Depending on who you ask, the most important thing to know about the 138th Kentucky Derby is not whether Union Rags or Gemologist should really have been the early favorite over Bodemeister but rather the precise measurements required to make the world's best mint julep.
For those who are focused on the track, the 2012 edition of the "Run For the Roses" at Churchill Downs features a deep and talented field that should produce a stellar race. Starting in the sixth slot, Bodemeister was the early favorite at 4-1 but is hardly the only three-year-old with a chance and the odds have shifted to reflect that.
"This is the best bunch I've seen in a long time," four-time Derby-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas told The Associated Press. "I was out there riding next to some of them, and let me tell you, this is a hell of a group."
Whether it is the fashion in the grandstand, the debauchery of the infield or majesty of the 20 horses striding the mile and a quarter distance, the Derby is an event without equal. Of course, some people are glad about that, considering the dangers to animals involved and the hard-drinking folks in the infield who occasionally behave like animals.
In "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent And Depraved," Hunter S. Thompson summed up the infield party scene thusly to a first-time visitor.
"That whole thing will be jammed with people; fifty thousand or so, and most of them staggering drunk. It's a fantastic scene — thousands of people fainting, crying, copulating, trampling each other and fighting with broken whiskey bottles. We'll have to spend some time out there, but it's hard to move around, too many bodies."
Those watching at home will likely be far less concerned with the mirth and mess of the party and more interested to see which horse will take the first step toward the elusive Triple Crown.
Are any of the horses in this year's field capable of the feat? Is the Derby truly the "Greatest Two Minutes In Sports"? Is it an anachronism that is dangerous to animals and sometimes even the revelers? Or should everyone stop worrying about what the Derby means and realize that it's merely a terrific excuse to sugar up your whiskey on a Saturday in May?
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