We were there. History was made at the 2019 Kentucky Derby with the disqualification of the winning #7 horse, Maximum Security and the #20 horse, Country House, being moved up to first place. It was exciting.
Our group of 45 took off by motor coach to make the trip to Louisville for the weekend. It’s a long drive but we had our own version of the race along with fun stuff to make the miles go by faster.
We spent Friday touring horse farms and learning about the rich history in the bluegrass state.
We attended a dinner party featuring pre-recorded races that we bet “horsey bucks” and learned what to do for the real thing at Churchill Downs the next day.
Rain was in the forecast, just like the last three years. So we made a Walmart run for more zip lock bags, more plastic ponchos, and got ready to go from fast track to sloppy.
Saturday morning when we took a paddleboat cruise on the Ohio River, the sky was gray… like the name of my favorite horse. We had a chance to hear from a fellow in the racing industry review the lineup and give us betting tips.
I took a few notes so I could look like I knew what I was doing at the 145th Derby, because it was my 1st.
Our fun gang of travelers hung on his every word. They were pouring over their racing forms with more attention than they gave their 10-99 tax forms. I had scribbled “watch” by #3, By My Standards.
His favorites were #5 Improbable and #8 Tacitus. By #7 Maximum Security, I had penciled “dangerous.” I started to glaze over at all the information before he got to #20, Country House.
We donned our finery including the mandatory hats for the occasion. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere, it’s a combination of Mardi Gras and prom and tailgating.
The men wear colorful sports coats and bowties. Women have everything from fancy fascinator hats perched on their foreheads to huge things that look like art arrangements.
It was an experience just to walk though the masses, people watching. Mint Juleps flowed and splashed like the rain from the intermittent downpours. I popped a shower cap on my flowers and feathers and we all wrapped up in clear rain ponchos like leftovers.
I’m not a huge sports person, but that’s ok because this is totally a social event. With the actual races only lasting moments, it gives one lots of time to mingle at the concession stands or visit with spectators seated nearby.
The center field jumbotron showed footage of celebrities arriving, and candid shots of the crowd. I stood in line to place my bets.
I had left my notes on the bus and wound up betting on names alone. Being married to one, you know I put my money on Gray Magician, #4. It was easier to bet the play money!
If you were watching the race, you know it was the first time ever, a winner was disqualified from the race. We were just four rows from the track and the starting gates.
The excitement was overwhelming for the fury of hoof beats and cheering of the crowd, once for the winner, and then for the history making disqualification and new winner.
Claim ticket holders were already in lines to cash in their winnings when the ruling was announced. The atmosphere switched to celebratory to confusion to hostile for some as payouts became just paper with the official finish.
I remained calm since my Gray Magician disappeared from the pack and made his appearance in last place. Derby 145 will be talked about for years to come. And WE were there.
Patti Beth Anderson has more than 20 years of experience in the group travel industry taking people all over the world. Her motto is "I return with the same number of people I left with… not necessarily the same people, but the same number nevertheless. So no 'crankpots' allowed" She may be reached at 918-786-3318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.