May 6, 2011

Kentucky Oaks 137: I'll second that!

Today is the Oaks, the annual fillies race held the day before the Kentucky Derby. Oaks is really all about the girls, both equine and human - tens of thousands of women attend with girlfriends, the stands are a sea of pink, there's an annual breast cancer Survivor's Parade, and the race is run by fillies.

Am I attending? No. The crowds are more than I want to deal with, and frankly, I'm always terrified for the horses, all that beauty and brawn barreling around the track on those delicate, fragile legs. Even so, the allure of Oaks is had to resist... 

Be careful out there ladies.

 Rachel Alexandra, 2009 Oaks Winner

From wikipedia:

The Kentucky Oaks is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbred fillies staged annually in Louisville, KentuckyUnited States. The Kentucky Oaks is held on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby each year. The winner gets a $500,000 purse and a large garland of lilies, affectionately called the "Lillies for the Fillies." A silver Kentucky Oaks Trophy is presented to the winner.

The first running of the Kentucky Oaks was on May 19, 1875 when Churchill Downs was known as the Louisville Jockey Club.  The race was founded by Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. along with the Kentucky Derby, the Clark Handicap, and the Falls City Handicap. The Oaks and the Derby are the oldest continuously contested sporting events in history, and the only horse races to be held at their original site since its conception. The Kentucky Oaks was modeled after the British Epsom Oaks. In the first race, the horse Vinaigrette won the then 1½ mile race in a time of 2:39¾, winning a purse of $1,175. Since that race the Kentucky Oaks has been held each year.
Despite the increasing number of out-of-state visitors who came to the race every year, the "Oaks" (as local residents simply refer to it) has always been considered to be a local event by the people of Kentuckiana (the Ohio Valley, centered around Louisville, and consisting of much of northern Kentucky and southern Indiana). Large crowds of Louisvillians and others from the Kentuckiana attend the Oaks annually and the infield of the race track hosts numerous musical attractions, boardwalk games, and food and alcoholic beverage vendors. Bringing in one's own alcohol is forbidden at Churchill Downs and many locals revel in finding ingenious ways to smuggle in their own libations, rather than pay the inflated prices inside Churchill Downs. Most every school and quite a few businesses in the Kentuckiana region treat the Oaks as a holiday. Perhaps out of self-consciousness for the gambling aspect of the race, none of the region's schools declare that the holiday is explicitly because of the Oaks and most simply say it is an "administrative holiday." 

Wonder Woman: "I'd like to have seen more women."
Green Lantern: "I'll second that!"
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