Category Archives: Kentucky Derby

I’m Getting Those F’ing Wings!!!

And I did, but that’s for later.

Derby time!

…and we’re off! Photo by BW

Smooth flight down—yay!—on Thursday, with our delightful cop, Justin, and equally delightful escort, Anne, picking us up for the ride into Louisville. Time for lunch, and yum, before it’s off to the hotel to unpack and decompress, then dude it up some for Club Night. Happily the event’s right here in the hotel. Especially since the theme is Bourbon Tasting. Sorry, Kentucky, not my drink, but my companions sampled some new to them bourbons.

Nora and BW, ready for fun. Photo by Laura.

Wonderful, big space, a fabulous rotations of live entertainment. And best of all reconnecting with some of our Derby family, much missed since Covid kept us home the last three years. Laura and Mark haven’t been to Derby with us since 2016. But they remember everybody!

Great weather, fun times. Lots of dancing. Felt good to get the groove on, and see so many shiny, happy faces.

I met Tricia Helfer, whom I’ve loved since Battlestar Galactica. Number Six!! She is ridiculously beautiful. We reconnect with the fabulous York Sisters, Tonya and Tammy, who put this incredible weekend together year after year. And so many more Derby pals—plus the chance to make new ones.

Bruce, Nora and Tonya York

Tumble into bed about midnight.

I do a very short little in-room workout in the a.m, then Anne’s taking me and Laura to get mani/pedis, shop, lunch while BW and Mark are off to the Oaks. I pick a filly—I have yet to win and Oaks race in all these years, but hope springs. BW will bet for me.

Off we go to a lovely salon with GREAT pedi chairs. Oh boy, ahhhh. Pretty fingers and toes for all. The guy who did my mani is also the manager—possibly the owner. Young guy who seriously knows how to multi-task and keep things moving smooth, even on the day before Derby when people are calling, doing walk-ins, chairs are rotating.

A pregnant mom and her little girl—maybe five—get pedis. So, so cute.

Our Italian restaurant (Grassa Gramma) for lunch is right next door, and it’s wonderful. We see a group of dressed-to-the-nine’s ladies sitting outside. Laura offers to take their photo—all there to celebrate one of the ladies’ birthday.

They’re all so pretty!

The dining room at Grassa Gramma.

The very ornate Italian decor of the restaurant  just sets the mood for my amazing spaghetti and meatballs. Anne and Laura both go for the pasta primavera. And nobody left hungry or disappointed.

Meanwhile. BW and Mark at the Oaks.

Shopping at Rodes with Beth next—a long Derby tradition. I score! But I had no doubt. Actually found the perfect wrap for the gala—much better than what I brought with me. Also some very cool and comfy sneakers. I don’t need more sneakers, but they’re so cute! And a little this, a little that.

Back to the hotel to chill before we glam it up for the gala. They hold a silent auction to benefit Blessings In A Backpack—such a good cause. And everybody gets spiffied up. I think the four of us—five including Anne—pulled off the spiff!

Gala ready.
Laura, Nora and Anne dressed for the evening.

But I continue my losing streak on the Oaks. Next time!

On the red carpet.

My first stop when we get down to the ballroom area, is that auction. I’ve already looked at some of the donated items on line, but did NOT spot the amazing wings until I saw them in person. And I immediate knew—I’m getting those f’ing wings. They’ll look so right in my gardens! I see a few other things—and hey, for the kids—so bid.

Those f’ing wings! Photo courtesey of Unbridled Eve.

More music—such great entertainment and all in a big ballroom that has simply gorgeous decor.

Tammy and Tonya York, acknowledging the Nora Roberts Foundation.
Tablescape. Photo by BW.

Someone else wants my wings—but they don’t have a chance. I’m determined! Bid, bid, bid, stalking bids with my phone, but still managing to get up and dance. You can’t NOT dance with that music pulling you up.

First act of the night – JD Shelburne.

When the auction closes, the f’ing wings are mine!! Was there any doubt? Once I find the perfect spot, I’ll take another picture.

The packed dance floor with Robin Wilson of The Gin Blossoms on stage.

More dancing, more happy—a quick stop to mug for the Photo Booth—then another tumble into bed.

We’re going to the track early—why not spend the day at the Downs? We ride with Lisa Leslie and Michael Lockwood… They’re not only TALL, but both are gorgeous. Plus so nice. BW and Mark sat with them at the Oaks on Friday, so they’re already Derby pals.

Michael Lockwood, BW and Lisa Leslie at the Oaks.
The early birds win the early races! Off to the Derby in style. Photo by BW

Perfect Derby weather, and a quick walk down the red carpet, then a longer one—always wear comfortable shoes to the Derby!—to our floor and our area for the day.

The best looking group on the red carpet.

And just in time to place a bet on the second race. And I’m a winner! Woo. As I am on the next race, and the one after. Whoa baby, I’m on a streak!

Lisa and Michael also hit on the first bet, and I believe the second. We seem to have a mind meld going on what horse to pick.

More people filter in, so many fun hats, pretty dresses, handsome suits! And so much happy energy. We have our fantastic long-time servers, Amy and Kim, and that’s another reunion.

I love standing out on the terrace, looking out at the track—so rich and brown against the green infield and the white buildings and stands.

More hugs and kisses, more catching up with old friends.

More betting!!

BW has his own serious system. Mine is—first always bet on the gray—and if no gray, I go by the name. What appeals. (Like one big winner for me, Webslinger. I’d always bet on Spider-Man!) I Always bet across the board. Win, Place Show.

Guess who won more races? Ha! I think I only had three races all day where one of my horses didn’t come in.

We’re honored to have the legendary Randy Travis and his lovely wife, Mary, at our table. Also J.D. Shelburne and his lovely wife, Amy. J.D. performed at the gala, so played a part in getting people on the dance floor.

Nora, Randy and Mary Travis

This is part of Derby magic for me, meeting people you admire for their art, their talent, then getting a chance to know the person behind that art, that talent.

When JD (Shelburne) meets JD (Robb).
Tricia Helfer and Nora.

For the Derby race, I also pick horses for my fam at home. Kayla happened to get home from college a couple days before we left, so I showed her the field. She picked Mage—for the name.

I also bet on Mage. Because, hey, magic.

As the big race approaches, the energy’s through the roof. The sun really does shine bright today on our old Kentucky home. Everyone crowds outside to watch the horses parade. They’re simply beautiful.

The packed stands pre-race 12 (Derby race).

All bets placed, the crowd in the stands and the infield are pumping out more energy.

And they’re off!

It’s simply impossible to describe the feeling. The cheers rising up, spreading out in a wall of sound. Then the stunning look of those athletes—horses and riders—flying over that oval. It’s thunder and lighting on four legs. As always, I lose track of my horses—the ones I bet. Because it just doesn’t matter now.

