Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kentucky Derby - Churchill Downs

Summertime means travel time. I'm lucky when it comes to travel. I've seen many of the world's landmarks up close and personal. Places like the Eiffel Tower, The Acropolis, Vatican City, Ayres Rock, Franz Josep Glacier, Norte Dame and Big Ben. For the next few postings I want to share some lesson plans I use for my students as I present some of America's outstanding landmarks and places of interest. So get your luggage packed and gas-up your mental car because we're off. Today, let's go to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby:

The Kentucky Derby is a world-famous horse race that takes place each year on the first Saturday in May. Only three-year-old thoroughbred horses can enter the race which is held in Louisville, Kentucky. The race is the last event of the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. It is also the first of an annual racing event called the Triple Crown, the three main horse races in America, the other two being the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

The Kentucky Derby takes place at Churchill Downs, a race track that is one and a quarter miles (2 km) long. Colts are allowed to carry no more than 126 pounds (57.2 kg) jockeys and fillies no more than 121 pounds (54.9 kg).

The race is known as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" for its approximate duration, and is also called "The Run for the Roses" for the blanket of roses draped around the neck of the winning horse. Last year 150,000 people were admitted to the race track. General admission tickets are $40, with private viewing boxes going for up to $2,250.Kentucky has been the main center of horse breeding and racing in America since the late 18th century. From the time the region was settled, the fields of the Bluegrass region were known for producing superior race horses. The idea of the racetrack was thought up by Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. (grandson of William Clark of Lewis and Clark expedition) got the idea to start a fine race track after visiting England and France in 1872. The first race took place on May 17, 1875.

On May 3, 1952, the first national television coverage of the Kentucky derby took place. In 1954, the price money was more than $100,000 for the first time. The fastest time ever run in the Derby (at its present distance) was set in 1973 at 1 minute 59 2/5 seconds by a horse named Secretariat, a record that no other horse has ever broken.

Over the years the race has started its own traditions, including the Mint Julep, an iced drink made of bourbon, mint and a sugar syrup sipped from a souvenir glass. Women who come to the race are also famous for wearing big fancy straw hats. Find out more about the annual race and the famous racetrack at:

Research gathered at:

Now, here's a poem that knows how to gallop:

Trance Mission

The sigh of gas pumps in an empty station. Newspapers
that line the desert, flagstones leading to the porch.
Some folks don't know the difference between a
missile and a match. An easy mistake when
you think about it, seeing as though they
both emit flames. Quickly we realize
there's not even enough room to
bury the cat, at least not in
this postal-stamp size
backyard. So much
concrete. And my
likes to
play with handcuffs.
Not the best role model for
his boy. Industry? Is the music
business considered an industry. I like
it when electric guitars cry the blues. Come
to think of it, I don't remember there ever being
atoll on this bridge. Driving for miles and not an RV
park in sight.The father comes along and we regret every
minute. The son never removes his cap the whole trip.
But by morning, the bottle of iodine fully escapes
anyway, creeping up the length of the toll
booths like masses of famished kudzu.

Poem first published at:
Poem copyright 2008 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.


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