Category Archives: Horses

The Kentucky Derby

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I know that the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby were over two months ago.  Again, this is one of those times where the blog is one part journal and one part scrapbook.

The First Saturday in May.  The Run For the Roses.  The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.

I am the girl whose parents bought her riding lessons to assuage her grief at being forced to quit full-time ballet while still keeping her in part-time dance.  It was everything to be at Churchill Downs on Derby Day.  Everything was brighter.  Everything was louder.

On Derby Day, we arrived at the track with just enough time to scamper to our seats before the first race began.  Does that mean that we were at the track for nine hours that day?  Yes.  But I also knew that we didn’t want to miss a single minute.

Or a single mint julep.

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Thank Goodness, because otherwise we would have missed the maiden race where three (three!) of the horses dumped their jockeys.

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It was just a dash of chaos.

Arriving earlier in the day was actually a perfect plan because there were things we could do earlier in the day (watch races from the rail, visit the paddock) that became harder, if not functionally impossible, later in the day.

See also: Us watching a race from the rail.

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If I may be so honest, I spent a not-insignificant amount of prayer on the weather for Derby Day since it seems to tend to extremes: pouring rain and a slop track or gorgeous.  I packed for all weather experiences because we were not in covered seats, so we had ponchos, shoes that would survive rain, and all of the other clothing we would need for a tempest.

As it turns out, we had nothing to worry about because it was 75 and sunny without a cloud in the sky.

When we visited the paddock before Race 3, we asked an 80 year-old woman to take our photo beneath the Twin Spires.  Had the photo turned out, that would have been wonderful.  But this was so much better.

Paddock Photo

Old Woman: I’m not so good at working these.

I DIE.  Thank Goodness for the girl standing next to us, who offered us a shot at a do-over.

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After Race 3, we decided to journey to The Infield.  I feel like The Kentucky Derby Infield is nearly as famous as the race itself, so there was no reason not to go.

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I grabbed a mint julep immediately upon entry because even though I wasn’t really in the mood for a drink, I felt like it would be sacrilege to enter the Infield sober.  We actually ended up finding a really great spot near the turf rail to watch Race 4, which was a turf race.  While I’m glad we had the chance to wander through, it also made me very glad that we had stand seats.  I would not have survived a whole day in there.

What were we doing the rest of the time?  Honestly, most of the day was spent betting-drinking-watching a race-walking around-anticipating the Derby.

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That’s what horse racing is, people.  Unrelated: Isn’t he Just Dapper?

Seeing them drag out The Official Gates for The Derby was Really Wild.

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As was singing My Old Kentucky Home In Kentucky With Everyone Else In The Stands.  Did I cry a little bit?  Possibly Absolutely yes.

We all know how that race ended.  California Chrome won.   While he would gallop on to win the Preakness as well, he would not win the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown.  How truly lucky I am to have been able to cross this Excellent Adventure off of my life list.


The Kentucky Oaks

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I know that the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby were over two months ago.  Again, this is one of those times where the blog is one part journal and one part scrapbook.

On Kentucky Oaks Day, we didn’t wake up in Louisville, we woke up in Cincinnati and drove into the city.  Brian was kind enough to take our photo before we packed out.

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It came as no surprise that Derby-mania was everywhere, but our hotel really cracked me up.  In our tiny Days Inn lobby, not only was one woman openly peddling hats, but we also had lots of this going on…

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And this entrepreneur with his Can Do Spirit.


Real Life rarely disappoints.  Once we checked into our hotel and drove to the track (it was about two miles from our hotel to Churchill Downs via the University of Louisville campus), I want to say that it was probably Race 3.

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We didn’t care.  We were finally there!  Upon our arrival to the track, we grabbed a program and headed to our seats, where Marcus immediately sourced me a mint julep.

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I will never, ever, be able to emphasize this enough, but I will try.  My husband is a saint.  Obviously convincing him to head to Louisville was not a challenge, but he worked so so so hard to make sure that the experience was special for me and that it lived up to my dreams.

We watched another race and then we set out to locate the saddling paddock.   I don’t know how it is that I never put two and two together, but the paddock is directly beneath the twin spires.

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We spent the next few races there watching the horses head in from the backside and out for the next race.

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Our time at the paddocks was also fairly surreal because It Was Something I Have Dreamed Of Forever.