The race is on.

This is it, a breath-taking display of speed and athleticism. The wild excitement of that two minutes when thousands of people are focused on the same thing.

But as they’re coming down the stretch, I hear people shouting, Come on #8. Why, that’s Mage! And I see him, oh yeah, I see that beauty streaking toward the finish line. Just tearing up the track.

I realize no one’s going to catch that horse. Kayla and I have the Derby winner!!!

Now there’s the bonus of fun. Winner, winner! I love texting her she won, and her OMG reaction.

We have to say goodbye to many, but we always stay for the last two races. Mostly hoping traffic will ease up.

It’s starting to rain—lucky it held off for Derby!

The rain coming in

And Laura hits it big*—I have another winner to cap it off.

Then the long walk down, the search for the right lot where Justin waits to take us home.

Our hope re traffic wasn’t realized. Whew, it’s a long ride, but we made it. And Anne brings us pizza. Just the perfect end to a perfect day.

Nora, Justin Probus, BW and Anne Rademaker — the two people who made things happen.

At some point during that perfect day, I lost my voice. Just gone. But it seems to be coming back as I write this.

We’re heading to the airport soon—had to wait out a wild, really wild storm. Clearing up now—thank all the gods and goddesses.

Honestly couldn’t have had a better time, in better company. They’re going to ship my f’ing wings. Can’t wait to find the perfect spot for them.

Thank you again, Tonya and Tammy, for having us back for the best weekend of the year!

(Turns out not so lucky today—4-hour delay so far**, and who knows when we’ll finally take off!)


Notes from Laura:

*Let’s be honest, Nora’s big win is a tad larger than mine. But since my Derby win was $8 in 2016, I’ll take this.

**Our delay totaled 5 hours. At one point, the pilot told us we’d be parked for nearly two more hours, so he and his co-pilot were ordering some pizza — would we like some? Sure! Why not?

Then he told us we could step out on the tarmac to stretch our legs since we’d been in Justin’s car for two hours and then the plane for another two. Do something very few people ever get to do? Sure! Why not???

Just a small taste of the planes lined up.

We get back on the plane, finally start moving in a slow stop-and-go when the copilot springs up and re-opens the door. The pizza was coming out on a golf cart! He grabbed it and put it on an empty seat,

then once he closed the door, he came back and put the seatbelt around the precious cargo.

We were all home by 7 pm.


Win, Place, Show

The first Saturday in May always manages to sneak up on me. I mostly avoided that this year by taking the Sunday before to figure out all the clothes, shoes, bags for three fun-filled days in Louisville.

This must become habit as I avoided all the last-minute insanity and could just plunk everything in a suitcase Wednesday night.

This year we took good pals JoAnne and Larry with us, got on the plane Thursday morning–hit some weather which is NOT fun–had to circle awhile. Then ah, terra firma, how I missed you.

Our three days of Derby are packed so it’s hit the ground running. But first time for some lunch, a nice time to catch up with the excellent Brian and Sara. We’ll miss Kathy this year, but Sara–hair magician–will look out for us.

It’s cloudy, and rain’s threatening, but hey, we’re in Louisville, and it’s Derby. We’re not going to let that dampen our spirits.

Off to the hotel, unload, unpack. Whew. Let’s definitely have a drink.

Tonight is Club Night in two parts. The first, the Frazier Museum, the second at a speakeasy type club with a Steampunk theme. Let’s get this party started!

It’s always great to start seeing members of our Derby family again. Happy faces, familiar faces, welcoming hugs. The museum’s a big, airy, wonderful space for an event. A terrific place to wander or sit with a glass of champagne, catch up with Derby pals. Plenty of food if you’re hungry, and energy already bubbling like that champagne.

It’s great to see Tonya and Tammy again–these sisters, these clever, busy women organize, spearhead and guide this complex, complicated and simply fabulous event every year. We’re so grateful to be a part of it.

From the museum, it’s off to the club. Time to don our steampunk hats! This is a brick-walled, atmospheric place, and it’s packed. How we managed to find an empty table, I don’t know. There’s a steampunky mask laying on it, I assume someone left behind. I see a mask, I put it on!


More happy faces, more greetings–some impressive costumes–and just an easy good time that’s topped off with a warm cookie and ice cream at the end. Yum.

Time for bed to rest up for our very full Friday.

Jo and I are very good girls and get a little workout done in the morning. A little cardio, a little core, a little yoga. We’ve now earned all our fun and frivolity.

Sara picks us up and ten, and we wish our men good luck at the track. I give BW my pick for the Oaks before we part ways. I’ve yet to hit, in all these years, in the Fillies For The Lilies, but this may be the year. (Spoiler Alert: It’s not.)

We’re off to City Nails for mani-pedis. I love this place, another happy place, so friendly and fun. They’ve done some remodeling–new paint, new chairs, new blingy lights. It looks great. And oh boy, does it feel good to have my feet soaked and rubbed and scrubbed while we watch the races on the flat screen.

Jo asks if they do dipping, and they do. I have no idea what this is–I don’t get into a salon very often. I’m told I should try it for my mani, and okay, I’m game.

The process is freaking fascinating to me. My nails are a complete mess–keyboarding and gardening will do that. But my hands are taken in hand and transformed. Evened up, clipped, smoothed out, then covered with some sort of bonding agent that looks like clear polish. I’m getting a French, and the tips of my fingers are carefully dipped into this white powder, one at a time, then the whole nail’s dipped into a pale pink powder. A couple layers of this, and I’m amazed as I can already see the results.

Nails are buffed and smoothed, and suddenly they’re perfect. The kind of nails a woman might have if she didn’t spend hours hammering at a keyboard, then her weekends digging in dirt and pulling weeds.

I have lady hands!!

We say goodbye to the wonders of City Nails and celebrate our pretty digits at La Vin for lunch.

Louisville, I have to say, has great food, fun restaurants, cheerful service. Since I stopped touring I don’t get out and about in the world much, and Derby reminds me why this area was always one of my favorite stops when I did tour. People are just nice here.

I say the same about shopping at Rodes. Always a fun time with fun people. And I really luck out as the weather’s not looking good for Derby day and Beth has this fabulous (reversible!) topper that will scoff at the rain. As always, they have men’s shoes (size 14!) for me to choose from for BW’s traditional Father’s Day gift. I’ll add his shoes have been a big hit at Derby so far.

At the end, Beth temps me with several gorgeous scarves. I shouldn’t buy more scarves, but . . . I’ll do a purge through what I have. Plus one will go so well with my new topper.

Thanks, ladies, and see you next year.

Sara zips us back to the hotel. It’s gala night, and we need hair!

