Thursday, August 23, 2007

My Old Kentucky Home

A few preliminary words about Louisville: One thing is that the “Quality Inn” in Louisville is apparently an ironic name. The second thing to know is that it’s hotter than a tea kettle in a sauna here today (sorry about that- the southern effect on me…) It’s 100 degrees everywhere we went today.

Churchill Downs – The home of the Kentucky Derby

This place is surprisingly elegant for a sports venue. Actually, it’s elegant for a house. It’s surrounded by gardens and the outside porch looks like it belongs to a Savannah mansion. I could see someone named Ella Mae enjoying a mint julep out there. In fact, we enjoyed some mint juleps. Mint juleps are the famous drink of the Kentucky derby, and here is the recipe: bourbon (a lot) and some mint. Ice makes it cold.

Churchill Downs was very similar to the Indy Speedway museum of yesterday in that it seemed like it would be breathtaking… if you cared about the sport. Which we didn’t. As it was it was pretty great.

Other parts of the grounds:

  • They keep a retired horse on the grounds. There’s a sign that says “Caution: Horse may bite.” Yeah horse… well, I might bite, so – step off.
  • We didn’t have any beefarino to feed the horse
  • Speaking of horses on the grounds. Four Kentucky Derby winning horses are buried at Churchill Downs. Barbaro was nowhere to be found, though.
  • All Kentucky Derby winners’ names are on plaques on the walls surrounding the racetrack. That’s 1875 winners- 2007. Am I crazy or is that a lot of years? That’s a lot of years!
  • The track itself is just dirt/ mud. I am not sure why I would expect it to be any more than that, but somehow I did.
  • The seats in the stands, even the track-side seats, are just regular metal folding chairs. Attending the Kentucky Derby gets you that same level of comfort that shalosh seudos in Darchei Noam gets you.

There are a few other things I think you want to know:

  • They measure horses by 4 inch lengths called “hands.” Good to know that somewhere the tefach is alive and well.
  • 100 of the 133 Kentucky Derby winning horses are from Kentucky. Kentucky is to the Derby, as Kenya is to the New York marathon.
  • 156,000 people attend the derby. 100,000 of those stand on the “infield,” the inner circle of the track. There is also 25 million dollars in betting that day. If I was a hick from Kentucky… I’d get involved in at least one of those two.

Overall, the Derby seems like a great event, the museum and tour are fun, and the mint juleps are a little too alcoholic. Churchill Downs, however, goes down just right.

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