I always seem to ponder questions the most when cleaning stalls, and this evening was no different. Twitcapper posed this question on Twitter this afternoon:
I thought for a split second and then immediately chose ► A) “hell to the yeah”, but then I thought, “WHY did I choose this?” I began to put “different hats” on my head – From the owner, right down to the person who washes the leg wraps, and even further down to the paper boy who delivers to the hot walker every morning. (Maybe a bit too far down?) Needless to say, I came to the conclusion that it’s more than a 2:00 minute race. It’s deeper than that, and with only 20 points, as Twitcapper poses in their question, what the hell makes me think I have a chance at winning? Because it’s the Kentucky Derby. It has its own orbit, it’s in its own universe, and anything can happen in its futile atmosphere. When comparing it to its Prep Races, the variables involved in the running of this race could very well triple (or hide, then jump out, or spring up midway through). Prep races are no match for the “Behemoth”. Once the gate opens, all “bets” are off.
In the weeks preceding the Derby we see many write-ups about how a trainer feels his/her horse is coming along, workout times, or a handicapper's thought about what a "stand-out" horse races like in his preps, compared to "lucky wins" from unexpected horses. But what about the people who work on these horses day and night? What does it mean to them being in the Kentucky Derby?
So I throw on my "hats". As an owner, trainer, hot walker, groom, exercise rider, stall cleaner, and even the paper boy, I can see that no matter where I rate on this list, the Kentucky Derby and its Triple Crown potential is somewhat indescribable. The road to the Derby is long and winding and words are few and far between once there, or are they? When you hear "My Old Kentucky Home", the challenges experienced below become obsolete and it all becomes worth it....
The Owner ► “It sure is expensive owning a race horse.” They may no longer feel depleted, but energized.
The Trainer ► “He trains well, but I can’t figure him out sometimes.” They may no longer feel frustrated, but uplifted.
The Hot Walker ► “I spent hours walking that damn horse down the shed row.” They may no longer feel insignificant, but important.
The Groom ► “All I do is brush this horse constantly, he’s like Pig Pen from Peanuts!” They may no longer feel counterproductive, but valuable.
The Exercise Rider ► “This horse rips my arms out every morning!” They may no longer feel annoyed, but gratified.
The Stall Cleaner ► “This horse makes a complete mess of his stall overnight and it’s immaculate when I leave!” They may no longer feel insufficient, but adequate.
And even...The Paper Boy ► “Hey, I deliver papers to the guy that hot walks the Kentucky Derby winner!” They may no longer feel bullied, but befriended.
And while I cannot speak for the Derby entrants themselves, the infamous California Chrome and Wicked Strong, summed it up best.
With regard to the Kentucky Derby experience, some may say, “That’s the kinda stuff you only see in movies.”…No, that’s the kinda stuff movies are made from.