Now that von Trump has won the Republican nomination for president, it’s time for another break from the maddening world of politics to focus on the most exciting two minutes in sports, upcoming this Saturday, namely the 142nd Run for the Roses. You remember? The first Saturday in May? At Churchill Downs, Lexington, Kentucky? Where the pretty ladies wearing big hats and holding mint juleps weep to Stephen Foster’s song about that old Kentucky home and the staffing problems they’ve all endured ever since Mr. Lincoln went to Washington?
Yep, I’m back, fresh from successfully launching the Major League Baseball season, now to see you through Derby Day. As both your servant, and a veteran railbird, I will guide you through the etiquette expected at your local neighborhood Derby Party, then provide you with the winner. (I’m assuming you’re not actually going to Lexington for the big do beneath the twin spires; but if you are, and don’t know how to behave, just look around at all the mush-mouthed drunks shouting their picks...they’re indistinguishable from the rest of what Huck Finn used to call “the white quality.” Do as they do.)
Now, manners and nomenclature for the neighborhood bash. Then the selection to make you some money.
When the hostess greets you at the front door and proffers you a Mint Julep, take it with a forced smile and slowly, unobtrusively inch your way to the nearest WC, where you deposit the liquid into in the lower porcelain receptacle in the room; that’s where all good bourbon deserves to go to disappear. Wait! Don’t flush the mint or added garni, lest you are willing to risk backing up the plumbing and being a literal and figurative party pooper. Instead, wrap it in TP and put it in your pocket or purse for later disposal.
Now slip out into the mix of partygoers and scout about for where the cab or chardonnay is stashed. Pour and scan the assembled. The host or hostess will no doubt have some contest going where you draw or choose the name of a contending horse and vie for a prize when the race is run. Newbies to the sport of kings, of course, will prefer the draw and take their chances on chance. If you are supposed to pick your own horse, you can be sure all the best bets have been taken by the time you get to choose. By whom? See those grumpy-faced folks crowded closest to the telly who look like they’ve been kicked in the groin by a horse (and have, figuratively, many times)? They’re the players and they are here to win. Give them space.
Don’t say in their presence, “Nyquist? Didn’t he run in last year’s Derby?”
The Kentucky Derby (May, 1 ¼ miles), the Preakness (Maryland, May, 1 3/16 miles, and the Belmont Stakes New York, June 1 ½ miles)-- -America’s so-called Triple Crown) are restricted to three-year-old colts (a colt is a three-year or younger un-cut male horse), three-year-old fillies (a filly is a four-year or younger female horse; at five they become mares), a three-year-old gelding (a castrated male horse), or a three-year-old ridgeling (a male with one or two testicles that have not descended). In other words, you get only one chance to run in the Derby.
Don’t volunteer that you liked riding horses as a girl...every Sunday afternoon, when your dad dropped you off at the stable. A horse to these flint-hearts is a thoroughbred horse, 900 to 1200 lean-muscle pounds of high-strung, often nasty, brittle beast bred and inbred to run fast (over 40 mph) on dirt, grass, or composition, and win. Unfortunately, there are six to 14 of them contending in most every race, and, much to the chagrin of steed and punter alike, there can be, save for a dead heat, only one winner.
Resist telling them about your only trip to the racetrack when you saw a horse wearing a polka-dotted saddlecloth that looked just like your Aunt Ida’s kerchief, so you bet $2 and it won and you got $97.40 back. They probably won’t believe you, but if they do they’ll yell something like “have a nice life” but not really mean it.
When you hear your fellow guests refer to a horse as a “maiden” (as this year’s post position #1 Trojan Nation is), know that it has nothing to do with the horse’s sexual experience. It signifies that it has never won a race.
If you hear the words “blue grass,” comment not. It’s not about what you think.
Remember that a furlong is an eighth of mile. The Kentucky Derby is 10 furlongs long. That’s a mile and a quarter, considered the classic distance in American racing. When players refer to a sprint race they’re usually referring to a six-furlong race or less.
If you’re of an egalitarian turn of mind, you may be turned off by your fellow race-watchers throwing around words like “breeding” and “class.” Don’t. They are quite appropriate in thoroughbred racing parlance.
OK, enough, get on with it, reader Dan Post says. Who’s going to win? And what are your credentials for telling us, anyway?
Well, fresh as I am from my from recent success in my pix to click in baseball (how about those Cubbies!), you would not be surprised to know I was quite a handicapper in my day. I realize that begs the next question. So if I know so much, why am I not rich? Well, picking the ponies is one thing, smart betting on them is quite another, as every player knows. Let’s move on to the task at hand.
This year’s Derby fields twenty horses (barring scratches) in a very competitive race, 20 horses, 16 of them colts, two geldings and two ridgelings. (No fillies this year.)
And the order of finish is?
- Exaggerator (If the track is muddy, double your bet.)
- Mor Spirit
- Longshot Pick: Danzing Candy
Soon after the race is run your party will likely break up. The losers need to be alone to lick their wounds. We won’t. I’ll just linger in front of my telly and flash you a long-distance smile that winners wear, sipping my chardonnay. No you don’t have to thank me. Just spread the word. And remember me in your will.