Row, JMR's failed bets - the traditions run very deep at the Kentucky Derby.  Even for us in puritanical New England.

The 135th Kentucky Derby in 2009 saw my horse of the year candidate, I Want Revenge, go down with a left hoof issue.  It was the day before the race and I had already placed a futures bet on the horse.  If I searched around, I could probably find that forfeited ticket somewhere in the house.  Undeterred, I ended up wagering on a couple of horses that year - none of which was the eventual winner, Mine That Bird.

That year was an eye-opening year for social gatherings, too.  Usually watching at home with a beer or with friends at informal gatherings, we instead attended a Kentucky Derby in the North End of Boston in 2009.  With Official Kentucky Derby swag of the 135th running, catered food and premade mint juleps, we were introduced to official Kentucky Derby partying.  We had a wonderful time, met some new friends and vowed to conduct our own party the following year.

Fast forward to 2010.  It's like 2009 all over again.  My favorite horse, Eskendereya, was scratched after a left leg swelling issue.  Maybe Todd Pletcher's run of 24 straight losses in the Derby would continue.  And I'm not convinced that the new morning line favorite, Looking at Lucky, will do anything.  In the Santa Anita Derby, one of the major prep races before the Derby, a little bump at the start and a troubled trip made Looking at Lucky just an also ran.  In a 20 horse field on the dirt, when a little dirt can fly in your face?  No thanks.   My horses this year would be Super Saver, a great horse in the muck who appeared to be improving in practice runs and as the track was getting more muddy.  And Ice Box, the winner of another Derby Prep race, the Florida Derby, with a strong finishing kick that could best a field that was loaded with a lot of front runners.

And taking our cue from the time we had last year in Boston, and making good on my vow from that day in Boston, we put on our own party - complete with prizes for best hat, best dressed and parimutuel gambling.  We bought the cheap official Kentucky Derby party favors and go on the hunt for food and Early Times Bourbon.  We find a place for the kids to go and invite all of our friends over to share in our good cheer.

The fastest two minutes in sports truly was that.  Acting as the pool manager for win, place and show wagering, the 6:24pm post time came up very quickly.  In fact, I almost missed the race trying to record everyone's bets. 

But alas, no worries there.  A quick opening by one of the early favorites, Sidney's Candy and long shot Conveyance, eventually yielded to a masterful rail trip by Calvin Borel, the jockey that won with Mine That Bird last year and Street Sense in 2007, aboard Super Saver.  Super Saver ended up having enough in the tank to hold off a hard charging Ice Box, with Paddy O'Prado taking the Show.  Favorite Looking at Lucky ended up a dismal 6th after getting bumped at the beginning.  When asked before the race who I liked, I should have said different horses and kept my favorites close to the vest since I ended up winning on my Win and Show bets, but had to share winnings with the very same people I convinced should take my horses.  After an hour and a half of careful calculations, the HOTB toteboard looked as follows:

                                   Win         Place      Show
4   Super Saver           $18.00     $9.60    $54.00
2   Ice Box                                 $9.60    $  6.20
10 Paddy O'Prado                                   $  5.00

Onto the Preakness Stakes.  After a strong showing, marked by a remarkable finishing kick along the middle of the track, I would consider Ice Box for the 2nd jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore on May 15, 2010.  He would be crazy not to ride in that race.   As for JMR?  I can't wait for 2011.

Next Edition.  A Kentucky Derby Party in Photographs

Photographs and graphics courtesy of Kentucky Derby.com and Sports Illustrated.

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