Commentary by Ward Degler
It was not at all what I expected. Actually, I’m not sure what I did expect. Churchill Downs is where the Kentucky Derby is run. That was all I knew about the place when my wife and I got on the bus last week with a group from our church for a day at the track.
I did not know it is open every day or that the track averages 10 races every day. Nor did I know the place is huge, slightly larger than the state of Delaware, by my estimate, and to get to your part of the track you walk. It felt like several miles each way.
We were seated at tables in a VIP area that featured an extraordinary luncheon buffet, endless desserts, a cash bar and delicious coffee. I don’t know how much weight I gained, but I won’t be buttoning those pants for at least a month.
Because of my zeal for the food, I almost forgot they have horse races there at the rate of two per hour. And, of course, you can bet on your favorite horse to win, place or show – or all three.
My wife bet on the first race and won. She bet on the second race and lost. She won again and lost again. At the end of the day, she lost. Several others in our group bet and won and bet and won. At the end of the day, they won.
You could bet on your horses, but you couldn’t see them. I stood outside at the rail with my wife for the fifth race.
“Where are the horses?” I asked, looking out across a vast expanse of green grass and blue sky.
“Over there,” she said, pointing to a line of minute specks moving across the horizon a couple miles away.
“Where’s the starting gate?” I wondered. I knew from all those horse racing movies I’d seen that the starting gate should be right in front of us where we could watch with nervous anticipation as the edgy row of steeds settled into their slots, only to roar off like a shot at the loud clang of the starting bell.
“The starting gate?” I asked again.
“Over there,” she said, pointing to the row of specks on the horizon.
While I didn’t get a lot out of the races, I was impressed with the horses’ names. I guessed that many of them were named right after a race when the celebration was in full flower. There was My Kind of Kid, Home for the Weekend, Mischievous Lass, Cold Hearted Wench, Karate Hottie and Drunken Fridays.
Everybody bet on Drunken Fridays. He came in last.