The guys aren’t back yet, so we extend our just girls time with hair and makeup. As Cathy at City Nails transformed my nails, Sara transforms my hair. A little fun and glamour.

Our men return with reports they did okay at the track–and more they had a great time. The rain’s held off, or mostly. We even saw some peeks of sun now and then. But now it’s time to suit up for Unbridled Eve. Gowns and tuxes and sparkles for the gala, a great time that benefits a great cause in Blessings In A Backpack.

Our pals Isabel and Steven join us for an interlude in our suite before we all head down. It’s so good to see them! More Happy Derby time. And we all look pretty terrific.

Brian’s waiting to escort us down to the Red Carpet, the big ballroom, the silent auction (I’ve already picked my goals there!)

Everyone looks gorgeous in a gorgeous space. The flowers, the lights, the sparkles! At the end of the Red Carpet, my pals have a glass of champagne waiting for me. That’s why they’re my pals! I have to do a walk-through the silent auction area, and note there are a couple other things that might deserve a few bids from me. Good cause, after all.

Red Carpet ready

Sara and her Mike join us at our table, as do the fabulous Mike Mills (R.E.M.) and his fiancee Jasmine. We’re a very happy group, and I’m pretty excited that Mike’s going to perform later. In all the years we’ve come, I’ve never heard him perform. An extra treat for this R.E.M. fan.

Tonya and Tammy–those amazing York sisters–put on a hell of an event. The entertainment is awesome. I love hearing John Elefante singing some of my Kansas favorites just as I love reconnecting with him and his lovely wife Michelle.

Meanwhile, I’m bidding on my phone–eyes on the prize.

Then Mike takes the stage, straps on a guitar, and wow. Just wow. I love he does Don’t Go Back To Rockville–that’s where my pal JoAnne grew up, and I grew up basically next-door in Silver Spring. It’s amazing to hear him do I Am Superman, a song I’ve sung along to countless times.

It makes me think just how blessed I am to be here.

I even win three of my bids. Woo!

Before we leave we boogie to Skip Martin from Kool And The Gang. Yeah, Celebrate!

Tumble into bed. Sleep like a rock.

Another workout for the good girls in the morning before we start duding up for the Big Day. It’s going to rain, we’ll just have to deal with that. Plus, I have my new topper and scarf!

We look damn good.

Derby ensemble

Brian’s waiting, and it’s off to the track. We like to get there early because BET! HORSES! THE DOWNS!

It’s a little drizzly, but not bad, and nothing, really nothing, can spoil my first look at that gorgeous track, that rich brown oval, the white spires, the green, green grass of the infield.

Champagne on ice, hugs to our servers Amy and Kim–and let’s get those bets in. I bet on the third race. It will be the first of only two times through the days I don’t cash a ticket.

The gang’s all here

I am hot! I have a streak going as more people come in, as we meet and greet and exchange tactics, take pictures, eat, drink, bet.

So many pretty outfits, so many pretty hats!

Yes, it rains off and on, but it’s Derby Day and the energy is high and happy.

BW and Nora

I stick with my strategy (don’t mess with a streak) of just betting across the board. No fancy stuff. I always bet the gray if one’s in the field, otherwise I go by names that strike me. Or an Irish horse if one’s running. For whatever reason, it’s working for me. My pal Jo is a complicated better. Trifectas, exactas, supers, boxes. I have a hard time figuring out how to do any of that anyway.

More champagne, and now there are cookies! And lots of what’s your pick, who did you bet? Some table hopping. We have Mike and Jasmine and Skip at our–it makes for a lot of happy.

It’s building to that time, and the rain doesn’t want to quit. It’s not the deluge we had last year, so that’s something. I’ve picked horses for my kids–and some of the grandkids sent me names they liked. To avoid the mad rush of the Derby race, I’ve placed those bets through the day, tucked the tickets away in my purse.

Nora, JoAnne and Larry

You can feel the pulse of the room quicken as post time approaches. Everyone crowds out on the terrace when they play My Old Kentucky home. It’s a moment, always a moment, as is the roar of thousands at the end.

The favorite was scratched Wednesday night, so the field’s pretty wide open. Another horse scratched Friday, I think it was. Watching the horses and riders circle the field is magic. The excitement builds, builds, builds as they’re loaded into the gate.

And in a fingersnap, they’re off.

Stunning, always stunning. A sensory overload of sight and sound. The ocean roar of the crowd, the thunder of hooves, the slop of the track flying, and those colorful silks in the gloomy light. I can never keep track of the horses I bet on, not in that blur of strength and beauty. I honestly never care by that point.

Seven crosses first as the crowd cheers and cheers. I realize I have some money on seven, so that’s nice.

But there’s been a foul called–two riders called foul on seven. Hold your tickets. It had to be an endless, stressful wait for the jockeys, the trainers, the owners. Eventually seven was disqualified for swerving out of his lane, nearly causing a pile up. Not intentional, it just happened.

Country House–a 65-1 long shot (and one I nearly tossed a little bet at) wins the Derby. That bumps Tacitus–number 8–into third. I had some money on him, and picked him for Jason. So we both won a bit. Next time I think: Well, I live in a country house, I should put ten across the board there, I damn well will!

We say goodbye to some of our Derby pals until next year. We always stay for the last races–bet, yes, but also traffic.

I hit on the 13th race, and nicely, thank you.

On the last race there are three grays. Well, it’s the last race, bet them all. Jo and BW decide to follow me on that one. And Jo does another bet adding #5 for I think it’s a super.

We go out to watch while the place empties out. Watch the horses–and those three pretty grays head to the gate. Hear that clang for the last time today, watch them run. And holy crap, look at those grays!

This is unexpected! All three run like the wind, and all three come in. Win, Place, Show. I end the day with a surprising and substantial win. And Jo? She hit the super as #5 came in fourth. A crescendo to our operatic day at the track.

Amazing and wonderful, start to finish.

Back to the hotel for some food, some unwinding. Bed.

Up to pack–always more going home than coming in. The sun, at last is fighting through the clouds. Mom checks–two or three times–on the suite.

Sara and Brian wait to haul us all back to the airport.

And it’s goodbye to Louisville after a whirlwind three days that put so many good memories in the bank. I hope all my Derby pals have a fantastic year.

See you all next May!


The First Saturday in May

There’s nothing like Derby, and we’re so fortunate to go every year. The experience continues to be amazing, entertaining, special and just plain fun.

Kat and Jason joined us this year (baby’s first Derby!) as we flew out Thursday morning. For an added treat, two long-time pals planned to attend this year, and though the generosity of our fabulous hosts and spectacular coordinators, the York sisters, were included in some of our fun.

