Looking back over last week, I wish I would have written down more of these moments as they occurred so I could have more detail of the great memories that came out of this year's Kentucky Oaks and Derby.
I will list some of my favorites below (with one thrown in from our editorial intern and guest blogger Kelsey Riley whose last day is today!). I will also include some red carpet footage shot by Alex Cutadean for your viewing pleasure.
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on your favorite memories from this year's Derby, or from Derbys past. Please leave a comment and tell me your favorite Derby-related moments and why.
Here are some of my favorite moments/experiences this year:
1. Watching the sun beginning to sink behind a field in Versailles, Ky. on my way to Louisville early last week. As I was listening to the soothing melodies of Ray LaMontagne, the late afternoon glow from the sun had this beautiful color-filtering effect over the field and painted a picture-perfect scene…the mares grazing peacefully as thousands of dandelion seeds floated through the air around them. It was one of those moments where I felt so blessed to call Kentucky my home, and was a great start to Derby week.
2. The ambiance of the backstretch in the early hours of the morning…seeing the Derby and Oaks contenders heading to the track for works, and then munching happily away in their stalls...wondering if they knew how in just a few short days, they would be asked to take on the biggest task of their lives.
3. Meeting a very personable horse with one eye that was stabled next to Kentucky Oaks contender Bella Diamante a couple days before the Derby. When I asked a woman at the barn what the horse’s name was, she said “One Eye.” There were several other characters on the backside last week, such as Bob Baffert's pony Cowboy, Wayne Lukas' barn cat, and a not-so-friendly goat that head butted me when I tried to pet her.
4. Talking on the backstretch with Tom Braly, owner of Kentucky Oaks runner-up Evening Jewel, who tried with all her might to outrun Blind Luck, but didn’t quite get there. Braly used to be a journalist, and said one of his favorite aspects of the industry is pouring over all the racing publications each day and reading the colorful stories of all the characters in the business. Like Evening Jewel, Braly is also a fighter; he was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, but he hasn’t let it slow him down. His spirit for racing and passion for life really inspired me.
5. Seeing Robert LaPenta dancing blissfully in a sea of women at the press party. They formed a circle around him, and he was in the middle, showing off his best moves.
6. Witnessing a seemingly shy turf writer Josh Abner sing and dance to Missy Elliot’s “Work It” at a karaoke bar in Louisville after the press party. It was seriously one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen…hearing a white guy rap to Missy Elliot in a suit and tie with young girls dancing around the bar to the beat. Priceless!
7. Meeting and talking to numerous celebrities on the red carpet on Derby Day, including Diane Lane and Kevin Connelly of the Secretariat movie, and the University of Kentucky’s Coach Calipari, and players John Wall and Patrick Patterson. It was really fun talking to everyone and discovering how many of the celebrities had horse backgrounds of some extent.
8. Standing on the balcony that overlooks the Churchill Downs paddock on Kentucky Oaks Day and taking in the crowd, smattered with thousands of shades of pink in honor of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The sun was shining, the track was buzzing, I could feel the excitement, and just wanted to soak up the whole scene.
9. Watching the Derby and the Oaks for the fifth time right on the rail of the track. After hours of rain, the sky brightened briefly right before the race. Thundering hooves, those powerful animals flashing by right in front of me. “Pletcher finally did it!” I heard, as I tried to see who had crossed the wire first and realized it was Super Saver. “And Calvin did it again!”
10. And from our very own Kelsey Riley: This year’s Derby was my first trip to Churchill Downs. I spent five days working at Churchill with The Blood-Horse, and while I saw many wonderful things each day, there was one thing that continued to amaze me every time: stepping out from the press box to look over the grandstand at the beautiful racetrack and, most importantly, the Derby winner’s circle. Just seeing this coveted place in person was breathtaking, and if ever I felt like I needed a little inspiration in my writing, all I had to do was look out and think of the 135 great horses who have stood in that very enclosure.
And now, some red carpet videos:
John Michael Montgomery
Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz
Jerry O'Connell and Rebecca Romijn
Joey Fatone of N'Sync
Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari
Kentucky basketball players John Wall and Patrick Patterson
Oscar Nunez of "The Office"
American Idol winner Ruben Studdard
Terry O'Quinn of "Lost"