Thursday, May 5, 2011

Millionaires For The Morning Workout

Les has been on his own personal "Derby Hunt" for months, if not the better part of the year since we returned from Derby last year. His hunt does not include actually running, crossing a finish line or winning big stakes (originally typed *steaks* which could have been funny/yummy) races, although the winnings could come in handy! No, his hunt is in finding the best deals in accommodations, transportation & entertainment. In fact, he reserved a couple of hotel rooms very early out the gate in hopes that a certain someone would be joining us (I won't name her because it just might make her cry!). Our travel partners have changed and re-arranged a few times but it finally came down to 3 of us: Les, myself & my brother-in-law Mike.

Mike & Les are very serious about this stuff!

The mix may have changed but the aim did not. He really had to work hard for this year as, for some reason, we failed to make the cut for the initial drawing to purchase reserved seating at the Oaks/Derby. Getting tickets was a bit of a worry for us and while he continued to watch tickets on ebay going for quite a bit more than we typically pay for our tickets, it was starting to make more sense to purchase the Taste of Derby tickets for around $500 each and get food with it too vs paying more than that just to buy a set of tickets on ebay.

It came down to early April when he had this great idea...Since I'm walking challenged at the moment he thought he'd call the track directly and see if they had any disabled seating available. I had already told him that his back up plan to buy an infield ticket for $40 was NEVER going to fly with me. We typically get to the track around 10am on Derby day and standing around until 7pm was going to turn me to mental & physical mush. It seemed like a great idea to me...but it turned out they had very little disabled seating and it was all sold by the time he called. He was about to hang up when he thought to ask if there were ANY seats left and the customer service gal said that yes, they did have some tickets available in Section 120.....ONE TWENTY!?!?!?! Yahooooo!!!!! That's still on the racing side of the finish line and you get to watch the horses pass you twice during the race as you get the excitement of the start and the thrill of the finish. face value too! Perfect! He was able to buy 3 sets of Oaks/Derby tickets and *whew* our trip was back on track...with very little time to spare!

While he'd been on the Derby ticket hunt he had already moved our hotel reservation due to a better deal that came along, reserved our rental car at a very reasonable rate and purchased "Dawn at the Downs" tickets on Millionaire's Row up on the 4th floor which is breakfast while you watch the morning workouts!

Dawn at the Downs. 7am comes early, but it's worth it!

We arrived at Churchill Downs this morning at 7:00am and made our way up to the 4th floor just as Dialed In was getting his workout. We only caught it on one of the hundreds of TV screens but as soon as we were shown to our table (#6, right by the front window!!! Thanks for the early thinkin' Les!!) I ignored food and drinks and headed right out to the famous Millionaire's Row rail terrace and watched the ponies!

Les & I on the rail at Millionaire's Row
One of my favorite things to do at home is to go have breakfast at the Quarter Chute Cafe and watch the horses pass by on their way in or back from their morning workouts. We get to see several horses in the hour or two we're there but there were horses everywhere you look on the track at Churchill Downs. It was hard to keep up with the who's who and who's where. Thankfully there was an announcer giving a running commentary so we were able to figure out when the Derby & Oaks horses were on the track (plus the Derby horses all had yellow saddle blankets with a rose on it while the Oaks Fillies had pink ones!)

The breakfast was good and so was the conversation. We shared a table with a couple of teachers from Ohio & a group from the Bay area, they all seemed to be avid race fans so it was fun to talk racing with everyone but I'd take a few bites and head back out to the rail to watch.

I wish I could tell you who all these horses are. I only took photos of Derby & Oaks Horses. Among them I do know we saw Derby horses, ArchArchArch, Animal Kingdom, Twice The Appeal, Santiva, Soldat & Midnight Interlude. Oaks Fillies included Daisy Devine, Joyful Victory, Lavender and Lace & Zazu...and that was just who I can remember off the top of my head.

One that I do remember is Bonnie's pick, Shackleford, for whom I still have the exact same two $5 bills in my wallet that she gave me for her bet on him!

That's Shackleford right in the center
(as Bonnie said "going the wrong way")

It was a wonderful morning and I'll have to add it to "My Picks" of Derby-Must-Dos. We were actually among the last to leave and got herded out by track employees but on the way out we did get one last surprise. A HUGE hand-blown glass replica of Churchill Downs.

This display was at least 4 feet high and 10 feet long.
This is just the center section!

Every horse, every spectator, every detail...hand blown!
 Someone had a grand passion and look where their work ended up...on Millionaire's Row...kinda like me and my passion, on Millionaire's Row for the Morning!

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