On the first Saturday in May, Nyquist blew away the field of nineteen other horses to win the 142nd Kentucky Derby. In years past, I would have been watching the race from behind the register at the Churchill Downs gift shop. Where was I this year? Let me show you.
I was standing in the G.H. Mumm Winner’s Circle, right on the rail. The Nyquist crew was in front of me (Lani’s crew was beside them!) and it was AMAZING. Watching the Derby on television my entire life did not prepare me well enough for seeing it in person! It’s the fastest two minutes in sports and it sure does go by quickly! But, it was the so exhilarating and I would love to see it all again next year!
The entire week of Derby, I was busy in the mornings helping Maggie Ray, the Social Media Coordinator for Churchill Downs, in conducting live streams. We did a full live stream for Moquett Racing’s Whitmore as he prepared for his morning workout. It was fun to see him get ready and head to the track. We followed him back to the barn when it was over to watch him getting a bath as well! Ron Moquett, his trainer, gave us a keepsake Whitmore pin that I still wear daily at the Kentucky Derby Museum!
One of the live streams we did was a sponsored stream for Breathe Right. The company sponsors Doug O’Niell Racing’s Nyquist and company because owner Paul Reddam himself is a frequent user of the Breathe Right nasal strips! Nyquist himself wears a nasal strip in racing (though us horse-people know that they are Flair Equine Nasal Strips!) It was fun to see how a live stream interview with the crew — the trainer Doug, jockey Mario, and owner Paul — is conducted and put on. I was the camera girl for it (I apologise for shaky hands. It was FREEZING cold every morning leading up to Derby.)
I was invited to help Maggie do a live stream at the Post Position Draw Party on Wednesday evening. It was a blast! I looked around the room at one point and I could point out Bob Baffert, Dallas Stewart, Doug O’Niell, and so many racing stars. I led the stream around the room and showed off the Kentucky Derby 142 Gold Cup trophy on display, the post position board, and the waiting crowd. It was a lot of fun and great learning experience for big, televised events.
Working on Oaks was pretty amazing, though I think Derby (obviously) was the most exciting. I got to the backside early in the morning with another intern, Allison. We wander through the barn areas and got videos and pictures for Snapchat. We got to see Nyquist “kiss” the Stanley Cup trophy upon it’s arrival (The funniest part was that they displayed on an overturned bucket covered with a horse blanket. #TypicalHorsePeople) We got to catch a glimpse of Moyhayman grazing and a few other horses in their stalls. I was truly bummed that we didn’t see Lani out and about, but I was endeared by the banner hanging out of his barn…if only I could understand Japanese. I spent most of the day going to designated spots — catch the Garland of Roses delivery, Military Ceremony in the frontside winner’s circle — but I spent a lot of time in the winner’s circle keeping track of winners for each race up until Race 10. That was when I finally got to walk on the race track and head to the backside.
That is also when all hell broke loose in the sky and it down poured for a good five minutes during Lady Antebellum’s National Anthem. I spent that time hiding under and overhang at D. Wayne Lukas’ Barn. Shout out to the random guy that showed no emotions/cares in the world as I got pelted with dirt/sand/debris. It was a wild few minutes, but it was a blessing to see the sky turn blue and the sun back out within minutes.
Security was really strange, I won’t lie about it. I had a credential that had a fair amount of access, including the racetrack itself. I had to practically beg a guard to let me back on the track so I could do the Derby walk over with Maggie. The first horse out in the chute to get ready was of course Lani. His antics all week were hilarious (and studish) but I wasn’t surprised to see the Tapit baby out there way before everyone else. We wait until all of the horses and connections were heady to go before making our way behind the field of 20 horses to the paddock. It was hands down the best experience in my life so far. You see it on television all the time, but there is nothing like walking on the dirt track and hearing the crowd roaring for the horses walking to the paddock. It was breath taking.
All in all, the experience was so amazing. I can’t thank Maggie Ray enough for giving me the opportunity to do and see all of the tings that go into running the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs social media platforms. From watching the Derby on TV for nearly 18 years of my life to finally seeing it from the winner’s circle, it was a once in a lifetime moment!
Until next time.