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  • Writer's pictureBrooke Budke

Talk Derby to Me

The Kentucky Derby, an iconic bucket-list item for most Americans, is a true sight to be seen. The smell of the cigars and whiskey, the fashion, the HATS, the people, the historic Churchill Downs, the stables, the rain, the jockeys, the horses and oh yes, the most exciting two minutes in sports every year.

I learned an incredible lesson of losing this weekend at the Derby. Tray’s dad is part owner of a Derby horse Gray Magician, and he literally took last place. Most would walk away feeling defeated. Yet, the pride and honor of the day was remarkable. Half way through the race Gray Magician was right in the middle of the pack. Exactly where he needed to be. And the jockey just knew it wasn’t his day. The horse didn’t have it and he pulled him up. Saving his legs was more important than winning that day. It made me think of a very important question: How many times in our lives have we been in the biggest moments and knew that it wasn't your time to shine?

How you maintain composure, focus and a winning attitude in defeat is one of the most important elements of success.

Here’s my quick take on the race from this weekend. Sorry for the ubrupt end to my video of the day but another group was approaching quickly and I had to keep the pace of play. (For those of you that don't golf, read: your husband gives you the look like, "hurry up woman.")

As curious as I am, I wanted to know more about the odds. Each year there are more than 20,000 colts born and only 20 qualify for race day. And, the race is only two minutes long. So the sheer odds of going from 20,000 colts to 20 is a victory. Then, to realize in the biggest day of the year that it’s not your day, there is great strategy in being smart about a horse's body, and saving him for more races to come. And there's even more honor in being a grateful loser.


Our history with the Derby

It is an overwhelming experience to attend the race, and every year we get smarter and smarter about how to navigate the chaos. Tray's dad Ron has an intense passion for horses and is on a few syndicate teams. He raced grayhounds, quite successfully, when Tray was a little boy. And, the past three years he has widened his range to horses.

Our first year (2017) at the Derby we toured the iconic stables of the Secretariat blood line, and got a private tour of the stables behind the track. The horse we were there to see, Always Dreaming, WON THE DERBY! Going to a pre-race pep rally, seeing Always Dreaming win, and then experiencing the celebration of a winning horse at the governor's after party cannot be topped! And, yet we return every May in hopes of an even sweeter victory with one of Ron's hopeful horses each year. While Ron didn't get a chance to own part of Always Dreaming, this is easily the moment when the goal of winning the Derby imprinted in his heart.

Last year, we got to walk on the track with My Boy Jack before the race. To say it was pouring cats and dogs would be the understatement of the year. It was a torrential downpour, and yet we walked! No umbrellas are permitted in the arena because they will spook the horses. So off we go in our rainbows and ponchos to walk the track before the big race. We watched him take fifth from the sidelines soaking wet.

And, this year we had the best time ever, coming in last. Yes, it was not the outcome we hoped for. But the truth is, 19 out of 20 horses and jockeys leave disappointed in the race. Only one can win. Making the decision to pull back on the horse and save him for future races was a smart move. And, the steadfast determination from my father-in-law impressed me most. I text him the day after the race thanking him for the trip and telling him how inspired I am from it all. His response was "Thank you. I'll keep trying."

So today, whatever you are facing in life, even if you feel like you are in last place. Never give up hope. Always keep trying!


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