Derby Pleasures Are More Than a Two Minute Horse Race

Note From Rick: I’ve taken lots of guests to the track Derby Week, but spending Oaks Day with John Gilderbloom was among the most entertaining. I made him write a story about the experience, and here it is.

by J. “Hans” Gilderbloom Ph.D.

I have now lived in Louisville longer than my hometown, San Francisco, but my knowledge of Horse racing is about as shallow as knowing the Golden Gate Bridge is really orang,e not gold.

Gilderbloom at the Oaks

However, I do know statistical odds; that is why I have a Ph.D. after my name. Based on a host of factors, I can predict with 95% certainty the odds of your home going up or down in value; or even worse how long you will live based on where your home is located.

I will never learn to win betting on Horses. Even if I calculate while sober and bring a host of “smart factors” into my choices, I still lose. Even when I do win, I still have to pay for entrance fees, food, parking and other bets that I lost. Yes, you can win but you need to subtract the original investment. Who can resist a $3 exact bet that might give you a return of $3, 345 by choosing the finish order of three Horses out of 12?  Now that is seductive!  I think I will “have another”

So I am sitting at a seat valued at $5,000 in Millionaires Row with a successful local businessmen who claims he has sent three of his children through college by being smart and lucky (estimated at $350,000).  He tells me you will lose if you bet on every race, so pick the right races and Horses with a 12 to 1 shot.  Okay!  So being greedy I have him pick my Horses;  I lost anyway.  Darn!  No Hawaiian vacation this year! Oddly when it came for him to bet 30 seconds later he dumped my chosen Horses and went with other Horses for the Oaks race;  well he sorta won if you count a return of $27.58.

I did hear one funny and odd story about how to pick the winning Horse guaranteed-bet on all the Horses. In this case he placed $100 bets on every Horse that ran. He won but his net earnings were minus $800. That doesn’t sound like winning to me either.  I asked people in a crowded elevator if anyone won $1,000 or more for the day. Nobody. But for me “winning” is not the end game, to have a great Kentucky Derby it’s the entire gestalt.

My best Kentucky Derby bet has always been renting out my Victorian Home in the Original Highlands for $8,000 or so with a yearly investment in $3,000 in legal fees, maintenance, upgrades and finding a company to rent it. Sorry about that shameless promotion.

There are two questions folks ask each other: “Did you win?” and/or “Did you have a good Derby?”  I had a great week-minus a few hours Derby Day at the Infield. Here were my highlights, starting 7 days before Derby:

Saturday:  The Cherokee Triangle Art Fair is always pleasurable with the added bonus of some quality art pieces I have added to my collection through out the years.    Sunday:  I went to the Derby Fest Chow Wagon Gospel Festival which was awesome but the “nearly all black crowd” reminds me of the walls between races in the South.  In New York tourists from Germany pay admission to go into black churches in Harlem to hear the real deal.  Heck,  does anyone realize that  Elvis combined gospel with blues and country to come up with the rock and roll sound.

Wednesday: Mudd Sisters’ Annual fundraiser dance party for Alzheimer’s during the Steam Boat Race on the Indiana side at KingFish.  It is always a lot of fun but the highlight was the band, the Louisville Crashers who were talented, tight and enjoyed the stage being invaded by hundreds dancing to soul, rock and country. Next year they might want to add to their song list:  ” I forgot to remember to forget her.”

Thursday:  Headliners featured Madman Across the Water (an Elton John Tribute band) and the band Rumours (provided a tribute to Fleetwood Mac). The entire show was awesome and perhaps is was being able to stand near the stage and hear a perfect mix of throbbing  base and drums.  The Elton John Band was even better than Elton John show at the Yum Center-because the sound was clear and balanced.   Check out the the Madman at Abbey Road by the River on Memorial Day.

But the real treat was Rumours doing it better than Fleetwood Mac for one night! As Keith Richards once said “on any given night the world’s greatest rock and roll band can be playing at any bar, club or arena.”  On  Thursday the magical dust of rock n’ roll fever was spread at Headliners.   Kimmet Cantwell is one of the best vocalists here or anywhere.  She hit all the right notes but with emotion and conviction.  She exuded powerful raw sexiness.  Her backup band was exceptional with Danny Flanagan, Ray Rizzo, Tim Halcomb, Todd Johnson and Natalie Bahandas. Odd that Kimmet could do a better Stevie Nicks and one of the top twenty performances I have ever seen.  I was sorry to have missed the annual Make a Wish Foundation party at the nearby Thunder Dome which is always a lot of fun but the Headliners show held me hostage to great rock and roll music.

Friday:  Oaks with Rick Redding as a member of the media (since I am a member of the press corps, I had to write this article!). Yes, there was lots of great food, an air conditioned observation room, and no lines for betting. It was a Roman treat of comfort, beauty and luxury, though we spent several entertaining hours people watching in the Paddock.  Rick taught me why he loved the Derby and his eyes sparkled when talking about going to the Infield 9 times.

By 7:45 p.m. I get back to my home and after a quick rest, I took a walk around the Original Highlands neighborhood to take in the sights and sounds of Derby on Baxter Avenue. Got lucky with a table at my favorite place, O’Shea’s for some fish and chips and joining me was my favorite movie star (who shall remain unnamed for privacy reasons since she is still filming here in Kentucky). We strolled around the neighborhood and were impressed by how many compliments my dog (Dexter) received.

How to get attention in the Paddock - Wear one of these suits

Aside from getting attention with a cool dog, is to get a cool outfit (can we retire the Blues Brothers digs?) A stellar example of this was Mark Lampton  (whose mug also made the Courier Journal on Sunday) and got mobbed for his custom tailored $500 suit. It harkened back to the Beatles Soho era sporting swirling purple paisleys. He shared that anyone may custom order a suit.

Saturday : Several Washington D.C. friends begged me to make bets on Union Rags (a for- sure winner!)  so I slogged back in the early afternoon to make bets at the Infield and waited 45 minutes to place bets among a crowd of sweaty, pushy and angry folks who felt they were being treated rudely.  It’s better to go to one of a million house parties.  I went to an annual family house party and celebrate the 14th birthday of Emma Corner. Honestly, it was so much better than $50 infield of hot and sweaty Hell.

My last event of the evening was stopping by the Monkey Wrench which puts “hip” back into hipster.  I went to see a short and convincing set by Johnny Berry and the Outliers with Steve Cooley sitting in.   How come Louisville has all this great music and nobody outside of Louisville seems to know about it?

Sunday:  Highland Baptist Church and the Pastor, Joe Phelps, referenced the Derby by saying it’s a call to the races or a call to God.  I guess all bets are off at church. Happy Derby everyone!

J. “Hans” Gilderbloom’s last articlewas about music and appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine…..a long,. long time ago.