After a short trip to the store (Derby Pullover and Can Koozie…hello, summer uniform), we headed over to the red carpet area where we saw Carson Kressley wandering out in the wild and that was pretty much the extent of it.  I think we all know we didn’t pilgrimage to Louisville for the red carpet.

If I can be completely honest without sounding like The Biggest First World Whiner, it was cold on Oaks Day.  Like, 60 degrees, cloudy and windy cold.  Initially it was all, Oh Hey!  This is so much warmer than Minnesota!

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And then it five hours later, it was OMG WE ARE GOING TO FREEZE TO DEATH.  I thought I was playing it smart by bringing a cardigan, but clearly that was not enough.  Jeans and a fleece jacket would have been much more comfortable, but that is not the point of a day at the races.

The only race we bet on that day was the Oaks.


Clearly we were not destined for fortune. But still, we stood on our seats with the rest of the of the track as the fillies came around the final turn and galloped for home.

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Today was truly wonderful.

We watched the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby, survived multiple visits to the Infield and sang My Old Kentucky Home.

We bet on horses that repeatedly lost, cheered while standing on the rail, and watched the horses get saddled in the paddock.

It isn’t every day that you get to fulfill a Life Dream. Today, I looked back at Tiny, Elementary School-Aged Katherine, gave her a thumbs-up and whispered, We Did It, Girl. We Did It.

A DIY Hat for the Derby

So we all know that my first attempt at sourcing a hat for the Kentucky Derby was dispiriting at best.

Blessedly, last week, Jen was kind enough to reach out to me by e-mail with Louisville running trail suggestions and Most Importantly a Key Hat Tutorial ( you have to scroll down the page to locate the videos).

I can’t say that I have ever watched any craft tutorial ever.  So it only made sense for me to crack open a can of Coppola champagne on Friday night, hit the play button and proceed to be mesmerized for the next 20 minutes.  I cannot say that I have ever seen anything on this order in my life. As I watched this woman methodically attack a plain white hat with flowers and ribbons and netting and feathers, the idea of making my own hat seemed far less insane than I had originally thought.

Which is a real Godsend because I had already visited JoAnn Fabrics with mother earlier in the day.  Apparently we had managed to select all of the right things.


Excluding feathers, because the feather selection was essentially peacock and pheasant only.

Mom: When is the last time you came here (JoAnn’s)?

Me: Before Pamplona so we could buy sash material. You know, before I do something really expensive, I try to save money.   Even though we spent all of the money on Earth on Derby and Oaks tickets, I refuse to pay $200 for a hat.

But I mean really, can we talk about (crosses self) JoAnn’s for a second?  Because I swear to God that every time I darken that doorstep, time stops.  If I ever see anyone in that store (employee or customer) move with any sense of urgency, I will probably die of shock where I am standing.

We escaped with plunder in tow, I deposited it all at The House On The Hill and I informed Mom that our work would commence after we were done with egg coloring.  She had not watched either of the tutorials so I think that she was somewhat taken aback by my sudden zest for craft.  Me too.

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Though I didn’t keep a real eye on the clock while I was busy hot gluing away, I want to say that the entire crafting process took approximately one hour from start to finish.  Had I incorporated More Flowers or Feathers or Color, I’m sure that there would have been more decisions to make.

The total haul (hat+ribbon/net) ended up being approximately $30.  I only used one spool of wired ribbon and even though we got a yard of black tulle, I probably only used a quarter yard.

Because I know y’all need to know, the finished product.


Next stop: Etsy shop. 😉

Derby Hats

Our tickets are being shipped, we leave for Kentucky in two weeks, my black dress has returned from the tailor.

Last weekend the hats arrived.  That gold hat was ordered from Nordstrom’s, the white hat my mother found in England for a garden wedding that she and Dad attended last summer.  The black woven straw hat was ordered from

The makings of a new hobby?  Possibly.


Well, the gold hat was beautiful, but entirely disappointing.  I loved the ribbons, but the brim seemed…short?  If that is a thing that can be possible.  Looking at the hat on my head and comparing it to the photo of the hat on the model, I feel like a victim of egregious photoshopping.

The white hat had such a lovely wide brim and the net was sort of exciting but it did not work at all with my dress.  This probably should not have been shocking because my dress is black, but I thought maybe the color blocking thing could work for me.  Except when it failed.

