Saturday, May 1, 2010

620. The Sun Shines Bright on My Old Kentucky Rail

When I woke up this morning it was, as forecasted, raining. The National Weather Service had forecast a very wet Derby Day although they did not forecast a rainy Derby. Throughout the day the forecasters watched the radar stretching back to the southwest from Louisville to Owensboro and Evansville and into northern Missouri. As the storms moved throughout the day, everyone was holding out for the sun to shine on Churchill Downs for the 136th Kentucky Derby, which was scheduled to go to the post at 6:28 pm.

I remember Derby Day 1977. I was at the track in my jeans and a Durrett High School t-shirt. The race went off an hour earlier in those days. It had been a mostly sunny day but clouds did gather to a drizzling point sometime around 4. An older gentleman, probably around 40, joined me as I stood along the old Paddock fence line. He asked me if I thought it would clear up for the Derby and I assured him it would - based on what I have no idea. Everything I knew about weatherforecasting I had just learned the year before in Mr. Shield's 10th grade Science Class. It did, in fact, clear up and my new friend rewarded my forecasting skills with a very nice afternoon, seeing horse racing's second most recent Triple Crown champion win the first leg of that three-legged series - Seattle Slew. Seattle Slew was foaled on February 15, 1974; won the Derby on May 7, 1977; and died twenty-five years later on May 7, 2002; and remains my favorite Derby winner.

Today's weather was unlike that day in 1977. It rained all day - 1.62 inches as of this writing. But, miraculously, the rain abated about 5:30 pm. The Churchill Downs race crew furiously went to work getting as much water off the track ahead of the big race, although the track was still muddy when the Derby was ran. Then, as the horses were being led to the Starting Gate, sometime around 6:25 pm, here came the Sun in all its glory. A round of applause went up from the nearly 156,000 people in attendance. It was the first time all day the sun had peered through the clouds. As the twenty horses were loaded into the gate, the sun came out full and broad, shining bright on Kentucky.

The race went off at 6:32 pm. For the second time in two years, and the third time in four years, a Louisville-based jockey, Calvin Borel, rode the Derby winner. Super Saver ran the race in 2:04 and 2/5, a slow time on a muddy track. Borel had won two races earlier in the day, riding the inside rail in each of those victories. And that is how he won the 136th Kentucky Derby, riding the rail, running ahead of Ice Box and Paddy O'Prado.

I had bets on Noble's Promise, Stately Victor, Jackson Bend, and Homeboykris, the latter just for fun. They placed 5th, 8th, 12th, and 15th respectively. Continuing the trend of most of today's winners, Super Saver made for a decent return on a $2.00 bet, paying $18.00, $8.00, and $6.00.

Thus another name is etched into the annals of Louisville and Horseracing history - Super Saver. And Calvin Borel's stock climbs in like manner. Happy Derby.

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The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.