“Wait until you see our seats,” my Millionaire’s Row benefactor grinned.
We entered the track with the most complex ticket I’ve ever seen, and passed through several checkpoints before we were granted magical orange wristbands that said, “Kentucky Derby 2009 Millionaire’s Row.” I love how there is no shame associated with the name. No one is embarassed or shy about being seated there; it’s just people who have the money to spend on a ticket like that.
I won’t tell you how much the ticket cost. Instead, I want you to imagine how much you might pay for front row seats and backstage passes to see your favorite band in the world. And let’s say the opener for that band was your second favorite band in the world, and the special guests included three of your favorite solo artists. Also included in this package would be a dinner with all of these artists and a hotel room for the evening. Imagine how much you’d reasonably spend for that, then multiply how that number by 10. That is how much my seat at this table on Millionaire’s Row cost.
It was in the large yellow banquet hall on the 6th floor. Peter and I played the Ryder Cup Soiree Under the Spires in this very room last fall, but it had a completely different vibe on Derby Day. A massive buffet on silver platters lined one side of the room, ten betting windows were on another, and round tables and full bars dotted the center. The far side of the room was entirely glass windows and doors which led to long tiered balcony overlooking the finish line of the track.
Our table was right by the windows with an amazing view, and before I sat down completely, a server took my drink order. I’d brought extra cash for the overpriced drinks and racing programs, but it didn’t occur to me that drinks on Millionaire’s Row are free. If you pay that much for a seat, of course you’re not going to pay for drinks or food or racing programs. We had Bloody Marys and later switched to Mint Juleps. Divine.
I’ve watched races in seats like that before at Churchill Downs, but on Derby Day, it takes your breath away. Hundreds of thousands of people, decked out in their finest seersucker suits and massive floral hats, each with a cocktail in hand and their chins held high.
And then there’s the infield. The infield is like NASCAR on steroids. I’m not even going to bother with descriptions, especially since I’ve declared my infield days are over. I will, however, tell you that watching the infield from the view of Millionaire’s Row is particularly satisfying. I felt like Eva Peron or Marie Antoinette watching the poor plebians from my balcony view.
At first, I didn’t know what we were laughing at. I thought we were being merry and gay, preparing for the race with our finest My Fair Lady attitudes, when Peter pointed out to the infield and giggled. “They’re racing across the port-o-pots.”
And they were. One by one, and ocassionally two-by-two, the poor folks in the infield hoisted themselves up to the line of port-o-potties and ran across the tops of them as fast as their drunk bodies would allow. We cheered them on, laughing when they slipped, giggling as they dodged the flying shoes and beer bottles, and gasping in mock sympathy when they fell in between two ports.
To be continued.... but in the mean time, enjoy this: