DERBY SIGNALS ARRIVAL OF SPRING

Derby winner

The first Saturday in May is always officially the first day of spring. It arrives and departs with the precise rhythm of the rising and setting sun. Yet it is not the day itself but what unfolds that is significant: The running of the roses, the Kentucky Derby, a day steeped in the tradition of the ages, 141 years of pageantry, sartorial splendor and homage to the three-year-old.

Saturday was no different as Canterbury Park opened its front gates and all three levels of the grandstand to largely Derby enthusiasts who might not be seen again at a tote machine until the 142nd running of this race and yet who displayed their passion by wearing the hats, dresses, suits and even outrageous attire typically associated with the Derby.

Outrageous? One fellow was wearing what for all intents and purposes looked to be boxer shorts. No, not of the variety worn late Saturday by Floyd Mayweather and Many Pacquiao. Boxer shorts, the kind made by Fruit of the Loom.

Topped off with a sport coat.

Yet, as much as the trappings of traditional racing fashion are part of Derby Day, the reason for the pomp and circumstance is truly what makes this occasion a gemstone of horse racing:

The first meeting of the nation’s best three-year-olds at a mile and a quarter with 126 pounds on their backs.

This running created a lot of speculation with its 18-horse field, reduced by three scratches.

Lots of questions preceded the race. Favored American Pharoah, for example.  No, absolutely no Isis connections, but a winning connection to be sure.

Or Far Right. What are the chances he was owned by a Democrat?

Carpe Diem.  Could he possibly seize the day?

American Pharoah just might be a horse for the ages, based on his strong Derby win, holding off longshot Firing Line with second choice Dortmund in third.

A sizeable crowd, probably around 10,000, transported in part by 16 party buses, packed areas of the Canterbury grandstand, as determined to spend their money on food and drinks as at the parimutel windows.

Some of them will be back in two weeks for the Preakness Stakes, maybe even for the opening of live racing the night before. And, if American Pharoah wins the race in Baltimore, certainly three weeks later for the Belmont Stakes.

The racing season is under way. Spring has indeed sprung!

JIM WELLS

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