In just a few hours, the equestrian contenders will step into the gates at Church Hill Downs for the 134th, 2008 Kentucky Derby. Here’s everything you need to know about “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” to enjoy the race in all its julep-drunken grandeur.
What is it?
If you’re not an avid gambler or OTB regular, I can forgive you this time for not knowing about the best horse race in the world. (Next time, no beer for a week!) The Kentucky Derby, held annually on the first Saturday in May (today) at the Church Hill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, is a Grade 1 stakes race for 3-year-old thoroughbred horses.
Commonly referred to as “The Run for the Roses,” the race has been held at Church Hill Downs since 1937, lasts 1 and 1/4 miles, and is the first in a series of three races, known as the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.
Where to watch:
If you weren’t fortunate enough to make it to Louisville this weekend, watch the race on NBC. Coverage of the race will begin at 4pm. Post time is scheduled for 6:04pm.
Wet weather on Friday threw-off the oddsmakers, and could be a decisive factor in the race, since some horses competing today have won in rainy conditions, while the otherwise favorites have not. But there is no rain in today’s forecast, with fair temperatures and partly cloudy skies predicted, and a dry track for the race.
That said, Big Brown remains the favorite, with 3-1 odds. However, such predictions are made with only the trainer, Rick Dutrow Jr.’s reputation and expertise in mind. Oh yeah, and Big Brown is running out of Post No. 20, which hasn’t produced a winner at The Derby since 1929. (Doh!)
If the track is still wet, keep tabs on Cool Coal Man, Smooth Air, Visionaire and Denis of Cork, all of whom have done well in soggy conditions.
The Second favorite is Colonel John, with 4-1 odds. But the COED bet goes to Pryo. A 10th place loss at Blue Grass drops his odds to 6-1. But a recent win at the Louisiana Derby, and second-place finish at the muddy Breeders’ Cup, bode well for this 3-year-old’s success today.
Where to bet:
While hitting up your local Off-Track-Betting window is always an option, it’s going to be extra crowded. Instead, pop over to Bodog Sports to place a bet. It’s not just faster, it smells better, too.
What to drink:
As essential to The Derby as hooves and jockeys, the Kentucky-bourbon-brewed mint julep is the official drink at Church Hill Downs. Here’s how to make a mint julep like a Louisville bartender:
4 cups bourbon
2 bunches fresh spearmint
1 cup distilled water
1 cup granulated sugar
To prepare mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves. Wash and place in a small bowl. Cover with 3 ounces bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in paper toweling. Thoroughly wring the mint over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times.
To prepare simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of distilled water in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.
To prepare mint julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the bourbon.
Now begin adding the mint extract 1 tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste-generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think it’s right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle [and refrigerate for as long as possible]…to “marry” the flavors.
To serve the julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver mint julep cup) 1/2 full with shaved ice. Insert a spring of mint and then pack in more ice to about 1-inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to 1-inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.
When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice and add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice. Serve immediately. [FoodNetwork.com]
To properly enjoy this event (which is basically a lot of anticipatory drinking and two minutes of white-knuckle excitement–followed by more drinking) mix up a batch of this refreshing cocktail, grab a glass, cross your fingers, and start thinking of ways to pay back your roommates for their rent money you just lost.