We touched down after some showers to a pretty day, happily met by our Derby pals, Kathy our usual host and Brian our cop. Family reunion! Time to transfer luggage and people into the cars and head off for lunch. Kathy, Kat and I catch up along the drive. We’re not going to have our Kathy all weekend this time as her son’s being promoted to Captain (US Army) and his pinning ceremony’s on Friday. We have to fit a lot of Kathy into a short amount of time.

Good food, good company, and it’s off to the hotel to visit with Kathy a little more, to unpack. Then Kathy’s off for her eight-hour drive–good mom–and our Kat (mom-to-be) takes a little nap.

It’s Club Night, and time dude it up a little. And here come Isabel and Stephen! Our schedules haven’t meshed in way too long, so this is really special treat. Isabel was my fantabulous editor for most of my run at Silhouette. It’s so good to see them, and as they’re Derby virgins, to introduce them to the whole experience.

They’ve had a few days in the area already, done bourbon tours, visited the backside at the Downs, soaked up plenty of barbecue, so they’re primed.

Club Night brings us all together with our Derby family. It’s great to see familiar faces, do more catching up. And in a venue like the Frazier Museum, it’s a terrific kick-off. We’ve got food, drink, music, poker–and best of all friends.

And a totally cool exhibit. The museum’s showcasing Mona Bismark. Who’s that? you say. So did I. She was a famous local socialite, fashion queen and much photographed beauty (with pals like Salvador Dali) who reigned for decades. We get to see samples of her wardrobe from the 40s to 70s, and it’s amazing. The photographs, the handwritten letters to and from her, the collection of shoes! All of it. Gorgeous gowns, sleek suits, all showing the fascinating changes in fashion.

My favorite, hand down? Cocktail pajamas! This is a fashion statement I can get behind all the way. Mona, with this one concept, you are my hero.

Cocktail pajamas. Photo by Isabel

Description of pjs Photo by Isabel.

We eat, drink, mix, mingle, enjoy. And it’s a lovely night, walk the four or five blocks back to our hotel. Which gave us a chance to admire the biggest Louisville Slugger in the world.

#randomkatness Louisville style. Photo by kat

Fall into bed. Friday’s going to be a long one.

And it’s a gorgeous day. The guys, in Brian’s care, are headed to the Oaks and sporting pink. We girls, with Ann as our host, are off for nails at the best nail salon anywhere, imo, City Nails. As you can see, our pedis are magnificent!

Stephen, BW and Jason sport pink accents for Oaks Day. Photo by BW

Pedi-ready for the Gala. Photo by NR

After getting ourselves buffed and polished, it’s time for lunch. Ann makes it easy, hauling us around Louisville. Isabel and I split a grilled cheese sandwich. It should have a loftier name as it’s warm, melty brie inside toasted sour dough. I will never looked at a grilled cheese the same again. Match that with a bowl of thick, herby tomato soup, add a mimosa? Oh boy.

Our adorable waiter brought up a little sample of the Lily signature drink (Fillies for the Lilies today). When we told him Kat was pregnant (and I’d take her sample!) he went back and made her a non-alcoholic version.

Then it’s off to Rode’s to meet up with Beth and the team for some shopping. Always so much fun! And they’ve hunted up some very cool shoes for BW’s size 14 feet. It’s tradition for Father’s Day. BW gets a pair of very cool shoes, and our gal at Rode’s really came through.

I buy two scarves because they’re gorgeous, a really snappy hoodie, an excellent linen sheath dress and well, more.

Now it’s back to the hotel to meet up with Sarah who’ll make our hair look fabulous for the gala. And boy, does she.

The guys come back from their day at The Oaks. I think my pick for the big race, My Miss Lily (a gray) came in dead last. Oh well.

Now it’s seriously dude it up time for the Unbridled Eve gala.

I believe we pulled this off very well.

UnBridled Eve Gala ready (l-r) Stephen, Isabel, BW, Nora, Jason & Kat. Photo by BW’s camera.

Nora and BW on the red carpet. Photo by j a-b

Down to check in, hit the red carpet. Spot another Derby pal, and as we chat she points out she’s bringing a little something extra this year. She’s got a very sweet baby bump. I tell her Kat’s expecting, too, ask when she’s due. October. So’s Kat. I call Kat over, ask what day in October. 15th. Kat’s due the 17th! A sweet moment of serendipity.

This is Unbridled’s big night, full of music, color, stunning tablescapes. They have a couple of live auctions through the evening, and a silent one that runs all through. The proceeds benefit excellent causes, Blessings In A Backpack and The Jennifer Lawrence Foundation. It’s all about the kids, so bid generously!

I do! I have my handy phone app for the night, scout out the offerings–so much generously donated!–pick my targets.

Move through the crowd and into the ballroom. I buy a table every year (excellent causes) so we have our six, our Ann, and the fabulous Mike Mills (R.E.M) who we know from Derbys past. The music’s already rocking with The Crashers, a hot local band who performs every year at the event.

The gorgeous table decorations. Photo by j a-b

The entertainment’s seriously loaded this year–and one of the highlights is a set headed by Dennis Quaid. The man who played Jerry Lee Lewis can really rock it out. And the man who uttered one of my favorite lines in one of my favorite movies (The Big Easy–Your luck’s about to change, cher.) really gets the crowd moving.

Dennis Quaid, rocker. Photo by BW

Another highlight is John Rzeznik–Goo Goo Dolls lead singer, and his set. Wowzer! Then he auctions off the guitar he played. Nice.

Yet another highlight in an evening full of them is the big live auction. It includes a catered dinner by Paul Sorvino and his wife–known for the culinary skills–10 tickets to next year’s Oaks, 10 for the Derby–in the Jockey Suite at the Downs. This is big stuff.

The bidding’s pretty lively, and begins to top off at about 30k. You’re to hold up the lighted number of your table to bid. Toward the end, Stephen asks Jason to pass it to him. Honestly, I thought he just wanted to see it. But no, up it goes. And Stephen wins the bid! Obviously we’ve done an excellent job introducing them to Derby. And we’ll see them here next year!

I do my own (much smaller) part with the silent auction, and bag my Baubles, Beatles and Baccarat. Perfect. Lovely diamond hoops, a framed, backed on wood, picture of the Abbey Road cover (a fave), and six gorgeous Baccarat champagne flutes.

We have to hit the photo booth for fun, drag Mike and Ann along with us. Can’t wait to see how our shots turn out.

We’re done–and tomorrow’s Derby. My only regret of the weekend is hearing Quaid came back late and hit the dance floor with the crowd. Really sorry I missed that.

Derby Day. Rain. The weather guy insists the worst will miss us and it’s going to clear by midday. Glad I didn’t bet on him! It will be the wettest Derby in Derby history before it’s done, but we don’t let that dampen our experience.

