Friday, June 8, 2018


On Kentucky Derby Day I went to a Derby Day party. I don’t follow horse racing, but I do follow parties. The women wore big hats and the men wore blazers and bow ties, but I didn’t get the memo. And anyway, blazers make me look like Thurston Howell III, and bow ties make me look like a cross between Pee-wee Herman and George F. Will.

Before the race my hosts had everybody put up 10 dollars and then draw the name of a horse out of a hat. I drew FLAMEAWAY, "a gritty colt who has won on dirt, grass and synthetic surfaces." I didn’t learn this at the time because I didn't have my reading glasses with me, and I couldn't make out the tiny print on the tiny newspaper clipping. I also didn't know that the consensus in the paddock was that he was "going to win a lot of races, but not this one."

I turned the paper over and thought, a-ha, the name of my horse is WITH HARVEY. I imagined a slutty mare who was "with Harvey" only until some other horse came along. I further imagined that she was going to break a lot of hearts, including Harvey's. 

By the time the horses were at the starting gate I’d had several Mint Juleps. Other party guests would ask me what horse I had, and I would answer jokingly, “I’m with Harvey!” I thought they were joking back when they answered, “Harvey who?” or, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I know Harvey.” I chalked it up to their own Mint Juleps.

Yes, everybody was having Derby Day fun now!

They ran the race and the announcer never mentioned how WITH HARVEY was doing. I thought that was unusual. Had he been scratched? What is “scratched,” anyway? Disqualified? Kidnapped? Dead? Should I be worried? I wondered aloud, “Hey, where’s WITH HARVEY?” but no one answered. Some guests looked worried. Were they worried about my horse or about me?

“The most exciting two minutes in sports” suddenly seemed longer.

Finally it was over and the woman who pulled the name of the winning horse out of the hat collected her money and we all congratulated her, but my heart wasn’t in it. 

The next day I found the piece of paper in my jacket pocket, along with nine mint leaves and a novelty swizzle stick that read, “May the horse be with you.” I put on my reading glasses and read the small print on the paper and felt, ironically, like a horse’s ass. The only way I would have felt more embarrassed was if FLAMEAWAY had won the race and I didn’t claim the prize money.

I don’t know if my hosts had a Preakness party two weeks later, but if they did, I wasn’t invited. What is Preakness, anyway? It sounds nasty, and I’m glad I don’t suffer from it.

I doubt I’ll be invited to a Belmont Stakes party, but if I do, I’ll bring my glasses.