Its on my bucket list, to go to the Kentucky Derby. And yet, I forgot to watch it yesterday. If I had, Id have been reminded of Sea Biscuit, one of my favorite horse-racing stories. Id also have been reminded of those wonderful summer afternoons when my mother took me to River Downs, near Cincinnati, when I was a little girl. Certainly, I was too young to bet, but my mother and I would each choose a horse, mostly based on their names or how they pranced as they paraded by before the race, and then wed each put a nickel on the top of the fence. Whoevers horse won was the winner of 10 cents. But it wasnt winning nickels that intrigued me. It was being able to see those beautiful and powerful horses walk by, maybe 6 feet away. That was my favorite part of going to the race track. Back then, I had enough vision to see them up close like that, but when it came time for the race itself, we stayed down by the fence, so I could hear the pounding of their hooves as they took off from the start or passed by us on the longer races. It was thrilling, and obviously made quite an impression on me.
About 11 years ago, my friend Kathy and I joined a group of women for lunch at the race track here. It was on Derby Day, and we had mint juleps and wore hats. The hats were red because the group of women were the Red Hat society. Recalling how much I had enjoyed standing by the fence and watching the horses parade by, I suggested to Kathy that for the next race, after we placed our bets, we should leave the clubhouse dining room and go stand by the fence. I wouldnt be able to see the horses now, but I would love to hear them gallop by. After we put our $2 on a horse to place, we walked outside and waited by the fence. Nothing was happening. No parading horses. No other people outside. Then the announcer said, And theyre off! What? But where? It was then that we realized that we had just placed a bet on a horse that was racing in some other part of the country, and everybody else was watching it on those TV monitors. So there we were, a couple of clueless middle-aged ladies in red hats, standing out there by ourselves, waiting for something to happen. Who knew? Not us.