Destination Derby: Day 3 Recap Part 1


This is the first part of two recap posts that will talk about the Run for the Roses and encompass all of my other experiences on Derby day.

The Final Stretch by Robert Bolson
 Photo: Robert Bolson

The Race:

Hands down, the 134th Kentucky Derby was amazing. The race was incredible and resulted in stories and excitement during the stretch run. "It dosn't get much better than that," one coworker exclaimed right after the field crossed the finish line. I have to agree; the race itself was just phenomenal to watch and experience. I was lucky enough to watch the race from the rail, which was an unique experience.

At the same time, I am not going to downplay the events that unfolded after the end of the race. Eight Belles was a big, beautiful horse with so much to gain from this performance. She beat 18 highly skilled horses who were all impressive.

Eight Belles in Post Parade by Robert Bolson
  Photo: Robert Bolson

History was made with her performance. I know most of my coworkers were torn to pieces with her going down after the race, and I was pretty upset myself. I must say her injuries somewhat bittered the sweetness of the race itself.

I stood near the finish line, and I saw the horse ambulance fly across my view of the track. I said out loud, "that isn't good," and then whispers and confusion broke out because of something happening around the first turn. "The filly" was the next thing I heard in the increasing commotion.

People were trying to figure out what had happened after such an indescribably thrilling race. "A horse was down" and "I think it was the filly" echoed around me. Then a phone call came in from another media ally and confirmed that Eight Belles was down, injured, and "it was bad." I was trying to imagine what the trainers and owners who have lived with this horse, were feeling at a time like that. I can relate because, my best friend Abby Roo, my dog, recently had to be euthanized as it tore me apart.

After the first hour or so I began wondering, aside from Eight Belles' personal tragedy, how tough this blow was going to be for the horse industry. First George Washington in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. 1) and now Eight Belles on the first Saturday in May. I was a huge George Washington fan, thanks to Marta who really introduced me to him. Two talents whom I greatly admired have been lost. I know the questions that will come, the common questions about an amazing sport.

Here are my thoughts. Recent amazing horses such as Curlin, Smarty Jones, Barbaro, and Eight Belles, as well as most names we have come to love from the past, like Secretariat, are a result of this amazing industry. Without this industry, the emphasis for greatness in Thoroughbreds would not exist and the emphasis on creating talented horses would not be present. Thus, we would very well have never witnessed the absolutely jaw-dropping performances of Secretariat, Curlin and the late Barbaro.

 Eight Belles to the Gate by Robert Bolson
 Photo: Robert Bolson

I am so amazed by Eight Belles' race, and it is awful how she is gone. But as this was my very first Kentucky Derby, I will forever remember the images of Big Brown and the gallant filly enjoying themselves in quite possibly the race of their lives.

So to have loved and lost or to have never loved at all? It is a question I related to in this situation. I am glad that Eight Belles ran in this race because she proved so incredibly that she was worthy of racing among the best. That's right, the best. No one knew she was going to be injured, and she was fine in the race.

 She might have won the Oaks, but she proved herself amongst the boys. Plus, her injury could have happened in any race. So many people were able to get behind the lady among men idea, and it tackles issues far deeper than just simply a horse race. It was personal. That is priceless in my mind. It was a freak injury that even renowned veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage said, "I have never seen before." Eight Belles earned the right to race in this historical event and by golly she proved it.

Eight Belles Escorted by Larry Jones and Family by Amanda Duckworth
 Photo: Amanda Duckworth

On a lighter note:

On a lighter note, my main bet for the race was an exacta, because I did not want to pay too much for a trifecta since about 10 horses looked REALLY good. A benefit from filming and spotting along the track earlier in the week.

So my strategy was this. Big Brown was either going to win or not finish on the board at all. It was that simple, so as a back up plan I bet Big Brown across the board (win, place, and show). I also bet three longer shots to show, to help earn back money if my exacta did not pay out. Dennis of Cork, Z Fortune, and I don't remember who the third was...

The main bet was a boxed exacta with my favorites: Colonel John, Pyro, Z Fortune, Dennis of Cork, and either Court Vision or Cowboy Cal. I'll have to find my ticket and update the horses.

I did place a bet for my mom, as she wanted Recapturetheglory, Monba, and Eight Belles. I mistyped the ticket on the automatic machine, but I had enough money to bet Eight Belles to show for her, since the exacta replaced Cool Coal Man with Eight Belles for whatever reason. It was one of Churchill's older machines.

I did not cash the Eight Belles ticket for my mom though. I figured it would mean more to have the ticket rather than the payoff. As for me, I made all of my money back with my Big Brown and my Dennis of Cork bets. So I did not lose any money on the day, and breaking even was the plan, if I did not make money on the exacta.

 As for Big Brown, he proved it all. What an amazing talent he has, and I can't wait to see him run more. The Triple Crown is an achievement overdue in the racing realm for many reasons, the sport needs it.

Big Brown by Robert Bolson
 Photo: Robert Bolson

Next Post:

In part two you will read about working the red carpet, various sights and sounds, Einstein, watching a race from the turf rail and more!


Leave a Comment:


Hey, Love the artical focusing not only on bad but on what good also came from the Derby. I'm so tired of the media and mainly the PETA stating the racing should end, and that Eight Bell's jockey should be suspendened, that's out of the question. I love horses and i love racing for the most part, i followed, like many others Barbaro's story, and was devestated when he was put down. This is racing where tragities happen, but so do great fantastic thing, we just witness one, Big Brown. That is what we need to focus on not all the bad.

05 May 2008 5:39 PM

Sounds like you had a good time! It's so sad about the beautiful filly Eight Belles but Big Brown put on one amazing show and I hope he gets the credit he deserves. Here's hoping for a Triple Crown sweep!

05 May 2008 6:29 PM
russell maiers

yes the race was great, super job by big brown, eight belles and the rest.  Very sad and heartbraking what happened to eight belles.My observation is that its turning into a one side or the other thing on horse racing.It does not have to be. There have been many great achievments made for the safety of the horses.With that said we should never accept that it is good enough. This is hard and thats just fine.Here are three suggestions myself and other horse people have wished for for thirty years.number one is being addressed, the track surfaces. Yes it is kind of a mess now but again that is fine, keep trying and we will get right! Number two is no whips, you lose the first time fans immediately, and yes some horses respond to a wake up call. The problem is the majority dont need it and as a horse owner and trainer myself it is common knowledge that if a horse is a little sick or injured he or she will run until something terrible happens with the encouragement of the whip. Yes some horses will not show there true potential and again thats fine. We will figure it out in breeding and training, no doubt. The third suggestion and this goes to the owners is tough and that is just fine also because it could be done. Two year old horses just should not race. Start their careers at three, the derby trail at four and so on. most average recreational colt starters know this. We do this for arabians! The bones need to develope. Three hard yet simple ideas so this wonderful sport takes the high road and grows into enjoyment for all owners, breeders, trainers,jockeys,fans, and most of all the horses.

05 May 2008 7:14 PM

A nicely balanced article about the glory and the sadness of racing.  Thank goodness for cool heads

05 May 2008 7:53 PM

You definitely did the right thing. I would not have cashed the ticket either.                  She was a beauty and it is such a great loss.

05 May 2008 9:22 PM

Thank you all for your thought out comments, I enjoyed reading them and I am sure there will be more.

I agree that it might have taken this incident to raise some good discussion that is probably needed.

Is 2-year-old racing too young, how a shift of "breeding to race" has become "racing to breed" allowing for unsound sires, and to see if synthetic surfaces do help prevent injuries or are the injuries still occurring but in different areas than before?

Tank you again.

06 May 2008 8:28 AM

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