My Dad was a racing fanatic. As a youngster, I got to meet a lot of the great jockeys. Willy Shoemaker was a family friend. We spent a lot of time at Santa Anita Race Track in Southern California. The track at Tijuana was a favorite too. We were often down in the stable row.
In 1973, Dad was beginning to age. He was 72, but he still loved racing. He listened to races on the radio, on TV and still handicapped the horses. He was sure 3-year-old Secretariat would win. We were all on the edge of our seats for the Kentucky Derby, watching Big Red win! Then when the Preakness was even more exciting, he won again ! A few days before the running of the Belmont, I got a call from Bill Smith, a California friend who loved Dad. He had tickets to the Belmont, which he wasn’t going to be able to attend. Would we like to use them? Oh, wow!
I called around and was able to get plane tickets. Dad and I took off…
We were there. The jockey, Ron Turcotte, took a risk and moved him out and around. Secretariat, his brilliant coat shining, just moved up and left everyone behind. The only real challenge was Sham, who braced him for about 6 lengths early on. Turcotte didn’t have to raise a whip, the Big Red Horse wanted that race. He was a blur by the time he crossed the finish line. I remember his coat seemed darker and his white feet flashed- he was so far ahead! He finished 31 lengths ahead of the field. Can you imagine?
I am sure that it is much more difficult to get tickets now and the crowds are much larger, but for a fan, it was the most exciting day of I had ever experienced. There are package deals available now, that are all inclusive and there is a lot of hope that California Chrome will win the other two races after he trounced the field at the Kentucky Derby.
A lot of the thrill of the races is the anticipation. The speculation of a possible Triple Crown win for the three-year-old colts. There are many traditions that make the races a unique experience. The Kentucky Derby is famous, both for the parties on the infield and for the millionaires row where the elite members of racing and their sponsors gather, dressed in their finery and the famous Derby hats.
Here are some related links:
Buying a Horse – 5 Things to Know- BEFORE You Buy!
Derby Facts: Stories about the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs