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CONNING THE CON MEN OF KENTUCKY
Joe McGinniss
May 05, 1969
Two college boys hitchhiked 1,000 miles to Louisville, drank freely (and free), sneaked into the Derby—and even got to see the race
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May 05, 1969

Conning The Con Men Of Kentucky

Two college boys hitchhiked 1,000 miles to Louisville, drank freely (and free), sneaked into the Derby—and even got to see the race

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Finally we got tired and sat on the newspaper and leaned against a thick, heavy tree.

And then we saw the sunrise, dissolving the gray between the spires. For the first time we understood where we were, in the stable area of Churchill Downs, at dawn of Derby Day, with the sun orange and alive now climbing higher between the spires.

"Let's eat."

"O.K."

We walked into the track kitchen. Larry had folded the paper again and tucked it under his arm. We had orange juice and three fried eggs and thick, meaty bacon and milk and muffins with honey and strong black coffee and it cost us 55�. Outside, the sun was up now and more people were coming through the stable gate, people with identification badges on.

The first race went off at 11:30. We woke up just in time, with sour breath and grass stains on our faces. We walked through a long tunnel beneath the infield, across the asphalt apron, through an open gate to the clubhouse. We each bought a program and played a double, which lost. The clubhouse was filled, and beautiful women strolled past the flower beds in the courtyard behind it. The sun was strong, as it should have been, and the air was clean and warm. We got a Harry Stevens mint julep in the souvenir glass. It tasted like iced tea.

We bet the second race and lost, then split a hot dog and beer. I bought a Morning Telegraph and sat by yellow roses and tried to figure the Derby race.

Candy Spots was strong. He deserved to be the favorite. But he was a California horse, and there was a tradition that California horses did not do well. I looked very hard at Never Bend and wondered if he could last that final quarter mile. No Robbery I could not bet, just because Larry would not shut up about the horse. There was no way a horse that Larry liked so much could win.

I scanned the rest of the field. Nothing. There was a horse called Chateaugay who was also undefeated as a 3-year-old, but he had beaten nothing of merit. I lost the third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Except for the sun and the flowers it could have been Lincoln Downs. I had $3.70 left. The Derby race was next. For the first time I thought of what the trip back would be like—broke and with no longer even a goal. I made a last analysis of the Telegraph. Then I looked at the odds board.

Candy Spots was 6 to 5. Never Bend was 8 to 5. No Robbery was 2 to 1.

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