A Kentucky Derby To Remember

Pete McKeownAnalyst IMay 5, 2009

Last year for the Kentucky Derby, I made the road trip from Boston to Louisville to partake in the Derby madness at Churchill Downs.

To be honest, it felt more like a bachelor party than a sporting event.

Strip clubs, bar crawls, tailgating—the last thing on my mind was a horse race.

They say that the Kentucky Derby is the most exciting two minutes in sports, but actually attending it was more like the drunkest two days in sports. For someone from Boston, a city that is chock-full of people who love to crush beers at sporting events and bet on anything from horse races, to dog races, to who will sing the national anthem at next year’s Super Bowl, attending the Derby at Churchill Downs should be on any Bostonian’s bucket list.

The only thing I actually remember from the day of the race was double-fisting mint juleps, seeing the horses sprint by turn three for a total of four seconds, and hearing the sad news that 8 Bells had to be euthanized right after the race.

Other than that, I might as well have been at Suffolk Downs, because watching the Derby from the infield isn’t for those who enjoy watching the races, but rather for drinking during them.

This year, I had a much different experience. I was able to watch the race on TV, actually seeing it from start to finish, and I am very glad I had the chance to do so.

The most exciting two minutes in sports certainly lived up to its billing, as Mine That Bird stole the show and ran an astounding race.

Watching the 50-1 long shot go from 15th to first in a matter of seconds, weaving in and out of the horses and finally making its move on the rail was something truly special to watch.

Will Mine That Bird make a run at the Triple Crown? Probably not. But that’s not the point. The point is, those of us who watched the race had the pleasure of being genuinely surprised at the outcome. I didn’t hear too many people predicting a win, place or show for Mine That Bird, but I’m sure those who did are still counting their winnings.

I liken this year’s race to the upsets in the college basketball tournament. Sometimes, underdogs can steal the show, and those are the best times to be a fan of the sport. More often than not, the favorite will win, and that can be great as it is exciting to watch a team or horse at the top of their game, blowing away the competition. But every now and then, you can be surprised, and that’s what makes events like these so fun to watch.

Sure, there is no substitute for actually attending the Derby, as it is a weekend-long soiree with Southern Belles and coolers stocked with beers, but I can say I am glad I was able to watch this year’s derby on TV.

Otherwise, I would have missed out on Mine That Bird’s amazing finish—or seeing its jockey celebrating like a madman and his distinct resemblance to Gollum from The Lord of the Rings.

Now, we all get to share the excitement heading into the Preakness. There hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner for quite some time, and for Mine That Bird, the path is cluttered with potential missteps and long odds for winning.

However, until the race is done, there is still a chance.

Whether it be 50-1 or 10-1, as an underdog or the favorite, Mine That Bird will get its say at the Preakness post time, and I for one, will make sure to catch it on TV.

Going to Baltimore would undoubtedly be a great experience, but I can still watch it double-fisted from Boston, and you better believe I’ll be keeping an eye on the rail for another Mine That Bird performance.  

This article can also be found on Hubofchampions.com, a Boston Blog.