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My 1st Ky Derby

May 3, 2008

Sitting here like a gazillion other people waiting for the horses to walk into the gate, hear the trumpets, and feel the goosebumps from the clang of the gates and the bell to the cry of, "They'rrrrre off!"

Some Brits might argue, but who else would deny that the Kentucky Derby is the world's most famous horse race? First Saturday in May, every year, Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky., becomes the center of the sports universe for a couple of minutes.

NBC Sports has belabored the event over the last couple of hours, which seem like days, with the parade of celebs and fashion and endless blather analyzing the upcoming race.

Evokes many memories for me. The Kentucky Derby ranks as one of my favorite happenings. Mainly because of the simply unbelievably way it makes people behave. The infield on race day -- nothing like it takes place anywhere else.

Love it, too, because I love horses. They're the world's most magnificent athletes. We've had a couple or horses, might have one again. Magnificent Arabian named "Steele the Show," whose dad was a world champion. Before that, an Arabian named "Buddy."

Used to chuckle about having a horse named Buddy. That's because a wonderful friend named David Lawrence, by far the best and most durable radio deejay in Kansas City radio history, always told a joke of the day on his early morning country/western music program. My all-time favorite: Horse wanders into a tavern and up to the bar. Bartender looks at him, says, "Hey, buddy, why the long face?"

They're playing "My Old Kentucky Home" as I type this line. Some people in the background are screaming. They're probably in the infield. Probably a furlong from sober.

Saw my first Derby from the infield. It's misleading, actually, to say I saw the Derby. In the infield, you become part and parcel to an amalgam of insane, inane, and ingrained behaviors carried out by a subculture of humans carrying out the tradition. Unless you are next to the rail, there is no seeing the Derby.

You see the tops of heads. And video boards. As the race hurried around the last corner, nearby where I squeezed in, I could see, for a small, frenzied fraction of a minute, a progression of bobbing jockeys' butts and horses' ears.

The race ended historically, with the winner losing. Only time in history. Dancer's Image sprinted from last to first, and then, after drug testing, fell from first to 14th place and infamy. Traces of phenylbutazone, commonly known as bute, showed up in Dancer's Image's urine.

Forward Pass became the winner.

Today's race marks the 40th anniversary of that unforgettable day.

They're approaching the gate. Seeya later.