West Virginia Derby Day

Last weekend was a big one for me. Sunday, we held our final boot camp critique meeting. You can read about it tomorrow at Working Stiffs. But Saturday was West Virginia Derby Day at Mountaineer.

Let me just say, if you’re a writer and you don’t like research, you’re writing the wrong stuff. Because researching the world of Thoroughbred racing is a blast. And it helps to have a good friend like Jessi Pizzurro to hang out with and show you the ropes.

I have to be honest, though. It was hot. I mean fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement hot. In past years, we’ve spent Derby Day at the edge of the track, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the other horse racing enthusiasts. Then we’d dash back to the paddock between races to watch the horses parade and be saddled.

This year we huddled in the grandstand where it was only 85 degrees instead of 95. (I don’t really know how hot it was. No thermometer. It FELT like 105, but I’ve become an AC addict, so anything over 78 degrees is sweltering to me.) We had a tiny TV to watch the horses close-up. Then when they swept down the homestretch we just looked up to watch the finish of the race right in front of us.

One thing about this method of watching the races—we spent a lot more time studying the program. Jessi and I each made our picks. Lucky for me, I was only betting virtual money, because while I had a number of picks finish in the money, I only had one winner. And that one wasn’t exactly a long shot. I’d have lost money on the day had I actually put cash down.

On Derby Day, all the races are big ones. The track is decked out in fresh paint and banners. The crowds are huge and the lines are long. It’s too bad it isn’t like that every other day of the year.

The highlight and big draw is, of course, the West Virginia Derby. For that one race, Jessi and I left our seats in the grandstand to head out to the paddock. We’d have done it anyway, but the fact that singer Toby Keith owned one of the horses didn’t hurt. I admit it. We had high hopes that he’d be in the paddock, too.

Unfortunately (for us) he never showed. I figure he wisely stayed in his air conditioned box in the clubhouse.

Also, since I didn’t want to lug the Nikon around all day, I only had my little Kodak camera, so the pictures aren’t so great. But here are a few from the paddock.

Toby Keith’s horse is number six.

If you follow horse racing, you probably recognize this fellow.

Calvin Borel. Something of a celebrity for this track.

There was one more race after the Derby, but it was hot and we decided to beat the crowd, so we left.

We COULD have slipped over to the stakes barn in the hopes of seeing Mr. Keith. After all, it was just a couple of years ago that we Thoroughbred groupies did just that and managed to get up-close and personal with Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird.

I guess a famous singer just doesn’t have the same lure as a famous racehorse.


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