Set for the Derby. Photo by BW

Baby’s first Derby day. Photo by BW

Ready for Derby! Photo by BW

And, again, we look fabulous!

Another red carpet, and up we go to Millionaire’s Row. We get there before the third race–we want as much of the day as we can pack in. And I walk straight out to the terrace to take it in. It may be gray and gloomy, but the track is just stunning, as always. The richness of the dirt, the brilliance of the grass, the beauty of the twin spires, none of it ever loses its magic for me.

photo by j a-b

Back in to greet our traditional server. When Amy sees Kat’s pregnant, she vows to take extra special care of her. And she does.

Pick a horse, bet, win. Yay.

Our little group huddles with our programs, picking horses by our own methods. Names, colors, jockey or trainers–whatever works. And as Jason points out: They’re horses, so who knows?

Kat’s hat at the Derby. Photo by NR

Family shot at the Derby. Photo by BW

Tonya York Dees and Nora. Photo by BW.

I actually do reasonably well through the day–hit a couple good ones.

It’s even more fun when pals join us. Here’s Anita and Cate–and don’t they look great? Here’s Robert Williamson. There’s James–in his tie of real rosebuds, and his ridiculously beautiful wife, Lisa.

And on and on.

But now it’s coming up to time for the big one. I’ve gone with Mendelssohn — he’s got an Irish trainer and being hyped. Not the favorite, that’s Justify, but I think a good pick. Figure out a few more to put some money on, figure out how to box the favorite with a couple, pick out horses I’ll bet for the grandkids.

Now the excitement’s building and building. The track is beyond muddy–it’s going to be a sloppy ride.

Bets placed, terrace packed as they play My Old Kentucky Home. It always tugs at the heart. They’re in the gate, and the noise is amazing. But as they leap out of the gate, that amazing noise rises more, a wall of cheers for those stunning horses and their riders.

It seems my colt got bumped right out of the gate–and I can see he’s not likely to make up the ground. Doesn’t matter, because wow, they’re so beyond beautiful, so strong, so fast. Justify has this, you can see it even by the first turn. He’s just magnificent. I do catch that the horses I picked for two of the kids are really moving. (And I boxed one of them for me with Justified, made yet another bet for myself on one of them.

Then I lose all of that as they come around the final turn. The mud’s flying so horses and riders are coated with it. But those horses, they fly, too. Down the backstretch, and that thunder joins the cheers.

Two minutes, two astounding minutes.

Justify takes it. Kayla’s horse comes in second, Colt’s third. (Sorry, Logan.) 

Justify, the cleanest horse in the race, wins the Derby. Photo by BW

We stay for the last two races. Say goodbye to our Derby family, Head out in the insistent rain to have a late (for us country folk) room service dinner.

Then it’s goodbye to Isabel and Stephen–knowing our schedules will mesh for at least this first Saturday in May next year.

Up in the morning to pack, organize–we leave with much more than we came with–head down to Kathy and Brian. Gorgeous day, of course. Hugs by the plane, a last picture.

Farewell shot with Derby family — Kathy (center) and Brian, next to BW.

Our pilot warns us we could hit some weather in Hagerstown. It’s the same damn system that hit Louisville the day before. I’m a poor flyer anyway, but I tell myself to suck it up. We’re only in the air for an hour.

Our luck holds–and a lot of that luck is due to Jac and Joe in the cockpit. How they skimmed us through the two systems and kept us clear and smooth, I’ll never know. But we land in rainy Hagerstown
without me having to use the power of my mind to keep us safe.

Now it’s bye to my babies. (All three!) And home to happy dogs and a garden that’s already popping.

Another wonderful three days in Louisville with its color, its warm hospitality, its really good food and the best two minutes in sports.

See you next May!



Dear FITS family,

Did you even doubt I’d miss the FUN (!?!) of spa week?  I ended up trading my view of this:

View on Wednesday’s walk. Photo by LMR

and choice of activities like this:

Meet my new friend Sonora. Photo by LMR

For this:

About 24 hours after getting home, I walked into tea time at the spa and stories of the first 48 hours without me.

Nora bestowed a welcome-to-the-spa boon: a competition free first night.  I know the real reason: Kat (the most beloved person in her world) wouldn’t arrive until Saturday so we would do the first round together.   But I’ll take the stay of competition.

Spa flowers. Photo by LMR

(Random flowers to celebrate.)

Saturday dawned busy with a workout, conversation, whiskey in my oatmeal (a thing I saw at Ashford), conversation and treatments.  Kat arrived, bearing with her the hat she made to wear for the Derby in two weeks.

Yes, she made it.  We knew she’s clever, but this hat outdid every expectation.  So much so, I made everyone try it on.

Formal yoga wear. Photo by LMR

Elaine, in a hat. Photo by LMR

Top: Kat, Nicole, Jeannette
Middle: Pat, Mary, Kat in a hat
Bottom: Sarah, Laura, JoAnne

And then. And then.

I WON a round of Just Dance.  And a prize.  The magic of Ireland may carry me through.

Then a round of Scrabble brought me right back to Earth.

Once I conquer the jet lag, I’ll fill you in a bit more. But a good start, don’t you think?


Fun and Freezing in Kentucky

Our three days of Derby are always a whirlwind of fun. Sometimes the weather cooperates, sometimes there’s some rain, or chill. This time around May decided to revisit March.

This demanded a change of wardrobe here and there. The easy-breezy summer dress and sandals for our traditional girl day while the boys are at the Oaks? Nope. Rethink that with a warmer dress, jacket, hose (I hate cold legs!) and booties. The hose and booties to be put on an hour or so post-pedicure in the ladies room of the restaurant where we have lunch.

Anyway, it’s all too much fun to whine (much).

This year we took our pals Bill and Nicole for their first Derby experience. It’s just more fun to see the whole amazing and marathon party through new eyes.

Flight’s pretty quick and easy, and we’re met by the fabulous Kathy and the fantastic Brian, whisked off to lunch and libation–in the rain. Then it’s off to the hotel to hang out, unpack, have another libation because, hey, it’s Derby. And Kathy brought bourbon–hey, it’s Kentucky–for the gentlemen.

Time to change it up for Club Night. My party shoes stayed home in lieu of booties. This year’s venue is a museum, just blocks from the hotel and it’s awesome. Before we head up to the party, our group tours the Hunger Games exhibit. The costumes! Holy Mockingjay! Just amazing and spectacular. BW has a crush on Jennifer Lawrence. Since I do, too, I can’t blame him.

Ready for Club Night!

The exhibit is really excellent, so those of you in and around Louisville shouldn’t miss it.

Then it’s party time. It’s always great to see our Derby family, those people we share this experience with year after year. We can nibble and drink and chat and catch up. Then we can dance!

We do it all, head back to the hotel–in the rain.

