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By Tom Steen
Special to The PREVIEW
The Pagosa Springs Rotary Club presents the “Kentucky Derby Gala” on May 4, from 2 to 6 p.m. at Keyah Grande.
Keyah Grande, which means “big country,” is an exclusive, private villa several miles west of Pagosa Springs that is surrounded by breathtaking views as far as the eye can see. A classy venue for a classy event.
You will want to get your tickets early so you don’t miss out on this first-time Pagosa event featuring, “jockeys, juleps and jazz.” You can get your tickets online at http://pagosaspringsrotary.eventbrite.com/. You can also get tickets at Exit Realty, Goodman’s Department Store and Happy Trails, and from individual Rotarians. Tickets are $35 per person.
As you plan to attend the Kentucky Derby Gala, remind yourself that all of this fun is raising money to help the Pagosa Springs Rotary Club continue to do its many valuable community service activities.
You don’t have to be from Kentucky to know this is the biggest thing that happens in that state each year. In fact, The Kentucky Derby has been run every consecutive year since 1875 — that is 138 years and counting.
If you are from Kentucky, however, you probably stand, regardless of where you are in the world, and sing along with “My Old Kentucky Home” during the post parade. That’s not really surprising: In the world of sports, there is not a more moving moment than when the horses step onto the track for the Kentucky Derby and the band strikes up Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home” — a tradition which began in 1924. And, yes, you will have a chance to stand and sing along at the Rotary gala event.
Speaking of traditions, the Kentucky Derby has many, and they will all be incorporated into the Rotary Club’s gala event on May 4. If you are unfamiliar with the Kentucky Derby, read on.
In addition to the race itself, another tradition is the time-honored beverage of the race: the mint julep, an iced drink consisting of bourbon, mint and sugar syrup. And, yes, there will be mint juleps at Rotary’s gala event. There will also be hors d’oeuvres and live music.
One of the unique characteristics of the Kentucky Derby is that it is a sports party that showcases the finest in spring fashions. Both female and male attendees pull out all of the stops when selecting their Kentucky Derby apparel. There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to Derby dressing. But, first and foremost, it’s all about the hats — large or small, contemporary or old-fashioned, big brimmed, feathered, flowery, furry or just plain fascinating. Women (and men) top off their Derby duds with a variety of ostentatious head wear. And, yes, there will be a hat contest for both men and women at Rotary’s Kentucky Derby Gala.
The Kentucky Derby is a Grade I stakes race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds, held annually in Louisville, Ken., on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The race is one and a quarter miles (2 km) at Churchill Downs.
The race is known in the United States as, “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” or, “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” for its approximate duration, and is also called, “The Run for the Roses” for the blanket of 554 red roses draped over the winner. The governor of Kentucky and other dignitaries also present the winning jockey with a bouquet of 60 long-stemmed roses wrapped in 10 yards of ribbon. And, yes, there will be roses at Rotary’s gala event.
The fastest time ever run in the Derby (at its present distance) was set in 1973 at 1 minute 59 2/5 seconds. Secretariat’s record time has stood for 39 years and counting. Which horse will win this year? Do your homework and come with an opinion. You will have a chance to place your bets (and perhaps go home richer than you came) at Rotary’s Kentucky Derby Gala.
You will be able to watch the race and all the activities live on big-screen television monitors at Keyah Grande (as long as somebody’s hat doesn’t get in your way).
Interesting side notes: When horse racing first began in the early 18th century, there were no such things as program numbers, public address systems or closed-circuit television systems. So, when King Charles II first assembled race meets on the plains of Hempstead, the dukes and the barons had trouble figuring out which horse was which. So, they adopted racing silks — or colors — to distinguish their jockeys for easier viewing.
During the time of King Charles II, the silks were simple — red for one duke, black for another duke, orange for one earl, white for another earl, and so on. The tradition of the silks remains today as jockeys wear the colors of the horse owners, but because there are so many owners, silks have become even more colorful. The jockeys’ room at Churchill Downs houses hundreds of silks which are hung on pegs in the order of each jockey’s races for that day. You can see a sampling each racing day by watching the jockeys as they enter the paddock ready to meet their mounts.
The Kentucky Derby trophy is believed to be the only solid gold trophy that is annually awarded to the winner of a major American sporting event. Traditions continue to evolve, however. For the 125th Kentucky Derby in 1999, Churchill Downs officials decided to defer to racing lore and change the direction of the decorative horseshoe displayed on the 14-karat gold trophy. The horseshoe, fashioned from 18-karat gold, had pointed downward on each of the trophies since 1924. To commemorate Kentucky Derby 125, the change was made and the horseshoe was turned 180 degrees so that its ends pointed up. The trophy now annually incorporates the horseshoe with the ends pointing up. Racing superstition decrees that if the horseshoe is turned down all the luck will run out.
Don’t risk having your luck run out: Plan on being there to kick your heels up at the Pagosa Springs Rotary Club’s Kentucky Derby Gala.
By the way, Rotary has been selling raffle tickets for a Louisiana Alligator Hunt, and the drawing will take place during the Gala event.