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Archive for May, 2012

Dear Readers,

I’m proud to say I was born in Louisville, Kentucky and even prouder of this fact during Derby Week.  For it is during this time that the city of Louisville really shines.  There’s a spectacular fireworks display, the staging of “Thunder Over Louisville”, a lively parade full of marching bands, clowns and artfully decorated floats along with more parties than “you can shake a stick at”!

There’s one Kentucky Derby that I will always remember vividly; well, maybe it was really the morning after.  Let me tell you about it.

Many Sundays during the spring racing season, my Uncle Leonard and my Dad (both avid horse lovers) would drive to Churchill Downs at sunrise to go to the “backside” to observe the horses out on the track for their morning exercise.  Occasionally my younger sister and I would join them even though it involved attending Sunday mass at 5 AM.  But the sacrifice was well worth it; for when we arrived, the sun was just rising in the sky, the air was fresh and chilly and a low fog lay over the track area.  It was magical to see these graceful animals begin with a slow trot and gradually progress to a full gallop.  Their hooves smacking the dirt track made a melodious clip-clop, clip-clop sound.  Before we left, we would stroll by the stables to survey the horses in their stalls eating oats and munching on carrots.

On the Sunday after the running of the 1956 Kentucky Derby, we embarked on a sunrise trip to Churchill Downs.  But this day was special; yes, very special.  As we wandered through the stable area, we spied a gorgeous blanket of red roses draped over a stable door.  Then we saw a handsome and proud horse standing nearby.  We moved closer for a better look and sure enough it was Needles, the 1956 Kentucky Derby winner.  A gentleman near the horse proudly told us so and he allowed my sister and I to pet Needles.  He asked if we would like a couple of roses from the blanket.  Sure, we exclaimed; so he pinched off two rosebuds for both of us.  What a treasure for a 10 year old girl!  We couldn’t wait to show them to our Mom, when we returned home.

Somehow during the years those dried Derby rosebuds were misplaced and lost.  But I will never forget our encounter with Needles, the winner of the 1956 Kentucky Derby!

Keep smilin’!

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