Sunday, May 6, 2012
One More Time
Kentucky Derby 138 is firmly in the books this morning with all the hoopla, hangovers, and might have beens quietly tucked away. It was the first time in recent memory that Cinco de Mayo coincided with the Derby. Here in Portland, they celebrate these two rites of spring in their own weird way. The 5th of May commemorates the Battle of Puebla, but Portlanders could probably care less. Hence the name "Drinko de Mayo." The riverside is transformed into a carnival and this year the rain held back so that the mud wasn't too deep.
Derby parties take place in many local pubs and sometimes the neighborhood establishments even rent a bus and take the party out to Portland Meadows, the local race track, so the patrons can have a moving fashion show and actually bet a few bucks on the race.
My Derby ritual is in transition. I've done parties at home, intense gatherings at the track with my thoroughbred cronies, and, when a working turf writer, watched the race in the Press Box. One time I was actually in Louisville at Churchill Downs. Back in 1982 I had the good fortune of covering the race for a Northern California publication with full press credentials. Had the time of my life. Just the opposite yesterday when I opted for a quiet day at home. I still get all worked up right before the race. I still have a hard time sleeping the night before and I still get up early on Derby day. In the end, I got my wish. All 20 horses got home safe and I cashed a little ticket. All was not lost. Mexico and Kentucky combined in another way when I realized that young Mario Guiterrez, in his first Derby mount is from Mexico by way of Canada. What a remarkable accomplishment to win a Kentucky Derby in your first mount. The mile and 1/4 distance is hard enough, but add in 150,000 screaming mostly inebriated fans and you can see why Steinbeck once called the Kentucky Derby the most violent two minutes in sports. I think a few prize fighters would disagree.
This morning, the combination of the two special events on May 5th made even more sense when the Derby winner's name told the entire story: I'll Have Another.