By Hunter Ford
I don’t always watch the Kentucky Derby, but when I do I thoroughly enjoy it. Today is Kentucky Derby Day, and I plan on taking it all in.
I’m not any kind of horse expert. I don’t gamble on the race, or really understand, or care to understand, the betting lingo. I don’t have a horse in the race, so to speak. I’m writing this a couple of hours before post time, so I don’t intend to comment on today’s event specifically.
Doing some research, I did find some interesting info on horse racing in Alabama. I’ll get back to that later. But first, the reason I like The Derby.
I have always loved horses. When I was a child, my grandfather had a couple of saddle horses we would ride together. They were sweet-natured, lazy nags that were hard to motivate beyond and awkward trot that would leave you bouncing in the saddle like a rubber ball on a wooden paddle. However, when you pointed them back towards the barn after a leisurely ride, they would take off like a bat out of hell to get to the feed they knew was coming.
Instead of a paddle ball game, you were treated to an experience that was exhilaratingly frightening and awe-inspiring. The choppy gait transformed into a raging gallop. The feeling on top of the animal went from jackhammer-jarring to smooth glide. It was like flying. You could hear the hooves thundering beneath you, but only felt the rush of the wind. “Rush of the Wind” and “Smooth Glide” would be excellent names for race horses.
I love the names. Seabiscuit, Secretariat and Seattle Slew were all champions, and their names have become iconic, but they are hardly the best. This year’s race features some cool names. California Chrome, Wildcat Red, Wicked Strong, and Intense Holiday, among others, will be competing for the roses. Oh, and there is a horse named Danza, named after Tony from TV’s “Who’s the Boss?”
Here are some great names from the past:
Sly Fox (1898 Preakness winner)
War Admiral (1937 Triple Crown Winner)
Tobasco Cat (1994 Belmont winner)
Thunder Gulch (1995 Kentucky Derby winner)
Atswhatimtalkinabout (co-owned by Steven Speilberg)
Of course, the pageantry of it all is something to behold; fancy people with fancy hats drinking mint juleps and waiting for the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home.”
Why couldn’t we have something like that in Alabama? Danza, the horse, recently won the Arkansas Derby. Could we not have an Alabama Derby?
According to a website, www.bloodhorse.com, “Alabama horse racing-or lack thereof-has been dominated by lawsuits and battles between horsemen’s groups since the late 1990s.”
Sounds just like Alabama doesn’t it? Lawsuits and politics.
In a Birmingham News article from 2011, there was speculation that horse racing might return to Alabama. Yes, we had horse racing at Milton McGregor’s Birmingham Race Course in the 1990s. In the News article, McGregor said he would be willing to bring horse racing back if gaming were allowed.
Apparently McGregor thinks gaming is necessary to generate the revenue required to bring quality horses, jockeys, and owners, thereby creating a legitimate horse racing experience.
I wouldn’t always go to an Alabama Derby, if we had one. But I would like to have that option. If only somebody or some group could have the vision and the diplomacy to make it happen.