I'm sitting at La Guardia waiting for a flight down to Louisville, to cover this year's Kentucky Derby. Already, I know I'm in big trouble because every time i pronounce it Darby, I get corrected by the nearest colony dweller that the correct phrase is in fact Durby. Which to my mind will always bring forth images of "Furby' - not a good sign when your weekend's activities are already based around hairy creatures. The Earl of Derby (that's DARBY), from whom the term originates, must be rolling in his stately grave.
The weekend is being paid for by Axe, makers of shampoo, bodywash and deodorant, and no doubt once I arrive, they'll have me doused and ensconced, so that the smell of a lone blogger walking through the turnstiles is sure to douse the sweet bouquet of any Kentucky Rose.
Rechecking the original email that their PR team sent me, I read:
Our new line of shower gels are designed to give guys a "fix for every need." From having a random hook-up to being brutally hung over, these shower gels will help any guy refresh. The events we are preparing will most likely require one of these shower gels the next morning!
I'm beginning to wonder if my wife understood exactly what she was agreeing to when she gave me the weekend hall pass, but we're already past the point of no return.
Axe's newest web site, The Fixers, seems to promise an environment of pranks and pitfalls, but if any joker tries to wake me up with a wet flannel to the face, they're going to be staring down the business end of a fist from a crabby Brit with no sense of puerile humor.
A house has been rented, for five invited bloggers, and I'm imagining everything from student frat house, to Chez Soprano. Although I have the names of the other writers, there's no-one I recognize, and their gmail addresses give nothing away. One always hopes for editors from Playboy or GQ, but seeing as I am part of the merry crew, the most I could reasonably expect would be interns from Fark or 4chan. Tonight we have a dinner arranged, and tomorrow, seats in the Grandstand.
It's my first time at Churchill Downs - in fact, my first time at any US racecourse. My last equestrian adventure was at Brighton Racecourse, in the late 80s. We used to pile into a car from my agency in Hammersmith in the early afternoon, and get to Brighton for the evening slot. As the horses passed the turn, behind them the setting sun used to reflect off the sea. It was simultaneously awe-inspiring and blinding. Judging by the forecast tomorrow, the best I can expect from Louisville is a vista of smeared mascara and water-logged hats.
I haven't studied the form, or runners, or the going. After all, my experience of betting alongside experts and pundits over the years assures me that William Goldman's assertion in his book about the Screen Trade applies to all situations - "Nobody Knows Anything". I'll derive my bets at random, leaving karma to reward or confound, a system that has served me very badly over the years when it comes to gambling. Meaning I must be due for payback. Or not.
That's the call for my flight. Inevitably, besides filing reports, I'll twittering the experience on the YesButNoButYes twitter feed, so follow me there. It's about time we used it for something vaguely original.