In the whole joyful evening, there was only one small disappointment. "Any Bloodys?" asked Ronnie Franklin, rummaging around in the tack room refrigerator an hour after the race. "What did they do with the vodka? None for the jock, hey?"
There was champagne, it was pointed out. Ronnie said he didn't like the stuff. It was French champagne, he was told, Piper Heidsieck.
"Champagne gets me sick," Ronnie said rebelliously. A willing volunteer went off to fetch the ingredients for his preferred drink. Who at Churchill Downs last Saturday evening could have denied Ronnie Franklin anything? He had just won the Derby. Even more important, perhaps, in front of 128,488 witnesses he had just grown up as a jockey, magnificently confounding the critics who had poor-mouthed him ever since the Florida Derby, who had called Trainer Bud Delp crazy to keep such an inexperienced boy on the great Spectacular Bid.
In the winner's circle, Delp had bestowed the final accolade: "You're a pro, Ronnie." Gerald, the younger of the trainer's two sons, took it a little further in the barn. "He's a man now. He's class."
For all that, an hour after his victory Franklin still looked young and vulnerable, his face still red with exertion, his mouth gaping wide now and then with prodigious yawns. He had walked back around the track after his press conference, choosing not to ride as scheduled in the ninth race, the one after the Derby. Back at the barn, there was fun with Dick and Jane—Delp's brother and his wife—who picked Ronnie up and hugged him. How did he do in the ninth, Jane asked.
"I fell off," Ronnie said, deadpan.
"Oh, Ronnie, did you?" wailed Jane. She was still clutching a red rose from Spectacular Bid's triumphal wreath. Light dawned on her. "You're kidding me," she said, laughing. Ronnie got another hug, and discovered the bad news about the vodka. For a moment or two he collapsed on the tack room sofa. Then he yawned again, bounced up and went straight to the second stall.
"Hi, Big Dad," he crooned. "How you doin', Big Dad?" Bid looked round with mild curiosity as Moe Hall, his groom, dabbed peroxide on a small cut above a hoof.
"Hey," said Moe to the jockey, "how'd you manage to knock that spot off him?" Ronnie just went on crooning. It was the sound of pure satisfied joy.
Not only joy in his triumph. In two days he would be going back to Maryland. "It'll be neat to go back again and win all the races. When we get home we'll find a lot to do," he had said earlier in the week. At times, through Spectacular Bid's winter campaign in Florida, and later in Kentucky, the young jockey had been more than a little homesick. And ever since the Blue Grass, he had been living in two different worlds.