by Linda Benson
I start to get twitchy with excitement this time of year. It's almost time for the Kentucky Derby (May 5, 2012) and after that the Preakness, and then the Belmont Stakes. These are the three races that make up America's Triple Crown, although we haven't had a winner of all three races in 34 years (not since Affirmed in 1978.)
This Saturday marks the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, and the long tradition, the venue under the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, and the many years I've watched this race make me look forward to it every year.
In fact, whenever I get my weekly planner for the new year, I automatically turn to the First Saturday in May and scribble "Kentucky Derby." Then I count two weeks after that and write "Preakness," and then turn to three weeks later and enter "Belmont Stakes." I want to make sure I'll be by a television set in order to watch those races.
Probably the long coverage of the sport by network television is what got me hooked on horse racing in the first place. Now, I get lots of channels on my TV, and I can also watch horseracing on TVG and HRTV. But when I was growing up, the Kentucky Derby was the only horse race that I ever remember being broadcast. And when the horses are led out onto the track, and the band starts playing "My Old Kentucky Home," and every one stands and sings along, tears come to my eyes and my heart starts fluttering in excitement. Every. Single. Time.
I know that horse racing has been getting some bad press recently. There have been expose articles published recently in the New York Times about drug use in horse racing (which some in the industry are trying to abolish.) And the lack of proper homes for Thoroughbreds when their racetrack careers are over is still an issue (tackled by one of our own here - Natalie Keller Reinert - see her Retired Racehorse Blog.) For me personally though, I cannot stand to watch horses jump. I used to watch show jumping, but now wince when those fragile legs hit the ground abruptly on the far side of a huge jump. At least in horse racing, horses are doing something that many of them naturally love to do - run fast.
If you also love to watch horse racing, here's the official list of this year's horses, and if you click on each horse you can read more: http://www.kentuckyderby.com/horses
If you are on Twitter (I am @LinBenson) you can get up-to-the-minute news by following the hashtag #KyDerby (lower case, upper case, doesn't matter.)
If you'd like to check the televised times on NBC and NBC Sports network (which will include the draw for post position on Wed. May 2nd, The Kentucky Oaks for fillies on May 4th and the Kentucky Derby on May 5th) here's a link: http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2012/04/30/nbc-sports-group-presents-14-and-a-half-hours-of-kentucky-derby-coverage/131432/
As for me - I'll be glued to a television somewhere, watching the twenty-horse field load into the gate, praying for the safety of the horses and jockeys, and as my heart begins pounding faster and faster, wait for the words "and they're off . . ."