Recently I wrote a column about my experience attending the 2018 Kentucky Derby, which was the rainiest Derby Day on record. This allowed me to witness history while simultaneously experiencing what it feels like to be in a relentless monsoon of epic proportions.
This year, in 2019, I went back to The Derby, and once again I got to witness history. This time it arrived not in the form of relentless torrents from the skies, but instead in the controversial overturning of the win by Maximum Security. Unless you've been cut off from civilization as we know it for the last few days, you've probably heard by now that Maximum Security finished first, but because the horse essentially obstructed the path of other horses, it was disqualified and longshot Country House was declared the winner.
Talk about an expensive traffic ticket. Further proof you should stay in your lane!
Before I get to describing what it was like to witness horse racing history though, let me summarize my trip to the Derby this year from a bigger picture perspective. If I had to describe going to the Derby in one word, it would be: great. One of the funnest things I've ever done. A true spectacle of culture, excitement, history and amazing beauty. There is something breathtaking about the environment at Churchill Downs. There is great history here and the horses are beautiful. It is a majestic place.
Another aspect that made this year great was the fact that I got to go via a free ticket. My best friend from high school, remarkably, won a drawing that earned him six free tickets to the Derby. And, unlike last year when I was in the infield, this year the tickets he won were located in the grandstands. Talk about being a winner before you go. We were seated with what I would describe as, overall, an affluent mix of folks. Lets just say I wore a nice collared shirt and felt very under dressed. At one point a guy walked up to me and asked "Excuse me, do you work here?" Oh boy. This gave me and my friends a good laugh.
Okay, on to the history part. It was glorious to see all the pomp and circumstance and the playing of My Old Kentucky Home. I loved this part. Then came the race. We watched the Derby with amazement -- the crowds cheering hysterically, the beautiful horses racing by, wet mud splashing up into the air, the well-dressed people clutching their gambling slips with hopes for a huge pay day. The horses came across the finish line and it was clear Maximum Security had won hooves down.
The race was over. The fate for the gamblers appeared defined. Then, came the announcement over the loud speaker several minutes later: "Hold all tickets! Hold all tickets!" An objection has been filed.
Huh? An objection? How strange. Several minutes passed as the replay played on the big screen. Those at the track did not have the benefit of on screen analysis by experts and graphics to show how Maximum Security cut off the other horses. We didn't see anything on the grainy replay that would warrant an overturning. Pretty much no one in our area seemed to think there was any chance of the results being overturned, but then it happened, and let's just say a lot of people were not happy.
Perhaps the person most not happy was the man in a nearby section who threw away what would prove to be his winning ticket immediately after Maximum Security finished first. This individual, apparently thinking his ticket was a loser, purportedly crumpled it up and tossed it into a sea of other losing tickets on the ground. When Maximum Security was disqualified, all of the sudden the losing ticket the man threw away was a winner. My friends observed this individual, in a panic, frantically searching for a ticket that they guessed was worth several thousands of dollars or more. As we were leaving the man had not found the ticket many minutes later.
I got home Sunday night from a very long weekend. It was exhausting, and even with the free ticket, it proved to be an expensive adventure. It was worth every penny though as my mind whirled through all the sights, sounds, experiences. Another year of history in the books and I'm proud to say I got to see it up close.