Posted: Tuesday May 2, 2006 3:43PM; Updated: Wednesday May 3, 2006 11:15AM
If you're serious about betting with your friends, it's a good idea to do some research and see how quickly the entered horses have run in the past. See what their times on each furlong were, and wonder what a furlong is. Scientists still aren't sure, but they're working on a theory that involves the kid from Terminator 2. If anyone tells you that betting on horses is sleazy or inhumane, remind them that racing is still the sport of kings, even if most of the kingdoms happen to be monthly-rental rooms at motels near the interstate. Take advantage of their stunned silence to make an exacta bet.
Be sure to take a good look at the horses during their post parade and marvel in silent wonder that these beautiful animals are only 3 years old. Point this out to that guy in the office who's always going on about how his son is the greatest 3-year-old ever; that little kid would be lucky to even finish in the money at the Preakness.
In order to give your party a real air of authenticity, ladies' fashion should mirror what's worn in the Churchill Downs grandstand, which means you'll need some ludicrous hats. The typical hat worn to the Derby is equal parts fashion, art and a marvel of modern engineering, so if you can find some truly bizarre hats, buy them up. If no hatter is available in your hometown, you can substitute another strange hat that you would normally wear under absolutely no circumstances; Kansas City Royals caps are surprisingly cheap on eBay. Men can still wear standard track attire: a mustard-stained plaid jacket with a crumpled Racing Form sticking out of the pocket. Looking lucky, stud.
Of course, you are obligated to serve mint juleps, the beverage of bourbon, mint and sugar enjoyed at the Derby. Those on a tight budget can substitute by drinking light beer while chewing Double Mint, but if you make your own, refrain from using Jack Daniels, which is not Kentucky bourbon. The only thing from Tennessee that Kentuckians would hate having attributed to them more is Phil Fulmer (we're keeping our gross tonnage down). You should probably keep some sort of alternative drink on hand, because although many of us love mint juleps, for most people they're like communism, Darius Miles or Arby's: always better in theory than in practice. If you want to serve some Louisville foods, find a recipe for burgoo or a hot brown, the only sandwich for guests who want the delicious taste of a cheesy sandwich with the convenience of not having to wait for their first heart attack anymore.
To finish your preparation, it's important to know the big-name trainers, who have a one-day-a-year celebrity paralleled only by the Easter Bunny and that guy who sings One Shining Moment. Actually, although they dominate the TV coverage, it's not that important to know the trainers to enjoy the Derby, but it is crucial that anytime Bob Baffert is shown on the coverage, you say, "Is he wearing a novelty Bobby Cremins wig?" The same goes for the horses' owners, one of whom will be given a heart-warming interview after their horse wins the roses. It's always good to know that the little guy can still win, even when the little guy is a billionaire with a private jet. You should now be ready to have a shindig serious enough for the Derby. And if racing isn't your particular cup of tea, make moderate changes and apply these instructions to the most periodically-exciting-but-mostly-boring two months in sports, the NBA playoffs.
Ethan Trex thinks Reggie Evans owes Chris Paul royalties for stealing his move. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.