In case the title had you worried: Never fear, there were mint juleps as well. Take a deep breath.
As a kid I spent what felt like a fair amount of time at the Belmont Race Track with my family. One of my uncles was working there at the time and I loved horses like a great many little girls are wont to do. I read kid fiction about horseback-riding gals, I stole souvenir Belmont glasses from my grandmother, and I demanded that every vacation involve a jaunt on a horse since it had become to clear to me early on that never would my parents actually purchase me a pony.
It is a sad reality with which many children are forced to make their peace at one point or another.
As the years went on, my uncle no longer worked at the race track, the juvenile fiction became predictable (though always ever so inspiring and tear-jerking), the glasses broke and my family started kayaking on vacation instead.
My love for horses and racing sports persevered over the years, despite my failure to be capable of reaching great speeds myself, with or without the help of horse. Racing sports are the best because you get can pick one or two random names to back if you know nothing about the field, and unless you are into marathons the action is immediate, brief and thrilling to the end. Perfect entertainment.
In college I met Kathleen who has spent a fair amount of time at the race track in Saratoga and owns more than one appropriate hat, much like Johnny Weir. Match made in heaven? Yes. We set out Saturday afternoon to enjoy the day and the Derby from Manhattan. We ended up at a random sports bar not far from Washington Square Park called Reservoir.
We settled in directly in front of a prime plasma screen, ordered ourselves a couple of mint juleps, persuaded the bartender to set the television to the derby before any one else had shown up for the race and proceeded to wow fellow barflies with our knowledge of Derby procedure.
It did not take a lot.
It also did not take a lot to make them commence in their judgment of us as crazy girls. I think it started when Bob Costas– everyone’s favorite sportscaster– appeared on-screen. We might have screamed, “Bob!” People might have turned and stared. But it mattered not. The question at hand was how could I have ever forgotten to depend on Bob Costas to appear for a high-profile, obscure, rich man sport?
If only it had been possible to hear what I am sure was insightful, winning and profound commentary from The Costas. Instead, we had to resort to pondering why he appeared to be holding court in a rec room where people were playing pool and generally looking utterly unaware of the élite happenings out in the weather on the track. It wasn’t just us– everyone was wondering why Bob was sitting in a fluorescent basement. As I recall he may have escaped just before the race for the roses; however, by then we had a whole new set of problems unrelated to the producers of derby coverage.
Our new problems were embodied in the person of a Mr. Sullivan, a middle-aged man with poor vision and a few thousand dollars running on a horse that did not win. Luckily, Sullivan had grown up in a betting family and he had strategy that involved betting on a variety of horses and placements. I have no real concept of how such things work, so I’ll leave it at that.
Anyways, Sullivan decided to join our table right below the plasma because he had apparently forgotten to bring his glasses. So we sat, we drank and we chatted with the man three sheets to the wind. He was a little wobbly, his drinks had a tendency to slosh over the sides and he told us many of tale of his gambling youth. In the end he was generally harmless, if a mildly irritating interloper who invited us to return to the bar for the Preakness.
So now you know where to find me later this month. Clearly. Care to join?
Also, in the never-ending list of Olympian perks… a handful of Vancouver competitors put on white suits and wide-brimmed hats to celebrate what Bob Costas has refereed to as an iconic element of Americana. Short track speed skater Allison Baver donned a wide-brimmed black number, although not quite as wide-brimmed as Johnny Weir’s. Bode Miller unsurprisingly was not wearing a hat, but did go for a festive white Derby Day suit. Also, not that tiny red feathered situation being rocked by the lady with the microphone, as a sidenote.
Olympians get invited to the best stuff.
One of these days–despite our non-Olympian, wealthy Southern or movie star statuses– Kathleen and I will go to the Derby and we will wear hats and it will not rain and Bob Costas will not waste his afternoon in a basement.
This will happen.
In the meantime, I have a gambling buddy for the Preakness and plans to go to Belmont for the Stakes.
Oh and in case you were wondering and had not yet figured it out, my horse Devil May Care did not win, but Super Saver did.