I never realized this until today, but, apparently, I've been following the major horse races since 2002. I was noodling around on Wikipedia today and given the fact that Mike and Mike were at Churchill Downs today, I worked my way to the Kentucky Derby page.
Turns out that I vividly remember ever Derby winner since War Emblem in 2002. Part of this, perhaps, is that it coincides roughly with my time as a copy editor at a daily newspaper, when scrolling through the AP wire was both a way to pass the time and do my job. I remember all of the Preakness winners except for Bernardini in 2006 and there are a couple of horses in the Belmont that I don't remember (probably from years when there was no Triple Crown threat). Still, even a few of those ring a bell despite it being the only race of the three some of those horses won.
Despite that, I wouldn't call myself a true fan of horse racing. I've never been to a horse race outside of the Atlanta Steeplechase, which I only attended because I got free press passes from work. I don't follow the sport online and I'm not sure I've ever seen any of the racing papers. I can't just look at a horse and tell you if it's a good racer or not. I can't pick out physical flaws that will limit the horse. Honestly, I don't even like horses. I agree that they're one of the most beautiful animals on the planet and that combination of size and speed can be captivating, but I always disliked working with horses as a kid. I'm not exactly sure why, but they always rubbed me the wrong way. They aren't as warm and willing of a companion as a dog and you can't just pick them up and throw them out of the door when they get stubborn like a cat.
The reason we had horses as a kid was that my sister loved horses. She was sneaking out of the house and climbing up on our Shetland pony so she could ride her bareback when she was in primary school. We'd start to wonder where the kid was only to look out the window to see my sister and Lady ambling through the yard. Even when she was thrown into the woods when our first full-size horse, a washed-up racing quarterhorse named Regal Flirtina, spooked and broke its leg when it fell into the ditch at the end of my aunt's driveway, my sister kept loving horses. As a kid I always felt a little guilty about letting Regal get away without trying to cut her off or grab the reins to correct the bit she had flipped, but honestly, the washed-up rodeo horse I was riding at the time wasn't going to catch Regal. I think one of the few times I saw my sister openly cry as a little girl was after Regal had to be put down.
Still, dispite my slight dislike of horses on a personal level, I find myself drawn every year to the airings of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. I even found myself watching the Breeder's Cup last year, a race that actually features faster horses and better represents the sport, but doesn't get quite the same amount of publicity. Perhaps I'd become a true fan of racing if I were a gambler. After all, my natural tendency is obsessiveness, but I've never been much of a financial risk-taker. Still, I'll leave this rambling post with my pick for the winner of tomorrow's Derby: Advice at 30-1.