LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - I grew up on a dairy farm and we always had several quarter horses. We never lived near horse racing, but we never missed watching the Kentucky Derby on television.
I had no idea that many years later I would live in Louisville and now be approaching my 20th Derby with WAVE 3 News. I’ve seen all the changes at Churchill Downs. But one thing has remained the same -- watching the most exciting two minutes in sports. Forget the prohibitive favorites, when long shots like Giacomo and Mine That Bird can win. Even the most qualified experts can’t be sure which horse will feel great that day or which horse might be leaping forward in speed and endurance as they come of age.
But working the Derby all these years has made me fall in love with everything leading up to the race, like the horses arriving in Louisville, the early-morning workouts and meeting all the connections -- some new, many familiar. It’s such a tight-knit community.
The stars of the show might have commanded more than $1 million at the yearling sale, or maybe they were a bargain-basement find like Charismatic, who ran two claiming races at barely more than $60,000. We get to meet them in their stalls and watch them come off the track from their workouts.
Nothing, though, can top visiting the incredible horse farms that dot the Bluegrass. I’ll never forget a trip to Three Chimneys where I got to see Silver Charm and other Derby winners that got the royal treatment. I’ve seen the top equine veterinarians give Mayo Clinic-type, life-saving treatment to these special thoroughbreds.
Yes, the race is amazing on that first Saturday in May. But what I appreciate most is getting to see the entire industry -- the birthing of foals with dreams of wearing the garland of roses, meeting the people who wouldn’t trade their connection with horses for anything and watching the young ones like Irish Pharaoh take off on a pasture sprint, looking like he could someday match big brother's Triple Crown.
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