St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Sites take fans inside Derby

Published May 2, 2003

Winston Churchill is credited with saying that "the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man," but rarely does the world so enjoy taking a thorough look inside the world of horses as during the week of the Kentucky Derby.

Kentucky is, of course, home to the International Museum of the Horse (online at, as well as countless other horse racing resources such as and Visit the state's page at and the main image is from the last turn at the Derby, taken by horse photographer James Archambeault, whose first three coffee table books were titled, appropriately, Kentucky, Kentucky II, and Kentucky III.

Visit the Kentucky Department of Travel at and you'll learn that the state horse is, in fact, the thoroughbred, and that the state produces more than 10,000 registered thoroughbred foals a year. The state's official stress reliever, available for $4, is a small squeezable thoroughbred horse.

The state and horse racing never are more connected than this weekend, and the best way to keep up with it all is to check out the official sites for Kentucky's top two newspapers: The Louisville newspaper's coverage hits on everything, covering the colorful peripheral events leading up to the race as much as the event itself. There's a photo gallery from Sunday's balloon race, which drew a crowd of 3,500 to watch 47 contestants in what turned out to be the photo finish for which Saturday's race can only hope.

It was a "hare and hound" race, and ballooners were challenged to drop a bag of Kentucky bluegrass seed as close as possible to a large X where the lead, or "hare," balloon eventually lands. The winning balloon missed by 8 inches, with the runner-up a half-inch farther out.

Another more frenetic part of Derby week is the Great Bed Races, which pitted 38 teams of five - four pushers, one driver - on high-speed mattresses on wheels. The winning team from the local Ford assembly plant went 900 feet in 39.4 seconds for an impressive average speed of 15.5 mph.

Few sites will give you the atmosphere around the race as this does - one ad touts, which will deliver a chocolate nut Derby pie to your door for $17.50 plus shipping, or, for about the same price, a Call to Post cookbook of classic Derby fare. Any decent Derby site will trot out a recipe for Mint Juleps, but this one has a triple crown of how-tos: for a julep, a Preakness Black-Eyed Susan and a Belmont Breeze. Nice address, where you'll find stories from the Lexington Herald-Leader, which also is all over this week's festivities. Thursday's main story looks into the Derby hat industry, explaining that "in the world of Kentucky Derby hats, there are two primary goals: be noticed and don't look like anyone else."

Thus, an exorbitant price range for hats that can reach $1,500 for a pink lace-and-leather creation. One Louisville florist is working 15-hour days this week to design more than 300 hats for the race.

To show how big the event is in Louisville, another story explains that one cell-phone company is trucking in a portable "Derby COW" or cell-on-wheels, basically a portable cell tower to keep up with 100,000 fans and their respective phones in town for the weekend.

Both papers have retrospectives on past Derby winners, which you can also find at Churchill Downs' official site, The site also has coverage of today's Kentucky Oaks, including a list of every entrant from 1875 winner Vinaigrette to the last horse in last year, Art Fair.

TID-BYTES: If the Derby gives you a sudden (and admittedly, overdue) interest in Laura Hillenbrand's outstanding 2002 book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, you can learn more or buy the book at, or check out the trailer for this summer's movie at ... Not to be outdone, the 30th anniversary of the 1973 Triple Crown can be celebrated at Classic photos - such as a memorable black-and-white showing the 31-length victory in the Belmont - are available for purchase, as is the requisite Secretariat bobblehead, yours for $73.

- If you have a question or comment about the Internet or a site to suggest, e-mail staff writer Greg Auman at

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.