And I did, but that’s for later.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
But I continue my losing streak on the Oaks. Next time!
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.
More music—such great entertainment and all in a big ballroom that has simply gorgeous decor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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???
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.