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
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.