Friday, May 4, 2012

Day Three: Churchill Downs, The Betting Bug and Saddlin’ Up

I didn’t write yesterday, but Day Two wasn’t all that exciting. We finished our drive to Kentucky and ate at a fabulous Mexican restaurant in Versailles, a beautiful town of 7,000 right in the heart of horse country. The farm we are staying at is absolutely gorgeous. I found this place after sending out tons of emails to every horse person I could find in the area, asking if anyone had a place for us to stay on a farm. I knew Paradis would love it. Here is the view from the balcony I talked about … it is breathtaking (and doesn’t smell like horse poop).

Thursday we drove to Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. I had reserved the last two seats of a Backside Tour, and we planned to let Paradis and Annelies go alone. But as they boarded the van, I was able to convince the Tour Guide the four of us could condense into the size of two adults, so we all saw the barns and track up close! I have to say that tour got our hearts pumping so fast, we all got ‘Kentucky Derby Fever’.

We spent a good hour walking through the barns and spending most of our time simply watching the horses warm up on the track. Everyone knows I’m no ‘animal lover’, but these horses are beautiful. I could have watched them all day. I've spent many hours around horses, but none of them have looked like this. They are smaller than what I was expecting and just amazing. We saw several Derby and Oaks contenders, which got us pumped. Our tour guide grew up on the ‘other side of town’, without a lot of money, but his family owned a box at Churchill Downs. He was 50 years old, and hadn't missed a Derby since he was 16 when he squeezed in under the fence. That was the year Secretariat won. His brain was so filled with Derby statistics the four of us were entranced. And that is when we all got The Betting Bug.  

I’ve come to learn that the Derby is more about the betting, than about horses. The owners and their money are the topic of conversation at the track, not the type of horse feed. I’m sure many of you are saying, “Ah … yah!” After the tour, we visited the Kentucky Derby Museum. The award winning movie brought tears to my eyes (if you've read my blog before, you know that isn't hard) and it was so fun to read about the Derby from the perspective of the Jockeys, Trainers and Owners. But most of the time you could find us at the Wager Window, where we bet on pre-recorded races. All for free.

It was fun betting, and yelling for the horses on the TV screen. Annelies got hooked! She didn't want to leave. When you don't spend money, it is easy to get carried away. We talked so much about mathematical odds that Scott and I would like to think the girls got their math lesson for the day, which helps with the guilt of missing three days of school!

But the excitement didn't stop there. We were able to pull Annelies away from the Wager Window just in time to meet Penny Chenery and Ron Turcotte, the owner and jockey of Secretariat. We all know the horse from the recent Disney movie, but reality is Secretariat was an amazing horse that still holds the record for fastest Derby time. I think Paradis almost peed her pants. She thanked us over and over again for purchasing a ridiculously high priced 8x10 of Ron, so he could sign it. Well worth it. She was gleaming.

Scott met a woman at the Museum, who gave him four box tickets to the race later that day. We felt luck was on our side, so we headed over to the track. We ran into our Tour Guide, at the Wager Window of course, and asked for an ‘insider’s suggestion’ on getting our hands on some dirt from the track for my collection jars. He walked us to a prime spot, and Annelies reached her hand under the rail and grabbed a hand full!
We were running short on time, but got in one bet before the race started. Paradis wanted to get back to the farm and ride. We didn't win our bet, but here is the email Annelies sent my mom on the drive back, “Now I'm addicted to gambling it's so much fun. When I'm 21 years I asked my mom if I can go to Vagus. Have you ever ben to Vagus?” Grandma Roz loves to gamble, and Annelies was looking for a partner! We had lunch at Chipotle (our favorite) and made it back to the farm around 3:30 to get in a ride.

They both had a good time, and Paradis was in heaven. It was a great day in Kentucky …

Day Three: 326 miles (1,067 total); $69.45 on gas ($130.84 total); 1 state (4 total); $292.95 Lodging ($357.94 total); $95.35 Souvenirs ($95.35 total); $150 Tourist Traps ($150 total); $0 Redbox  ($9 total); 0 fights (0 total); 0 injuries (0 total)


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