Bob Bestler

Kentucky Derby tips off May for me

I listened a few days ago as Michael Wilbon, co-host of “Pardon the Interruption” on ESPN, pooh-poohed the Kentucky Derby.

Wilbon assured all of his viewers that he not only did not watch Nyquist win on Saturday, but happily managed to miss every highlight. Well, the NBA playoffs are under way and one must not miss a single tip-off.

I think Wilbon is among many hardened sports writers who can't bother with a sport that features a non-human, even as they forget that the jockey is an accomplished professional athlete.

Or maybe they're protesting the pretensions surrounding the event, the gaudy hats and tacky sport coats, and the fact that many people seem to be there to be seen rather than to see.

And let's face it. The Kentucky Derby is a betting extravaganza that takes about two hours of TV time to cover a two-minute race. A day later, most of the horses are never heard from again, except for track regulars.

Wilbon would not be happy spending the day in my house.

The bride and I have a Kentucky Derby routine that we have followed religiously for several years.

First is a visit to the McClellanville Shrimp Festival and the annual blessing of the fleet, which is always held on the first Saturday in May - aka, Derby Day.

Then it's back to the house for mint juleps - yes, children, we grow our own mint - and a couple of hours catching up with the back stories of the derby horses and riders.

Invariably we fall in love with the horses as they parade past our TV screen; these sleek thoroughbreds must be among the most magestic of God's creatures.

Finally, it's a quick two-minutes of racing, and while we each have a personal favorite - usually based on our new acquaintance with a horse or a trainer or a rider - we end up cheering for the favorite.

Last year, of course, it was American Pharaoh, which offered plenty of thrills through his Triple Crown run. This year's derby gave us Nyquist - and we'll be cheering him on through the Preakness and Belmont.

OK, none of these races measure up, in the mind of a hopelessly addicted golf fan, to the Masters or the U.S. Open, but they still beat one more NBA playoff game.

So go for it, Nyquist. We'll be with you to the finish line.

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