Chillin’ at Churchill

I probably shouldn’t include “chill” in the title of this post, because Saturday, June 12 was anything but.

And if I was chillin’ in the sense of relaxation, it might have been due to a heat coma from the 90-degree mugginess that graced us with her presence that day.

I’m not going to lie. I haven’t formed a formal opinion about the hallowed Home of the Kentucky Derby. And I don’t think that mid-June is the best time of year to shape one.

But enough bitching about the heat. AjZig‘s excitement at seeing Rachel Alexandra and watching his bosses at Winstar Farm O-fficially be awarded the Derby trophy was enough to make Kim Jong-il smile.

The two of us rose early and arrived at Louisville’s Churchill Downs a bit before lunch. The kind folks at Winstar, where AjZig is helping out, giving farm tours by day and dreaming about his debut as a thoroughbred horse owner by night, had offered us their grandstand seats.

A view from the grandstands at Churchill... feel the heat.!

Yes. This was a big day for Winstar, Todd Pletcher, Calvin Borel, and by association, AjZig. The Kentucky Derby winners would be receiving their engraved trophies down at the track.

What can I say? Churchill Downs reminded me of our 2008 trip to NYC’s Belmont Park in many ways. I could imagine the heyday of racing in the regal towers and arched entryways surrounding the well-manicured track. But I also saw its decline in the line of toothless and bedraggled bettors already smacking their lips on a fifth morning Budweiser.

Maybe it was the heat and the stench of school cafeteria/bar close that got to me. But I wasn’t having it. And unfortunately for AjZig, he had to deal with me. For better or worse, baby.!

The highlights of the day included an appearance by the infamous Rachel Alexandra, and she is as beautiful in person as she is on TV; surprisingly delicious chicken fingers; Borel’s eternal grin (he managed to win on about every horse he rode that day); and a trip to Winstar’s Jockey Club Suite.

Seven races into the day… with an eternity to go…

After seeing our imminent dehydration and my combustible emotions, what only can be described as a guardian angel appeared from Churchill’s concession stand, leading us to air conditioning and horse racing royalty. Sacred ground. We rode the elevator for miles to a deserted island of classiness, complete with a a private betting and bar area…no need to interact with the sweaty masses below.

The Winstar box was really nice; they had food and a bar set up to themselves. Good people. Down-to-earth and friendly Midwesterners/Southerners/Texans.

AjZig made good on this one.  I wholly appreciated the angel’s saving grace and was much improved…even pleasant and slightly talkative after a fancy champagne with a strawberry on top.

Fancy champagne with a strawberry on top.

The history and tradition of Churchill Downs is something to be appreciated, and I truly can’t wait to return and learn more. Seriously. No sarcasm here.

Some things take time and energy to appreciate; and I’m getting there. Not everyone likes cabbage, hoppy India Pale Ale or weirdo-Indie-electronica-trippy music…upon first taste.

Give me some time, some air conditioning and maybe a few more of those fancy-schmancy drinks.

The Daily Racing Form: a sacred text to horse bettors.

Moral of the story.

AjZig and I learned a few things from this trip.

1)  You don’t have to be as passionate about every hobby or interest your significant other possesses.  Support, empathy and kindness is more than enough.

2)  Don’t take an easily-overheated, Scotch-Irish woman to the racetrack in the middle of June. Even ice-cold, aluminum- sheathed brewskies with fried chicken fingers will not assuage her irritation. Telling her she looks pretty will not work either.

3)  Dairy Queen milkshakes, however, can fix about anything.

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One response to “Chillin’ at Churchill

  1. Hey! It is so good to hear from you, it sounds like you two are great! Love to read of your adventures and life!!

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