BW and Bill, Oaks bound

On the chilly, rain-soaked Friday morning our men dude it up for Oaks, and look hot and handsome. While they bet, bet, bet, Kathy, Nicole and I head off to City Nails for mani/pedis. I’m still hoping to wear my cute Derby shoes so get my toes painted to match my Derby dress. My nail tech performed a miracle on my fingers and toes–both in sad shape from bare feet and gardening.

Off to lunch–shivering–change from flip-flops to booties. Let’s have some champagne!

Lunch is lovely. The weather is windy and rainy. More shivering in the dash to the car, then it’s off to Rodes for some shopping.

Kathy happened to drop by Rodes a few days before, and consulted with my usual sales person, Beth. They put aside a suede-y, trench-coat-y topper they both thought I’d like.

I loved. And more than that it’s just the right warmth and weight for March in May. Thanks, Beth!

More shopping, and as is tradition my rep in the men’s department has shoes in for BW’s Father’s Day gift. (His size 14 feet are a challenge.) She shows me her favorite, and she’s nailed it. My fave, too. Father’s Day is in the bag.

More shopping for me, and for Nicole, and I find a hat I like so much better than the one I brought with me. New hat for Derby!

Back to the hotel through the wind and rain.

Time for hair, courtesy of Sarah. Makeup, glam outfits. More girl time on a fine girl day.

Men come back. I should add it poured–seriously poured rain all day. Bill apparently had little luck. BW had some. And then as we’re all doing the glam it up, the Oaks race comes on TV. BW hit the winner. So he’ll start his Derby Day ahead of the game.

Finish getting fancy. Aren’t we pretty!

BW, Nora, Bill, Nicole, Kathy glammed up and ready for the Gala

Brian escorts us down to the gala, and I’m grateful we don’t have to go outside.

I’m not so much a gala person in my actual life, but I love this event. It has that energy and excitement that’s Derby, it’s for a wonderful cause in Blessings In A Backpack. And everyone looks so pretty and happy. BW and I do the Red Carpet, then I head straight for one of my favorite parts of the night. The Silent Auction display. Oh yeah, I see some stuff to bid on–don’t forget that most excellent cause. I have the app on my phone, and I know how to use it.

On the Red Carpet

As always the York Sisters who handle the myriad of details involved in these handful of days have done a fabulous job. The ballroom is gorgeous. We have a fun table with our pals–from home and Kentucky. We have the stupendous John Elefante (Kansas) performing (and he and his lovely wife will be at our table for Derby). We have the also stupendous Wally Palmar (Romantics) performing (and also at our Derby table with his lovely wife!)

I’m busy pushing up the bidding on my chosen items (good cause).

There’s the photo booth–pick your props and mug. Which reminds me I have to go on line and order a few of my favorites.


Fun and more fun–and I make a nice haul (for a good cause) from the auction.

Time for bed.

I get up early on Derby Day, and learn–according to the news–it’s the coldest Derby morning since 1984. So much for the cute Derby shoes. It’s back to booties–and thank God for that new topper.

Cold or no cold, rain or no rain, we all look Derby polished.

We go early–BW and I like to BE there. Brian drives us through the rain, the traffic, and drops us off at the Red Carpet entrance. It’s not ready for celebs yet, but we can use that route–cut off some of the rain walk.

Then we’re up to Millionaire’s Row, and I do what I always do. Head straight out on the terrace. Even on a rain-spattered day, the Downs is glorious. But we’re in time to bet the next race!

Nicole and Nora

BW, Nicole, Bill, Nora

The lovely couple

Bet, lose a little. Hey the sun’s sort of out, so that’s a win. Outside to absorb, to look at hats and horses. Take advantage of the beautiful buffet, and the champagne our pals and Derby waitresses deliver to the table.

More people coming in, more hugs and Happy Derbys. More betting, more hats and horses. I pick a horse–I go by a name that strikes me, or a gray, or some other unscientific method. I do an across the board bet, and he comes in for me. Fairly long odds, so it’s a very fine return. Flap that cash!

Our table mates are here, and it’s so much fun to see them, to meet Wally and his wife.

The day goes by so fast–but the sun did indeed come out. It’s wonderful to stand outside (still cool!) in sunshine. And before you know it, it’s time to place those Derby bets.

I have a list that includes kids and grandkids and my own picks. I didn’t know at that time one of our Derby pals had asked BW if he wanted to kick a hundred dollars into their superfecta pool. 12 years running without a win, but you gotta bet.

Excitement’s building. So much noise, color, movement. I feel so lucky to be here, to be part of it.

A tradition, even in the rain

People crowd out on the terrace, and it’s that My Old Kentucky Home moment. It just grabs my heart every single time.

Those beautiful horses on the track, the colorful silks, the red of the roses, an infield full of people. Nothing like it.

Into the gate, excitement building. And they’re off.

I see quickly my big (relatively) bet isn’t going to pay off as my horse pulls up. Turns out it was a saddle or girth issue. But really, who cares. It’s stunning. That wall of sound, the incredible athleticism of horse and rider. For two minutes that’s the whole world. Coming down the back stretch, number five (Always Dreaming) has the lead. I don’t have a penny on him, but I’m cheering him home anyway.

And for our thirteenth time, we see the winner cross the finish line below. None of my list showed, but that’s Derby.

The Winner!

Moments later, there’s an absolute explosion of cheers and shouts from behind me. I see people I know jumping up and down, swinging each other around, high-fiving. Basically going nuts.

The pool hit the superfecta.

It’s a whole big pile of money to be split, but honestly, it’s the win. It’s that moment of holy shit, we did it. And I find out BW’s in on it.

Right then and there, one of our happy group goes down on one knee and proposes to his lady. Wow!

Good thing she said yes!

It’s so adorable, so sweet, and since he doesn’t have a ring, the clever Nicole takes little bits from her fascinator and makes one for the bride-to-be.

Foil from champagne bottle, bling from hat.

That’s our Derby family.

Tickets cashed in, taxes sliced off, and the net divided up into individual envelopes. We have a little ceremony as they’re handed out. It’s a most excellent return on $100, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. But it really is the camaraderie, that moment of whee!!

We all say our goodbyes flushed with that moment. We give the newly engaged couple a ride back to the hotel, and that extends the fun just a little longer.

Back to the four of us, we get some room service, and since even party-animal BW is too tired for the after events, fall into bed.

Sunday’s sunny, of course, and a little warmer. Brian and Kathy haul us–and the considerable we picked up along the way–back to the airport. We’ll just finish this spectacular weekend with some mimosas on the short flight home.

Weather be damned. There’s nothing like Derby.


