Picking the Kentucky Derby

Okay, I will be the first to admit that I only watch three horse races a year, the Triple Crown. I fully admit I know next to nothing about horse racing, other than the three races are all different lengths, which is why it is so hard to win the Triple Crown, I know the horses all have crazy names that seemingly make no sense to a casual fan like me, and I know that the jockeys (the people who ride the horses), all look like malnourished little people who would be knocked over by a stiff wind.

However, I will be the first to admit that watching the horse sprint like crazy around the track is something mesmerizing. There is something about getting off a good start, or making an incredible late push that is just so exhilarating, even on television.

I should have put money down this year, because in the moments leading up to the race, I picked Mage to win the Kentucky Derby, the opening race of the Triple Crown.

Let me back up. My son graduated from Michigan Tech in late April. He is now in possession of a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering, which I am told is one of the toughest majors on Tech’s campus. I fully admit that, as far as I can tell, it is extremely difficult. I graduated from Tech with a degree in mathematics, and even I looked at his math, and said, “nope.”

However, my son figured it out. At the recent design expo, he and his team finished third with a project that tested batteries for medical devices.

Anyway, this past weekend, he and I moved as much of his stuff to Detroit as we could reasonably fit in two cars. We packed up the last five years of his life into his Dodge Dart and my Toyota RAV4, and drove the nine or so hours to Rochester Hills on Saturday. Somehow we moved his computer with its two monitors, his two gaming systems (his Microsoft xBox One and Nintendo Switch), his gaming chair, his clothes, and his Gunpla model kits up on Friday night and then did the driving on Saturday.

For the Upper Peninsula, I led the drive, with my son following behind me. We battled multiple downpours and fog in Marquette coming off of the snow they still had from earlier this past week when areas got more than two feet!

Across the U.P., my son called me multiple times and we talked about a variety of topics, including what new gear I should buy in the video game Destiny 2, which we both play. Fortunately, there was little traffic on the roads, so we were largely undisturbed as we made our way to the bridge.

After stopping to eat, we made our way to the Mackinac Bridge. With the rain came enough wind to make the drive interesting across the five-mile-long, manmade structure. Of course, there was a fair amount of construction to slow us down, which actually made the trek easier.

My son decided he wanted to lead the drive downstate. I am not sure if he was worried I might not remember how the drive worked or anything, but I went along with it.

I was not actually driving my RAV4, but rather my mother’s, because hers was a little newer and had a little more room in it, which was key for fitting my son’s gaming chair. I discovered that the fact that her RAV4 has features that mine does not have actually made life easier than I could have ever imagined.

When cruise control is active, her RAV4 actually can determine how much stopping distance is needed for the speed you are traveling. It will then automatically slow down if you are too close to the vehicle in front of you, in order to give you the stopping room you need.

So, I just set my cruising speed and let the car do the work in following my son’s Dart. It actually made life pretty easy, until we hit Flint and actual traffic. Unfortunately, there are no idiot driver controls or warnings, so you still have to pay attention to all the lanes, because chances are good somebody in a Wagoneer is going to assume they can fit their traincar-sized SUV in the four feet of space you have between you and your son in front of you. Yes, I was riding too close to my son, but that did not stop more than one Wagoneer from trying to fit themselves into that space as they made their way either to the left-most or the right-most lane quickly.

Once we arrived in Rochester Hills, I found out that I recognized where my son’s girlfriend’s apartment was. She found a place very close to the middle school they both attended, which also meant that she was close to her family, which was very advantageous for her. I helped my son move his stuff into her apartment and then made my way to the hotel I was staying in for the night.

After relaxing for a little while, I got a text message from my son asking if I was okay with eating at Buddy’s Pizza. I told him that sounded fine and then made my way over to it (a seven-minute drive from my hotel). I arrived before they did, and so I got us a table, which just so happened to face some TVs with the Derby on. Since they had not yet started, we got to watch the horses be led to the starting area, which gave us a chance to comment on their names.

Once they were all lined up and the coverage posted a graphic with all of the odds for each horse, my son’s girlfriend asked how you would know which horse will win.

I explained that while Angel of Empire had odds of 7-2, and thus was the favorite, it was unlikely it would win. Of course, I was guessing, but in my head, the logic made sense. I looked over the list of odds and said that Mage, who was at 17-1, seemed like a much better choice because it was in the middle of the pack in terms of odds.

As the race ensued, of course Mage was not amongst the leaders, but as they hit the home stretch, Mage found his stride, caught up to, and eventually passed the leaders. He made his way home, winning by a length, and giving jockey Javier Castellano his first Derby win.

While I don’t know much about horse racing, I did enjoy getting the chance to share that moment with my son and his girlfriend over some Detroit-style pizza.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today