Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vacation Blog Contest Day 6--Churchill Downs

It’s Thursday--day six of our trip. We woke to major thunderstorms. And I mean major! It rained so hard here at the hotel that we couldn’t even see the parking lot from our seventh floor window for a short time. Needless to say that delayed us leaving the hotel and making our way to Churchill Downs. Once we did get to the racetrack we quickly discovered they were without power due to the severe storms. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve been waiting most of my life for this chance! I mean, I’ve been dying to come to Kentucky and see Churchill Downs since . . . well, I’m not going to give you an exact year for risk of dating myself. ;-) But I’ll give you a hint. If you know anything about horseracing you’ll know what year Affirmed won not only the Kentucky Derby, but also the Triple Crown. If you know what year that was, you’ll know how long I’ve been waiting for this chance. You know the old saying, Good Things Come to Those Who Wait? Well, that was certainly true in this case. And for me, it was worth the wait---power outage and all! I was in absolute Heaven!

While waiting for the power to be restored, we meandered around outside the Kentucky Derby museum for a little bit. We then took a trackside tour and got to see Calvin Borel, two-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey, mount up for the first race. We then took a tour of the backside. Awesome! Our guide for the backside portion of the tour was Terri, a spunky, fun gal who made the tour worth every penny. We not only got to stand within a few feet of the starting gate and see the horses break from the gate, but we got to see 2009 Kentucky Derby Winner, Mine That Bird, munching on his morning allotment of hay in his stall! Talk about a thrill. Bird’s bodyguard was on duty keeping watch with a smile on his face as Terri took pictures for all of us on the tour.

After a great lunch, we were on our way back to the museum when I saw Chip Woolley, Mine That Bird’s trainer, sitting on a bench just relaxing with a beer. I shoved aside my shyness, went up and said hello, got his autograph and a picture. He was super nice, very humble, and truly amazed at all that has transpired for him during the last few months. A true cowboy!

We then continued on with our tour of the Derby Museum. There they have a 360 degree film that you can watch of the Derby and its history, how it all starts with the birth of a foal, and the insurmountable odds of not only making it to the Derby, but winning it. It was fantastic and put me on the verge of tears. The afternoon went way too fast and due to the late start we didn’t get through everything. There are tons of exhibits to view and enjoy. Good news, we’re going back tomorrow to finish what we started! And Friday is a historic day for Churchill. It will be the first time in the track’s history that they are going to race at night and under the lights. I can’t wait to be a part of it. I’m afraid my credit card is going to be groaning by the time I get done in the museum gift shop!

Have you ever watched the Kentucky Derby on TV or live at the track? A racing fan or not, you can’t deny it’s the most exciting two minutes in sports history! Let me hear from you and get your name in the hat for that amazing Sherry James T-shirt!!!


Julie Miller said...

The horse has a bodyguard? Cool. Fascinating, yet a bit sad to know that it's necessary in this day in age.

I know you were in heaven at Churchill Downs--I'm so happy for you that you get to go back and see the things you missed after the late start.

We've been having nasty storms here in Nebraska, too--hail, tornadoes, torrential rain and flooding, power outages, high winds--so maybe it still feels a little like home to you with all the weather you've been going through. ;)

Have a wonderful rest of the trip. And keep reporting in--this is fun to "travel" with you!

Valerie Oakleaf said...

Wow, have pretty much had my dream vacation. I would have LOVED to see Churchill. It makes the backside of Fonner pale in comparison, doesn't it?? haha
And to meet not only the "Bird" but Mr. Wooly, you are my hero!
Hope you had a blast last night at the first evening race and won a TON of money to save your groaning credit card.
See you soon!! ~V~

robynl said...

Under the lights would be awesome and exciting to see a race. I have watched horse racing on TV but never been in person(sobbing).

Estella said...

I have watched the Derby, the Belmont and the Preakness on tv. Have never seen a live horse race.

Sherry James said...

Hey, Julie--

Yes, I was in heaven! Right in my element.

We went through tons of rain in various locations. Even saw the Aurora tornado on the Louisville TV stations!

It has been a wonderful trip. Thanks for the well wishes.

Sherry James said...


It was my dream vacation. I've been wanting to go to all of these places for sooo long. It seemed kind of surreal to actually finally be there. As for winning money . . . let's just say my cc is groaning. ;-)

Sherry James said...

Robyn & Estella--

I grew up watching horse racing and that was one thing I always wanted to do to celebrate my birthday was go to the track. Watching "live" racing is awesome. You hear the thundering hooves, the horses breathing, the crack of the whips, and the various dialogue of the jockeys as they fly past. All that power!

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