I have a confession to make: I will soon turn 65 and I have never been to the Kentucky Derby. Worse yet, I do not feel paticularly deprived because of that.
But it gets worse for someone who has lived in Kentucky continuously for the past 44 years, with the exception of a seven-year period in which I lived in Tennessee within spitting distance of the Bluegrass State: I have never been to a horse race of any kind. I have been to the Kentucky Horse Park two or three times, and because of a relationship that ended almost 40 years ago, I have been to more horse shows than I care to admit.
I am sure I would like watching horses race around an oval track much better than watching them prance around in a show ring, but that’s only because I found horse shows to be exceedingly boring. I know some people love them, and that’s fine. I just don’t happen to be one of those people.
Needless to say, I will not be among the huge crowd of people crammed into Churchill Downs in Louisville on Saturday to watch this year’s Kentucky Derby. And I won’t be the least bit disappointed because of my absence. I can’t afford to buy a good seat for the Derby, and at my age, spending a Saturday afternoon in May rubbing elbows with thousands of strangers crowded into the infield at the rack track who run the risk of not even being able to get a glimpse of the actual race is not my idea of a good time. I’ll admit that 40 or so years ago spending a day partying on the infield may have had some appeal to me, but I outgrew those days decades ago. Going to the Derby is kind of like going on spring break in Florida. By the time I could afford to do it, I had lost interest.
It’s not that I have completely ignored the Kentucky Derby all these years. I have been to many Derby parties both in Ashland and in other parts of Kentucky. In fact, it was at one of those parties many years ago I learned the mint julep may be the worst tasting mixed drink ever concocted by mankind, but since I have not had that many alcoholic drinks in my lifetime, I am really not in a position to judge. Shoot, my favorite mixed drink is lemonade and ice tea, so what do I know?
Because I have never been to a horse race, my experience with “playing the horses” is limited to spending $1 or $2 on a chance on one of the horses at a Derby party, and I can’t remember ever winning. So be it.
If we are invited to any Derby parties Saturday, my wife has not told me about it, and she is the one who sets the social calendar in the family. If we are at a party, I will definitely watch the Derby. If not, there is a good chance I will miss the race. After all, it has happened before. Many times.
If the Reds are playing a rather meaningless game in early May on another channel, I will definitely watch the baseball game instead of the Derby. That just goes to show you my interest level — or lack thereof — in the year’s biggest sporting event in Kentucky.
My lack of interest in both horse races and horse shows may be because this former farm boy has never had a good experience on the back of a horse. I am not afraid of horses. You can’t grow up on a farm and be afraid of large animals. Horse, are OK, I suppose, but while I was never around horses on the farm, I spent many, many hours milking cows by hand. I suppose that’s why I like cows better than horses.
I think I would enjoy a “day at the races” as long as there were not more than 100,000 other people there with me. I may soon find out. My wife recently mentioned to me she would like to go to the races at Keeneland. While that is not on my personal “bucket list,” I will probably go with her if for no other reason than so she can mark it off her “bucket list.”
Maybe once I have seen a horse race, I will be one step closer to being a “true Kentuckian” instead of this transplant from Ohio, but I still have yet to see the University of Kentucky Wildcats play either a football or basketball game. Until when — and if — I do, I will still be an outsider to real Kentuckians. Just because I have lived here for more than 40 years does not make me a genuine Kentuckian.
JOHN CANNON can be reached at (606) 326-2649 or firstname.lastname@example.org.