There are few better days to be a Kentuckian, not UK related, than the first Saturday in May. It is bred in all Kentuckians to love thoroughbreds, gambling, and a damn good party. I have been lucky enough to have attended 3 Derby’s in person, 2 in the infield at Churchill and once out in the tents on the first turn. The two experiences in the infield were two of the most unbelievable experiences of my life, and not for all the right reasons. Some of the things I witnessed, and some of the things I participated in, even I would not write about. I know that the infield for the Derby is on a lot of folks ‘bucket list’, but if you are someone who considers yourself to be a fairly classy and upstanding citizen, I would stay away. Just mark it off, and retain your integrity.
In the past few years, I have resorted to the “Home” Derby party. I have had a few at my house, my in-laws have had a couple at their house, and last year my brother and sister in law had one in their sparkling new basement. No matter the location, the parties basically involve the same types of activities, heavy eating, heavy drinking, and heavy gambling, what could possibly go wrong, right?
Here is an over view of a normal Kentucky Derby party, in my world…
- You invite everyone you know that enjoys at least one of the following: eating, drinking, or gambling. This involves most everyone you know, except the weird old woman down the street that seems to be scared of her own shadow, and that will call the authorities at the drop of a hat if one of your guests wonders to close to her house to relieve themselves.
- You make it very clear that the party will be BYOB, even though you will have some extra brews and bourbon in stock. Your friends abide by this and bring their own drink, but manage to finish off your bottle/beers before they get into their own. If they are full before they get to theirs, they do not hesitate to take theirs home with them when they leave.
- You don’t always ask folks to bring any food, but you also don’t tell them not to, if they insist. Pot Lucks normally creep me out, but once I am loaded, I will eat anything. It seems like the guy who insists he is bringing something, normally shows up with a pack of beef jerky that he walks around the party with asking people to try. If you don’t take a piece, and tell him how good it is, he will stand their explaining why it is good and you are wrong for at least 20 minutes.
- On Derby day everyone becomes a gambler. Everyone has a tip on a horse, everybody has a strategy, and everybody is dead broke. My in-laws have introduced me to grid bets. You can buy squares on a grid, similar to a multiplication table. Boxes normally cost either $2 or $5 a square. It is always a struggle to sell all of the squares, and it never fails that someone breaks out a check book.
- Gambling fever goes on through out the day. My wife and I set up a twinspires.com account online to bet on races all day long from the Downs. When people figure out that this is going on, they want some action too. After a while, you have 10 people around you while you are on the computer, and everyone is yelling numbers at you. No one ever seems to win when they use your account, and when they hand you a fist full of $1 bills (they cashed in about 53 $1 lottery tickets on the way to your house), it always feels like you are being screwed somehow.
- Derby quickly turns into a long day when you have a house full of drunken idiots, including yourself. While moving around your house, you find different pockets of people you had no idea were there. After they tell you that they love your 4-wheeler, and compliment you on how nice it rides, you figure out someone has had your Rhino out of the garage and you instantly become enraged. When you peek into the garage and your prized possession is gone again, you ponder clearing out the entire party and having everyone leave. The only reason you don’t? You are told it is your wife that is giving everyone rides.
- By the time the actual Derby goes off, your house is no more than an insane asylum. 4 of your most over weight friends have their shirts off and are belly to belly in the back yard, arguing over a corn hole game. One of your wife’s friends, the one with kids, has her yard apes over by the pond letting them wing rocks at the ducks and swans. One of your cousins has taken one of the grid sheets to the old lady’s house down the street to try and finish off the boxes, the only problem is that he also has a fifth of makers and his pet albino snake around his neck. A couple of your buddies have dared another friend to chug the barbecue sauce out of the crock pot that once held the cocktail wieners, after he vomits, your kitchen counter, your stove, and your miniature wiener dog are covered in brown sludge. The 2 guys now dare someone else to lick the sauce off your poor dog. Your mother in law has asked you 20 times what race the Derby is and you say you don’t know19 times, but the last time you say something that will scar your relationship forever.
- Finally, the race is about to start, and the traditional singing of My Old’ Kentucky home is about to begin. People are stumbling around to find their beers, a seat, or whatever else makes plenty of noise and forbids you to hear the song played. Everyone is grabbing for their pieces of paper with a horses name on it they have drawn out of a hat, so that they will know who to cheer for. Once the noise dies down a bit, you can hear the mumblings of the wrong words to My Old’ Kentucky Home throughout the entire house and porch.
- When it comes time to load the horses into the gate, there is always someone their who seems to have every horse picked. This guy is known as “Digger Phelps”, because he is not ruling out anyone to win. He has $2 to win on every horse, and you are sure to hear about how he knew the winner was going to win for months after the race is over. You also have the guy/girl who can’t remember who he/she bet on. They ask their husband/wife over and over until it has to be written down for them like they are twelve.
- And they are off! This is either the best 2 minutes of your party, or the worst. You find out very early on that the guy/girl that could not remember who they had bet on is pulling for the wrong horse. As they normally do, a few people who bet on the speed horses have called the race over after a bout a furlong into it and are celebrating. About10 seconds later, they are all ripping up their tickets and walking out of the room faster than their horse is fading. Around the 3rd turn, your in-law, realizes that the horse he put $2 to show on is making a move. Even though he is one of the favorites and the guy stands to win about.20 cents if he makes it into the money, your in-law begins cheering like it is no body’s business. He is on all fours as the pack starts down the stretch, and is pounding his fist on the ground with each stride of his pick. The entire party becomes a small roar as the horses cross the finish line. There are high fives, there is disappointment, and there is confusion because the guy/girl who was cheering for the wrong horse realized she/he did not win, even though the horse she/he pulled for finished first. The guy who was on the verge of a .20 cent win fall is right up against the TV, because he lost track of his horse, and is waiting on a replay. Your wife slips off to the computer room to check on your wagers, and she returns with a smile on her face. She tells you that depending on the official results, you may have just hit the Trifecta .
- When the results are official, it starts another sequence of emotions. Your in-law is dancing on the couch, because he has a new .20 cents in his pocket. The girl/guy who was confused about what horse he/she had is still very confused, and they are being consoled by a friend. One of your over weight friends has passed out with his shirt off in your back yard, and someone has drawn a male genitalia on his back. During all of the excitement, your little barbecue sauce covered wiener dog became nervous and moved her bowels in the living room floor, and no one has cleaned it up. When your wife gets a glance of the final results, she can not control her excitement, and also moves her bowels in the living room floor; again, no one cleans it up. You are not affected by these events, because this means you did indeed hit a big one, and it is now time to party! I, I mean, you roll over to the stereo and play the song below as loud as you possibly can! Happy Derby day!