Oldham County man prepares to attend his 75th Kentucky Derby - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Oldham County man prepares to attend his 75th Kentucky Derby

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Bill Camp Bill Camp
Henry Camp Henry Camp
Kitty Camp Kitty Camp

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - We all have our Kentucky Derby Day traditions. One Kentuckiana man's tradition involves only one thing: being at Churchill Downs.

This year, Bill Camp will attend his 75th Kentucky Derby. He said there is no other place he'd rather be on the first Saturday in May.

"We happen to live in this marvelous area and the Kentucky Derby is it," said Camp.

It was Camp's dad who took him to his first Derby.

"I was 9 years old and they didn't have a babysitter so I guess that's how I got there," Camp said. "I saw my first Derby on my dad's shoulders in 1934."    

Camp was hooked. His father didn't like the races so it wasn't until four years later, in 1938, that Bill made it back to Churchill Downs and the Run for the Roses. He's only missed two Derbies after that: once for college finals and the other time for World War II.

"I've gone to Derby every way known to man," Camp said.

In 1943, he watched from the Churchill Downs clubhouse roof after taking a bus from Fort Knox as a newly enlisted private.

"I pulled the chain to stop the bus and I started running and I got into the races, I made a bet on Count Fleet who won," Camp said. "I got to Churchill Downs and I started climbing, and this is the absolute truth, I was on top of the clubhouse and there wasn't anybody up there but Private Camp and the news camera reels."

Camp's favorite Derby memories are all about the horses. He's seen Triple Crown legends begin their rise.

"Secretariat is awful hard to beat," he said of his memories. "Whirlaway was awful hard to beat."

Camp has passed his passion along to his son Henry.

"He always had a certain awe about the races," said Henry Camp, "the challenge of trying to figure out and he goes through all those numbers and crunch them on down."

Now Bill Camp shares his love for the Derby magic with his second wife, Kitty, who has Derby ties of her own. Kitty was with a college friend in 1946, Helen Kleberg of King Ranch in Texas, when Kleberg's family's horse, Assault, won the Derby to start his Triple Crown bid.

"They asked me to go with them down, walked across the dirt in our high-heeled shoes, walked over to where they presented the trophy," Kitty Camp said.

At 88, Bill Camp can't make it easily up and down the stairs into his traditional box at Churchill's clubhouse. He'll watch this year's Derby from Millionaire's Row thanks to an upgrade from Churchill Downs.

"Don't ask me who's going to win this year," he said. "I'm studying on it."

Over the past 75 years, Bill Camp said he hasn't had a whole lot of winners, but it's a safe bet that Derby number 75 for him will not be his last.

"That's a round number but the Good Lord willing, we'll see what happens," he said.

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