How to Enjoy the 2021 Kentucky Derby at Home
Nothing says everything is back to normal like the Kentucky Derby.
Well, it should say that, but this year Churchill Downs is waffling about how many people will be allowed to watch the Kentucky Derby right there at the racetrack as God intended.
So, we are going to need a good contingency plan for when we are unable to secure grandstand tickets in Louisville, Kentucky on that all-important First Saturday in May.
I know what you are thinking. How can we watch and perhaps even enjoy the 147th Run for the Roses from the comfort of our own Barcaloungers?
Well, lucky for all of us, I have ten ideas that could help make this year’s Derby Day uniquely your own. And most of them won’t even get your name added to some sort of watch list.
Perfect Your Own Recipe for Mint Juleps
Over two hundred years ago, a writer described the mint julep as a “dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.”
How something that inspired that bit of poesy managed to evolve into the current concoction of bourbon, simple syrup, and a fistful of mint leaves (a few drops of angostura bitters are optional) is beyond comprehension.
First of all, over-reliance on simple syrup — such as permitting it into the same room as the other ingredients — creates a “drink” that can range in viscosity from 90-weight gear oil all the way down to something only slightly thinner than pancake syrup. And in either case, the resulting concoction will retain a distinctively cloying sweetness.
Not a fan of mint juleps, me. But for the sake of argument, let’s say you’re not entirely anti-julep.
I can tell you right now that as you sample each of your changes, modifications, and optional secret ingredients, you’ll eventually discover that the viscosity doesn’t bother you anymore.
Sometime later during the experiment, you’ll almost certainly find yourself sprawled on the kitchen floor, wondering if you have any bourbon left.
Spoiler: You don’t.
Wear Funny Hats, But Not Just Any Funny Hats
Unlike tee shirts, hats require no slogans to be funny. And since this Derby Day is taking place in your living room, the sky’s the limit.
Start with The Cat In The Hat and then build on that. If you want to add a touch of creepy to that bent stovepipe, throw in a plague doctor or Hannibal Lecter mask to complete the ensemble.
Sure, the dog will bark at you, and the kids will have nightmares for weeks but after all those mint juleps, do you really care?
Invent New Derby Traditions
Why stop with hats?
Well, how about if The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports gets a complete makeover courtesy of the Billingsley Family? I am assuming, of course, that your last name is Billingsley. Which it should be, for the moment anyway. Work with me here, people.
Your first order of business is to declare that the new dress code for the Billingsley Family Derby to comprise monocles, lederhosen, and Dolly Parton wigs and the attire for the Billingsley Family ladies should be even more spectacular.
Name Your Next Child After the Winner
Admit it. Your whole family has been in lockdown for a year now. Of course you are expecting a new Billingsley.
Send out press releases beforehand offering to name your latest bundle of joy after a horse running in the Kentucky Derby, perhaps for a modest stipend or even continuing royalties. Sell it to the horse’s connections as a lifetime sponsorship.
They won’t fall for that, you say? You are aware they plunked down huge dollars for their horse, right? Not to change the subject, but just how many races have Runhappy in their name?
Glad that is settled. Now, imagine young Bourbonic Billingsley paying for your second home and even his/her own college education from those residuals.
Think of the pride your family will experience in the not-too-distant future as they read the news of the wonderful advances in medical science Dr. Bourbonic Soup and Sandwich Billingsley is making in his field. What field, you ask?
I’m guessing patricidal ointments, but I’m just spit-balling here.
Scatter Saddle Blankets About the Living Room
Nothing says horse racing like the pungent aroma of a well-used saddle blanket.
You can purchase these at virtually any garage sale in a horse-loving community.
Having raised and trained horses for much of my life, I can tell you that while saddle blankets can be thrown in the washer, the odor will never disappear or even diminish.
Bet Two Bucks Online on Each of the Longshots
Want another way to make some money while you’re not attending the Kentucky Derby?
There are plenty of longshot entries and horses running at even the longest odds have gone on to win the Derby. Not often, sure. I mean, they are longshots for a reason. But it happens.
To get you started, here are three Kentucky Derby hopefuls from the top 20 on the KD leaderboard with varying long odds: Hidden Stash (40/1), Caddo River (25/1), Soup and Sandwich (20/1).
There are horses at longer odds, but many of them have much lower expectations of an actual post position on Derby Day. Still, be sure to check for the latest odds on one of our recommended online racebooks as the 147th Kentucky Derby draws nearer.
Binge Watch All the Kentucky Derby Movies Beforehand
Secretariat is required, of course, as is Seabiscuit. You could add The First Saturday in May, but that is technically a documentary. De gustibus, right?
But there’s also Glory. No, not the great Civil War film with Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, and Denzel Washington. Rather the 1956 musical starring Margaret O’Brien and Walter Brennan about a filly that wins the Kentucky Derby.
And finally, there’s The Kentucky Derby. A silent film centered around the race that was made in 1922.
This one is a must-watch, mostly because you can involve the entire family as you all attempt to lip-synch spontaneous dialog while the actors’ lips move.
Guaranteed comedy gold. Heck, do dialog for the horses, too. It worked for six seasons of Mister Ed.
Bone Up on Horse Racing Lingo
Nothing is more annoying than learning everybody but you knows the difference between a sprint and a breeze, and that handily means something entirely different in horse racing than it does with first dates.
Learn them all the horse racing terms and become that person at the party no one wants to talk to.
Google Everything You Don’t Get About Horse Racing
Why stop with simple horse racing colloquialisms?
You’re already on the computer, so you might as well finally find out what “allowance-optional claiming” means and why it differs from “maiden special weight.” And what is the difference between “also-eligible” and “also-ran”?
Of course, you already know what the near side of a horse is, but what differentiates a juvenile from a sophomore?
What do the expressions “baby race” and “his father was a mudder” mean? For extra credit, explain what it is that makes a horse a ridgling. Show your work.
Present a Home-Version TED Talk of Handicapping Strategies
Now that you know everything there is to know about horse racing, the Kentucky Derby, and Walter Brennan’s singing abilities, it’s time to share all that priceless knowledge with your entire family and pets.
Maybe even that hapless neighbor that dropped by to borrow your lawnmower. Won’t he be impressed!
I’m talking, of course, about developing a PowerPoint presentation on your Kentucky Derby picks.
Your audience will thrill to all the drama, from those introductory slides discussing Xenophon’s On Horsemanship to an in-depth exploration of the Jockey Club’s continuing unwillingness to register thoroughbreds that are the products of artificial insemination, cloning, or embryo transfer.
Be sure to include a section covering each jockey’s lineage and winning statistics, along with a detailed explanation of the algorithm you developed to determine the winning horse using astrological charts, horseshoe sizes, and what each horse had for breakfast.
For additional accuracy, throw in each jockey’s helmet color.
Just Watch the Kentucky Derby
If you just want to watch the pre-race stuff and the race itself, it’s being live streamed by just about every media company in the free world.
Your best bet is NBC Sports (your access to this is via your cable/satellite provider).
If you like social media (ZOMG LOL), you can follow @KentuckyDerby or #kyderby on any of the platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest.
You can even listen to the audio presentation of the Kentucky Derby, maybe while watching 1922’s The Kentucky Derby.
Of course, you could stream all of these at once, but it will be loads more fun if you’re dressed in appropriate Furry attire and sipping a Blue Moon-and-absinthe cocktail (known to its fans as a “Once in a Blue Moon”).
Trust me on this.