Trials, I know.

You know that thing where you have a picture in your head of how something is supposed to look and nothing in real life actually translates?  This is that.  I don’t want to say that the concept I’m working off of is highly specific, but I certainly haven’t seen it in the pages and pages of hats I’ve pored through so far.

So one of my projects this weekend will be a trek to the craft store so that I can source ribbons and action the final version using that $15 black hat from Target as a base.  Because we all know how successful my life as a crafter is.

If there was ever a time to light a candle kittens, this is it.


Race Day Dresses

To give y’all some perspective on the types of conversations that take place in this house, there has been a lot of this lately.

Marcus: I thought that you already got your Derby dress.

Me: No, I just keep on ordering things and returning them.

During my Friday afternoon Target run, I decided to take a detour through the clothing area because I’m always looking for new work clothes and you never know what you’ll find.

In the course of five minutes, I found this dress for the Oaks. Oaks Dress

And this dress for the Derby.

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Which is only hilarious because our front step has been a revolving door of dresses bought and returned.  With a month to go until Derby Day, I didn’t know I could be so disappointed by frocks.

Maybe this sounds little bit nuts, but when I look back on these photos in 20 years, I do not want to waste a single instant wondering WTH Past Kat was thinking when she got dressed that weekend.

Happy memories only, please.

I also sourced this hat from Nordstrom’s.

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Having not seen it in person, it’s impossible to know if it’s really The Hat, but if I don’t order a hat, it will be the first Saturday in May and I will have no hat at all.  I also know that I’ve seen a lot of hats that I have hated.

I will wear a fascinator of sorts for the Oaks.

To make a very long story short, when we were gallivanting in Texas, we stopped at a boutique in Brenham that had these lovely white bow clips.  I was fiddling about with a few of them and after a brief workshop with Megan, we agreed that it was a look that could work.

I didn’t buy the bows then and there because I felt like I would have to wear them on the plane home in order to avoid crushing them.

Retrospectively, three hours on a plane with a mass of bows attached to my head would have been far less commitment than the madness of searching every corner of the internet for the specific arrangement that I am looking for.  I have been through the depths of Etsy, eBay and every page on Google Shopping.  It’s a war zone, people.

I think I (may) have found what I am looking for, but I will not know for sure until the package appears on my doorstep.  Fingers crossed.

Headed Toward Roses

As a pup, I was obsessed with the Kentucky Derby.   When I try to think back to the first race I can properly remember, it was Grindstone crossing the line in 1996.  And after each Triple Crown Race, I would set after the newspapers armed with scissors, a glue stick and a large piece of poster board to action a proper collage.

If you were to peek under my bed during those days, beyond the dust bunnies, you would have found stacks of these collages.  Lovingly tucked away, year after year.  If you were to look at my bookshelves, you would find them overrun by the Thoroughbred and Saddle Club book series, each of which I read diligently.

Which is to say NOTHING at all of Carmello, my invisible horse.  She would be turning 18 this year.

I was horse crazy.  Which is probably the only reason that when I was finally forced to quit ballet lessons, riding lessons were offered up as an appropriate replacement.

I can’t imagine what my parents possibly could have thought would come from all of this.

We all know that last year’s big bucket list crusade was the Encierro.

But with all of this in mind, I can’t really say that Marcus really knew what he was doing when he asked me what I thought about going to the Kentucky Derby this year about a month ago.  By that, I nearly lost my mind in the bar.

And here we are, a month later with tickets ordered and a hotel room less than two miles away from Churchill Downs.  It is really happening.  We are going to see the Kentucky Derby (and the Kentucky Oaks!).  In keeping with the rule that you should live your life in a way that would make your childhood self proud, I am extremely confident when I say that Tiny Katherine would be overcome by this development.

Hell, I’m nearly overcome by this development.  I always dreamed of going to see the Derby, but I also always thought that I’d be that 60-year-old woman getting surprised with tickets by her family on the TODAY show or something like that.

So yes, this means that we are embarking on America, The Road Trip: Part II.  It also means that over the next two months we are going to have to investigate just about every frock, hat and fascinator on the face of the Earth to source Just The Right Ones.  It really means that for the first time on the First Saturday in May, I won’t be singing My Old Kentucky Home along to the karaoke-style lyrics on the television.