Countdown to the Derby with Matt Winn: Final edition, 2011

May 7th 2011 07:00 am |

Happy Derby morning everyone! Let’s close out the Counting Down the Derby series with a quote from Col Matt Winn’s biography where summarizes how the Derby went from a few thousand locals to the one-hundred thousand people from all over the nation who attend the race today. In Winn’s estimation, the formula was simple.

Here is how he described it in 1945:

I have explained how Donerail, the long shot winner in 1913, Old Rosebud, the track record maker in 1914, and Regret, the filly which won in 1915, gave us three successive years of publicity. People were reading about the Kentucky Derby who never had even heard about it before. They became curious. They decided that Kentucky must have something, and made a memo that if they were in the Louisville neighborhood when the next Derby was run they would drop around.

When they arrived in Louisville during Derby Week, they found the store windows decorated with elaborate photos of jockeys and horses; they found the town pretty well crowded with men and women talking about horses. They learned of gay parties at the clubs, and in the hotel dining rooms; they found that an informal carnival was within the town and quickly caught the spirit.

Having made the sojourn at the Downs, they became part of the colorful, milling crowd. They heard a bugle blow along toward sunset, and saw a field of horses parade onto the track – Kentucky Derby horses. Softly, came the strains of “My Old Kentucky Home,” and, suddenly a lump came to their throats. They watched the horses down the track to the starting line; they heard the cry, “They’re off” and they saw the running of a Kentucky Derby.

Somewhere along their pathways in Louisville, they met others, who, like themselves, were newcomers to the Derby; others, like themselves, who had found enjoyment at the fiesta. So when parting time came, they pledged a reunion “next Derby Day.”

They had lived their days and nights in the gentle springtime of Kentucky; they had been part of the fun-loving, ever democratic Derby Day crowd. They had experienced a new and different adventure. This was something they could talk about when they returned home. And the next year, with the running of another Derby, they were back, perhaps bringing friends and meeting the ones they had made the year before.

In Winn’s estimation it was the scene, the crowd and the camaraderie that brought everyone back year after year. As much as racing has changed since Winn’s day, the attraction to the Derby has not changed a bit.

As is my Derby tradition, I’ll be at Delaware Park today enjoying the live races and watching the big race on the infield big screen. Wherever you may be watching, best of luck! Let’s all cash big tickets this afternoon and may the best horse win…and let’s hope the best horse is ArchArchArch who I will be backing today (even though his post position is a likely killer).

Thanks for reading and good luck!

Filed in Churchill Downs,Countdown to Derby,Kentucky Derby,Winn, Matt J.

One Response to “Countdown to the Derby with Matt Winn: Final edition, 2011”

  1. Rick Davies says:

    Too bad about AAA, that stumble did him in. But hopefully he’ll be back by the fall.