Horses and Hats, Music and Magic

Derby weekend has them all. Derby, for me, becomes its own world, and little that goes on outside it penetrates its glow. It’s all about color and pageantry, glamour and grit, bourbon and brilliance.
It packs a ridiculous amount of fun into a whirlwind.
This year our Derby companions are first-timers Laura and her husband, Mark. There’s an added kick of introducing Derby virgins to its unique and myriad charms.20160505_114945 20160505_115004
We leave Thursday morning in the downright raw, damp chill this spring can’t seem to throw off. After a short–and thankfully pretty smooth flight–we arrive in chilly, overcast Louisville. But I see a few hopeful breaks of blue in the sky–and best of all our Louisville pals Kathy and Brian. Kathy stands as our fearless leader, Brian our cop–and they’ve become members of our Derby family over the years.
Two seconds with them, and we’re back in the rhythm.
Off we go to lunch, which for me is not only about food and catching up, but smoothing out the edges traveling invariable frays for me. Smoothed out, fed and watered, and we step outside into actual sun! I could do a happy boogie right on the street.
At the hotel, Kathy’s already smoothed the way a bit more by checking in for us. We have to pause and admire the enormous Chocolate Pharaoh in the lobby. Where else will you see a life-size chocolate sculpture of a Triple Crown winner but Derby?
Unpack, hang out, take a walk, have a drink. Then it’s time to polish up for Club Night. Party time with more Derby family. Food and drink, betting tips, music and dancing. If you’re not ready to kick off your shoes and dance, you should’ve stayed home! We’re ready. So we dance and laugh and reconnect with friends we’ve made through this marvelous event.
Then go home and fall into bed.

Friday dawns beautifully. Sunny and warm and pretty. A perfect Oaks Day for the men, a perfect Girl Day for Laura, Kathy and me. Our men look pretty damn dapper, and show some pink for Oaks Day tradition.

 20160506_100058 (2)
But we girls are heading off for our own fun. We start at City Nails for mani/pedis. I love this place, one that’s become part of that Derby family. It’s–like Louisville–warm and welcoming and fun. Plus they have the most amazing pedi chairs. Your eyes could roll back as the chair massages every inch of you while you’re getting your feet rubbed. If I had one of those chairs at home I’d live in it–and in a coma of bliss.
They also have big screens with the Oak’s races on. In bliss I watch the field for an upcoming race, pick out one. And he wins. This could bode well for my betting on Derby Day. I love my pretty toes, admire my classic French manicure. I think how it’ll be too bad to mess it up gardening in a week. Then remind myself that’s reality. This is Derby.
Let’s go have lunch and lots of champagne!
We do just that, have lovely food in a lively place with a charming waiter. Girl talk, and what the hell, we’ll go for dessert. If you can’t indulge at Derby, when and where? Plus, we’re sharing and shared desserts, as everyone knows, don’t count.
Another traditional stop on Girl Day is Rodes for shopping. I never walk out empty-handed or disappointed, and this year is no exception. Scarves! Why can’t I stop buying scarves? And oh, look at that red bag! And that jacket! And . . . well, definitely not empty-handed. Following tradition, I hit the men’s department for BW’s Father Day shoes. They know I’m coming and have a selection in his size. Size 14 isn’t a snap to find! And fun socks to go with my pick–voted on by all three girls.
Being girls we spot a young woman trying on dresses. She’s got a lovely, slim build. We learn she’s buying her Derby dress, and chime right in with opinions. Laura talks her into trying on a cute red hat–as she’s looking for a hat as well. When she talks about just not wearing one, the three of us gasp in shock. LOL. We all voted for a pretty, springy print dress, and I hope she bought it–but she looked a little shell-shocked by the time we left.
Now it’s back to the hotel when Kathy’s wonderful hairdresser Sarah will glam up our hair for the gala. So it’s hair and makeup and pretty dresses, sparkles and shoes. All girls until the men come back to get their manly glam on.
No question they had fun at the Oaks so it’s talk of horses and who they met, what they won, what they lost. And by the time we’re spiffed up, we all look marvelous.

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The Unbridled Gala seriously sparkles–and for a most excellent cause. Blessings In A Backpack. There’s little more vital than seeing that children don’t go hungry. I’m so proud to be a part of a night that recognizes the importance of filling that need. And the York Sisters–Tonya and Tammy–know how to throw a party.
BW and I walk the Red Carpet. A question often asked: What’s your Derby pick? This one’s easy for me this year. Before we left home I settled on Exaggerator–I appreciate a good exaggerator. It’s how I make my living. So I’ve chosen him on his name alone. Completely unscientific and silly, but there it is.
The ballroom shines spectacularly. All while and silver and crystal. I can’t imagine how much time, creativity, effort goes into putting all this together–the sheer organizational heft is beyond me.
The silent auction’s yet another integral part of the night, and I’ve already spotted what I MUST have. There are two old iron doors, narrow, runged, a wonderful rusty look to them. They speak to me, and say: Nora, we belong in your garden.
I agree.
A couple other things pop out as we wander, but the doors are IT.
We enjoy dinner, the people watching–so many gorgeous dresses. At one point, Laura and I were outside, and this pretty young couple hopped out of a car. He’s in black tie, she’s in a short, frothy white dress. They’d been looking for a red carpet for a picture.
Laura makes their wish come true, takes some pictures of them on the red carpet. Then she spots another couple. I want that woman’s incredible silver dress. They are simply gorgeous, elegant, perfect, somehow retro with a contemporary edge. Laura asks if they’ll just stand where they are for a minute more, backs to us, so she can take a picture of them. She does it in black and white, adding to that timeless elegance. And they’re so taken with it, he asks if she’ll send it to him.

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I check my phone app excessively–I’m not losing those doors!
The entertainment this year is jaw-dropping. Wynonna Judd opens, and rocks the house. I’ll add she looks fabulous. People crowd onto the dance floor to take pictures, videos.
My jaw drops another few inches as Dennis DeYoung (Styx!) takes the stage. Holy crap! He’s incredible, and when he performs Lady, I’m seriously transported. I can’t count the times I’ve listened to that song, sung along with it on the radio. And here I am watching and hearing him perform it in person.
Check the doors, check the doors. I will not be outbid.
But we’re not done yet. I can’t believe it. John Elefante (Kansas!) comes on stage. OMG! Dust In The Wind. This is Elefante singing Dust In The Wind right here, right now. Carry On My Wayward Son? Are you kidding me? This is actually happening.
This is the amazing world of Derby. By the time Robin Thicke comes on, people are crowded onto the dance floor–dancing as well as taking pictures. They’re (including us) dancing at their tables. It’s sound and color and joy, everywhere.
Turns out BW and Mark spent some time with John’s lovely wife Michelle at the Oaks, and they come over to our table. It’s a big thrill to meet them–and learn they’ll be at our table at Derby. As Laura says, Michelle is definitely One Of Us–and would be welcomed into our tribe.


