Off To The Races Pt. 1

February 27, 2014

Churchill Downs was a must-see for me while we were in Kentucky last week. No, I've never been a horse person. In fact, I'm allergic to horses and learned that the hard way while on an hour trail ride through the woods. Let's just say my sister's question, "Were you hit in the face by a branch?" after we dismantled should best describe what my surprise allergic reaction looked like (puffy, red, watering eyes, a red, sneezing nose, etc). But, back to my desire to visit the place for horse races.

My grandparents raced horses, and while I wasn't around during that season of their life, I knew being at Churchill Downs would create a connection for me, at least I hoped it would. And that it did; I could see and take in the sights that they most likely experienced during their years involved in the sport. For me what I was most hoping to get out of the visit came to fruition and I walked away with an understanding  and respect for their love of the sport. 

There are the hats too. I kind of love fancy, playful hats. And I have a hankering to make it to a horse race at some point in my life, if only to wear one of the extravagant hats in a place where it is acceptable. 

Then there's the rich history. Churchill Downs has hosted the longest, consecutive sporting event in the world. That beats out the Olympics, ya'll. Since the first Kentucky Derby, 140 total this May, the race has never not been held, even through war and bad weather. Pretty, remarkable. As we toured the facility, I could feel the spirit of excitement that emanates in this place. You can easily imagine the thrill of raising and training a horse for three years until their chance of a glorious victory at the one and only Kentucky Derby. We were fortunate to watch a short movie at the end of the tour that depicted the life of a derby talk about getting chills. 

The Derby Museum, where we spent most of our time, was really well executed to give the museum-goer a real sense of what the Kentucky Derby is about. There was everything from hats to jockey uniforms all the way to horseshoes, a mock derby game (I beat Pete), and pretend betting (I beat Pete again, it was my lucky day). We had a lot of fun soaking in all the exhibits and getting into the derby spirit!

Part two of our Churchill Downs experience is coming tomorrow, and that will capture the beauty of the grand stands and the track. Be on the lookout!