Oh mama, they’ll be there: Rock stars, sports stars, even a brazen politician or two, gussied up to blow a few bucks on a long shot and pushing in line to get tips from serious gamblers, like Pete Rose.
There’ll be herds of A-list celebrities, all clamoring for more gin and howling like banshees, salivating as the horses make that last, preening pass through the paddock.
High above the fray, in some posh set roped off from the $2 exacta-box betters, Bob Costas will be duping the television audience – more than 16 million, last year – with melodramatic stories about each horse and its owner.
The emotive shots in the video montages will melt into each other like chocolate poured over creek stones – and all this for what essentially boils down to a foot race between dumb animals.
But never underestimate the smoldering need of the world’s religious upper crust to invest itself heavily in the sporting world.
Our last pope was a self-reporting soccer fanatic who regularly put the exigencies of Christendom on hold when the World Cup rolled around.
This paper has reported on the Rev. Rick Warren’s strong affinity for Major League Baseball and its drug-addled sluggers.
The Dalai Lama has become as associated with Nike as has Michael Jordan – another Derby fiend.
Can we forget the image of the Rev. Billy Graham playing golf with every president since Abraham Lincoln?
On the other hand, Derby is something sacred.
The Kentucky Derby doesn’t traffic in the smarmy, cleavage-riddled propaganda that each year threatens to ruin the Super Bowl.
There’s something transcendent about the Derby, something that, much like the spirits of baseball’s past, whispers to farmers in cornfields, telling them that greatness is just a foolish bet away.
There’s something very Garden of Eden – or very Noah’s Ark – about the Derby: The beauty and strength of animals, the fickle, unpredictability of spring weather, the giddy sense that God’s creation is competing with itself, and that he’s watching.
For me the Kentucky Derby is a sacred ritual, one that evokes memories of my dead in-laws, people who grew up in the south end of Louisville, near Churchill Downs, people who called horses “ponies” and parked cars in their yards for race-goers.
Derby is like Mardi Gras for me. The celebration takes place in view of family graves, and when the colts thunder down the back stretch, the ghosts are leaning over the rail, slapping their programs against their thighs.
My horse this year? Lookin At Lucky.
Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at 678-1510 or email@example.com.