Unbridled Eve co-chair Tonya York, John Elefante and Nora

We dance and talk and enjoy until midnight–but tomorrow’s Derby. Time for bed.
A truly fantastic evening. And I got the doors!!!
Derby dawns a little overcast, but they’re promising sun and warm–with some serious storms in the evening, after the race. We get our Derby on–fun hats, comfortable shoes, pretty dresses and handsome suits. I’ve become the Pocket Square expert (You just Google it) for both men.
We four look smashing!
We go early. We like the full day, and arrive during the second race. Another Red Carpet, and I’m sticking with Exaggerator for my main pick. Through the green room–the excitement’s already building. The crowds, the voices, the color, the energy. And Brian’s whisks us up to Millionaire’s Row. I do what I always do–head straight outside.
Because there it is, that rich brown oval, that vivid green infield grass already peopled with color. The pure white, the spires, the red roses, the rush of it all, and the classic tradition under a blue sky. I’d come back, again and again, for that one moment.
We have our favorite server, Amy–more Derby family. And we have time to place bets on the next race. There’s a gray, so following my mother’s advice, I bet on him. And chalk up my first win of the day. It’ll be awhile before I chalk up another.
It’s so much fun to see the outfits, the hats, to see familiar faces, do more catching up. But it’s thrilling to watch the horses, to step outside on the terrace, watch them in the gate, watch them spring out and do what they were born to do. Just run.


Nora and Michelle Elefante

We eat, and bet. We drink, and bet. John and Michelle join us, adding to the fun. I’m sticking when grays when I see one–and with the same cute young guy at the betting window. Though I lose several in a row. We have a racing pal who sits with us awhile, tells us who to bet on in this race–won’t make any money, but he’ll win it. Suggests we make a bet I’ve never made before. Betting on this horse overall. That means he wins, and we’ve also put money on the rest of the entire field, so the amount we win depends on who pulls in second.

We do it, and win a dollar. LOL. He was right, on all counts.
I win a little, lose a little, enjoy my time outside in the air, the warm, with those horses thundering by. The stands are full, the infield alive with people.
I meet Diego Klattenhoff of The Blacklist (big fan here), and I HAVE to ask him if Lizzy is really dead. He will neither confirm nor deny, but I have to forgive that. He’s so handsome.


Nora and Diego

And Mike Mills (R.E.M.!) is back. We connected with him a couple Derbys ago, and it’s so great to see him again. And the delightful Warren Moon, always so warm.


Michelle Elefante, Mike Mills, BW, Nora, John Elefante
Michelle Elefante, Mike Mills, BW, Nora, John Elefante

Mark’s in heaven meeting Mark Sanchez.
Lots of photographs, lots of chatter. Our table is just so much fun. The Dust In The Wind genius is sitting at our table, and Laura and I have bonded with his wife. That’s Derby magic.
And the big race is coming up.
We have lots of bets here. Bets for our grandkids, for friends at home. And I have to figure out my own. Exaggerator’s my major bet, but not the only. I think I’ll box a couple–with the favorite Nyquist. And there are grays in the field. I pick one to bet.
I pocket my tickets, and pretty much forget about the bets. Win or lose, I know what’s coming.
Honestly, every time the first strains of My Old Kentucky Home glide into the air, I’m caught by the throat. To be standing there on the terrace, now packed with people, looking out at the crowds, hearing the voices of so many united in song–it’s such a feeling.
Then the cheers, the energy and excitement.
Watching those gorgeous athletes taking their walk on the oval, riders up, silks brilliant. I pick out Exaggerator. He looks so proud. Let’s see what he can do.
So much noise, such universal enthusiasm for this one slice of time as the horses are loaded into the gate. And boy, they’re off. That rising, sustained wall of sound. Cheers, shouts, thundering hooves all blurred together. And the sheer, stunning beauty of it. Dirt flying, long legs pounding, jockeys clinging like brilliant burrs.
I note my horse is falling back. Way back. Oh well.
Just look at them. All of them, every one, vital and strong and fast.
I see, to my astonishment, Exaggerator is moving up, and really moving up. Okay, that’s unexpected. Go! Go! Go! Just wow, look at him. The field is gorgeous, but I’m struck–and would have been without the bet–at how he pours it on, coming from way behind, moving up, up, up.
The crowd, thousands of voices, at a frantic pitch, as they round that curve, come down the stretch. Nyquist captures the Derby, but Exaggerator, picked on a whim, takes second–and to my eye, magnificently. What a show, what a horse–I take nothing from the champion, or any in the field. But number eleven had all the heart in the world to me.
Plus, I bet him across the board!
I cover my day’s bets, and then some with my whimsical pick, and go in for the post-race talk with our Derby family. And to collect my winnings.
We always stay for the last two races. Too much fun, and outside, far too much traffic. The rain’s coming. You can see the storm brewing out there. The light edges toward drama. But we sit, talk, have another drink, and I pick a horse–a long(ish)shot gray–for the next race. What the heck, across the board again.
Wander outside to watch the horses walk to the gate. Oh, my gray is so, so beautiful. I talk with Mike Mills and his so, so beautiful girlfriend. She’s also bet on the gray. We are united.
I’m really just about soaking up the rest of the day by now, watching those gorgeous horses for the last couple times. I don’t know if anyone was more surprised than I was when the gray came in.
Last race, last bet. The place is emptying out, the storm’s closing in. Laura points out there’s an Irish horse in this last field. Race Me Home, at five to one. I always bet the Irish horse, and I like the name. Across the board. Perhaps influenced by my luck toward the end of the day, BW follows my bet. Part of me is sad it’s the last race–the last of a marvelous experience. Part of me is ready to get on regular clothes.
So I soak it in yet again, this last race. And bam! We hit. Up the Irish!
A very nice way to close out Derby Day.
By the time we head to the car, the rain’s started. And the wind. And the lightning. They meant serious storm, and they didn’t lie. But Brian gets us through, gets us home, where we fall on the food we’d pre-ordered from room service, then pretty much fall into bed.
Overcast Sunday morning, and feeling lazy before it’s time to pack. Packing to go home takes a lot less time. Louisville shines for Derby–and as I know from years past when I stopped on book tour here–is welcoming and full of easy hospitality all year. I’m ready to go home, but I’ll look forward to coming back. 

Nora, Kathy, Laura — the day after

The flight home’s short–bumpy toward the end as we come over my mountains–so nothing’s better than stepping onto the ground again. Big hugs goodbye for Laura and Mark, our fun and happy Derby mates.
And home where it’s warm and sunny, my dogs are happy to see us, the gardens are blooming.
Reality is just fine–especially after a weekend of magic.