The Tear Sheet: The best party of the year
Lindenberger, Michael A. Louisville Eccentric Observer [Louisville, Ky] 06 May 1998: 6.
"I apologize to Churchill Downs for holding up the winner's circle ceremony, but I wasn't going to take that picture before all my friends got there," [Mike Pegram] said. "That's what racing is all about. When you've got the fastest horse and have your friends with you, you're on top of the world, and I'm on top of the world right now." "Last year when I won, all of my family didn't get into the winner's circle," he said in the post-race press conference. "Getting into the winner's circle at Churchill Downs is harder than winning the Kentucky Derby. This year I was concentrating on getting my people in." "I don't ever want the day to end, so why would I want to think about two weeks from now?" [Bob Baffert] said in the winner's circle. "There is a lot of beer to drink today."
THE TEAR SHEET: The best party of the year There really isn't anything more quintessentially Kentucky than the Kentucky Derby. An aging security guard stationed in front of the paddock area at this year's Run for the Roses said it best in his response to a man who asked whether it was okay to smoke near the horses. "Of course you can. This is Kentucky," said the white-haired man, who sounded almost offended at the question. "You got all the best vices in Kentucky: tobacco, gambling, bourbon and fast women." Of course, those of us who live here know that already. It's probably why we put up with a downtown where the side-walks are rolled up after 6 pm. Yes, the old man at the paddock had a point. The Derby is full of glamour and thrills, but for anyone who has attended it often, it's hard to avoid concluding that the pursuit of those pleasurable vices is the heart and soul of the first Saturday in May. In many ways, the Derby means starkly different things to the starkly different types of people who made up its 143,215-strong crowd last Saturday. But the pleasant and mostly peaceful pursuit of vices seems to connect them all, from the pampered patrons on Millionaire's Row to the hard-luck types who were forced to use backed-up toilets in the infield's concrete outhouses. High above the track in boxes that cost $3,990 were the meticulously attired ladies in tall hats with their escorts in bright sports coats who stumbled and laughed and made their way from the table to the bar to watch the races. But Derby Day belongs as much to the tens of thousands of ordinary folks who swell the crowd in the infield as it does to those at the $50- minimum betting windows, drinking their $7.50 mint juleps. And while the people in the stands get most of the attention, the surging crowd in the infield can number as many as 50,000. Nearly all of them behave in ways that would shock the sensibilities of many of the gentler sort getting quietly drunk in the upper stands. During my foray out of the press box and into the infield this year, I encountered pot smokers, whiskey drinkers who had a nicely stocked bar of the best bottled liquors, and more than a few women who bared their chests. It can be a wonderful party. And what made this year's Derby interesting is that the two worlds seemed to collide with surprisingly benign results. A check for $738,800 is now headed toward the bank account of McDonald's restaurant franchisee Mike Pegram, the champion's owner, who spent most of his time in the after-victory press conference talking about where he came from. "Gosh ... born in Ft. Knox, raised in southern Indiana to Ellis Park, skipping school to come to Churchill Downs -- what can I say if this isn't a movie?" the ecstatic Pegram said.
The Princeton, Ind., native said the track gave him 50 tickets, and he used them all, plus had afew friends sneak in while the ticket-takers weren't looking. "I apologize to Churchill Downs for holding up the winner's circle ceremony, but I wasn't going to take that picture before all my friends got there," Pegram said. "That's what racing is all about. When you've got the fastest horse and have your friends with you, you're on top of the world, and I'm on top of the world right now." Similarly, his trainer, Bob Baffert, said he didn't have time to talk to the owner of his other horse, Derby favorite Indian Charlie, immediately after the race because he was too busy trying to get his "people" in the spotlight. "Last year when I won, all of my family didn't get into the winner's circle," he said in the post-race press conference. "Getting into the winner's circle at Churchill Downs is harder than winning the Kentucky Derby. This year I was concentrating on getting my people in." To his credit, Baffert seemed to have had more things on his mind than whether he would take Real Quiet to the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown. (If Real Quiet wins that, he'll earn a $5 million bonus.) "I don't ever want the day to end, so why would I want to think about two weeks from now?" Baffert said in the winner's circle. "There is a lot of beer to drink today." There sure was, and not just for the lucky and the rich. The funny thing about the 124th Derby is that Baffert, the twice- crowned hero of the Derby, had the same thing on his mind as did darn near all the staggering fans filing out of the track after the big race was over. It's fitting that in Kentucky, the only stronger bond than the love of horse- racing is the love of drinking under the sun, no matter the pedigree of the horse, or the horse fan. Article copyright SAYWHAT! Corporation. Article copyright SAYWHAT! Corporation. Copyright LEO: Louisville Eccentric Observer May 6, 1998
Cite Horse sports; Recreation; Sports
Title Author Publication title Volume Issue Pages Number of pages Publication year Publication date Year Publisher Place of publication Country of publication Source type Language of publication Document type Accession number ProQuest document ID Document URL Copyright Last updated Database
The Tear Sheet: The best party of the year Lindenberger, Michael A Louisville Eccentric Observer 8 26 6 0 1998 May 6, 1998 1998 LEO: Louisville Eccentric Observer Louisville, Ky. United States Newspapers English Commentary SFLNSLVEO1201LEMM845000112 363236427 http://search.proquest.com/docview/363236427?accountid=14026 Copyright LEO: Louisville Eccentric Observer May 6, 1998 2011-10-14 Alt-PressWatch
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