Saturday, May 7, 2011

Derby Day

I have told part of this story before but Imma tell it again (it's my world here, y'all just live in it).

I was one of those horse obsessed little girls. Horses horses horses. I loved horses. Read all the horse books I could get my hands on, knew breeds by heart. Horses beget unicorns and I read a lot of those books too. (Aside: I was doing a search for an amazing unicorn book I used to have and can not find and in doing so came across more than I ever remember having read but definitely had. The corners of the mind never cease to amaze.) Even now, I can't help but love a good story involving horses.

I didn't get to really ride a whole lot because I live in a city. At least this is what my parents told me. In retrospect I think it's more "We don't want to spend money on something that's not gonna stick and oh yeah riding horses is expensive." Going to Pacifica for trail rides was a treat. I took lessons in Golden Gate Park for a short time when I was a kid but honestly, as much as I loved horses, they kind of scare me. I mean, they're big. They can hurt you. I approached with healthy trepidation. So the  lessons didn't really stick. But I was still horse obsessed.

My childhood best friend Emily was equally horse obsessed. I'm sure there were countless hours spent where we pranced around like horses and pretended to ride. I'm just guessing here, who remembers stuff from when they were 8?

All of this led up to the note. I don't know the circumstances of the note. I can imagine it was the kind of slights every 8 year old imagines her family being guilty of. Because of such slights I wrote a note that said that Emily and I were running away to Kentucky to train horses and never coming back ever! I know of this note because my mom still has it, tucked away in a chest in our house.

Obviously I never ran away to Kentucky. But let's analyze this for a second: At 8 years old I think I had barely been outside the state of California (if we're counting cross the state line in Tahoe, then yes). I am fairly certain I had no idea where Kentucky even was on a map or what was there. We did know it had blue grass and that if you wanted to run thoroughbreds, you went to Kentucky. It would have been much more logical to perhaps start ten miles south of San Francisco at Bay Meadows track but, eh, we were 8. We were romanticizing Kentucky. I also find it interesting that we didn't want to be jockeys but to train the horses. Maybe even then I knew I was never gonna be jockey build? Emily could have been a jockey though.

I had a slight...crisis period? a few years ago and decided all that stuff that I wanted to do, I was going to doing it! Talk is cheap but whiskey costs money, ya know? It's when I got my tattoo. I also started taking horse back riding lessons in San Mateo. From a slightly odd older gentleman who was inappropriately flirty and wanted us to learn to ride the horse, not the saddle. So lessons were conducted barefoot in shorts with no saddle. It was an interesting way to learn to ride and I actually never got comfortable with it. And got bucked off bruising the beejuzus out of my tailbone on my birthday that year. I was in agony for a few weeks. I have since not been back on a horse, rendering the cliche worthless (need to lose weight also contributing to me not riding again). At some point I'll fix this.

Even if I didn't ride a lot, when I was little we did get to the track quite a bit. My grandfather was one of those old school types who knew everyone at the track, hung at the turf club. Part of the group of like old men who always met there on, like, Tuesdays and bet the ponies. He was the kind of self made guy who drove a boat of a Cadillac as a status symbol. And he was amazing. I loved the track probably more than I loved actually riding. The track is a great place full of ridiculous characters. And when I was a kid, I did an excellent job of picking ponies. My parents or grandparents would show me the racing form, let me look over the names, take me to the paddock and let me look at the horses and I would pick one and they'd place a $2 bet on my behalf. My mother says I was like a child prodigy at picking ponies. I'd win. A lot. And sometimes a fairly substantial amount of money, at least it was for a kid. I think I won something like $160 on just placing $2 winning bets one day at the Santa Rosa county fair when I was about 14. I have been unable to replicate that success as an adult. Partly because when I was little it was instinct. Now I know what odds mean and pick on jockey silks (obviously lean towards purple and gold silks, have a USC/Florida aversion to burgundy/gold or orange/blue silks). I now know boxed exactas and multi-race parlays, the $2 to win bet a thing of the past. I haven't been to the track in awhile. I should remedy this as well. Anyone want to go for a $1 day next Sunday?

It seems like whenever derby day rolled around, I was at my grandparents house. I seem to recall being in their living room watching the derby with my grandfather more often than not. So when the derby rolls around now, it makes me all nostalgic and miss my grandpa. He was a class act.

This year there will be no mint juleps or derby pie. Just going to Michael's to watch the greatest two minutes in racing. I'm leaning towards Pants on Fire for female jockey, ridiculous name. Precedence would say go with the Cajun jockey and bet on Borel who is on Twice The Appeal. A cranky Brooklyn native told me when I was 16 catching races at Santa Anita that his damn wife always bet on the damn grey horses and always won! Despite his actual playing the odds. If you want to follow his advice (warning?), Twinspired is your horse. Added bonus for Kentucky Derby tie in with that name. The horse at the #1 post is sporting purple and gold silks. So...I guess I haven't decided anything. I'll watch the lead up show and make a decision. With absolutely no consequences or money on the line.

Next year? I'd like to BE there next year.

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