For Kentuckians, there’s nothing quite like the Kentucky Derby. Each spring, the entire world turns its gaze to a 10-furlong track in the heart of Louisville to watch some of the greatest athletes on earth make their Run for the Roses.
Few sporting events boast such a rich history or deep cultural impact. The Kentucky Derby is more than just one race; it’s a whole season of celebration that engulfs the entire region.
And for me, the Derby has even more meaning because it affords me the opportunity to do what I love the most. I once again had the opportunity to interview a couple of dozen notable people on the red carpet in the run-up to the Derby. To get the chance to chat with such interesting people, even for just a few brief moments…well, for me, it’s like moxiementary speed dating.
Each week, I usually bring you a story about a person whom I think particularly exemplifies moxie. This week, however, after the extraordinary events of last Saturday, I feel compelled to reflect on the moxie of the Kentucky Derby. Now seems like a good time to pause and appreciate the greatest two minutes in all of sports.
Moxie takes the lead and sticks around.
Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, the grandson of William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, was so inspired by the horse racing he enjoyed when he toured England that he knew he had to start a thoroughbred race back home in Kentucky. He organized the Louisville Jockey Club, and in 1875 before a crowd of 10,000 people, the first winner was crowned. It’s an exercise that has been repeated every year since without interruption, making the Kentucky Derby the longest continuously held sporting event in the United States.
Over time, owners and trainers began sending their Derby-winning horses on to compete in the Preakness and Belmont stakes races. In 1930, sportswriter Charles Hatton coined the term “Triple Crown” to describe the chase to win all three events. That cemented the Kentucky Derby as the “first jewel” in the Triple Crown and assured the race’s leading role in popular imagination.
The Kentucky Derby has persevered through depression, recession, wars, cultural upheaval, and more. It takes moxie to stick around, and the Kentucky Derby has it.
What about you? Do you show up consistently, even when conditions are adverse? Maybe you’ve got a little bit of that Derby moxie, too.
Moxie goes big.
Everything about the Kentucky Derby is big.
The Kentucky Derby Festival kicks off two weeks before the race with the biggest fireworks show in North America, Thunder Over Louisville.
Each year Derby week itself seems to get bigger, too. Not so many years ago, Oaks Day served as the “prequel” to the Big Day. Then Thurby was added, and it’s now quickly becoming the preferred day for locals to enjoy the Derby. This year, Opening Night kicked off Derby week with a fusion of fashion and art, and I have a strong feeling it will rapidly become a favorite event, too.
The field is among the largest in horse racing, with 20 contenders. The fashion is big and bold, with women adorned with elaborate millinery confections and men sporting colorful ties, suits, and haberdashery to match – or even rival – their lady friends.
Keep in mind that all of this is for a race that lasts for just two minutes. Let that sink in. Two heart-pounding minutes of hooves thundering, mud flying, muscles straining, fans screaming. The fireworks, the festival, the fashion — all of this activity culminates in those two precious minutes.
It takes moxie to say, “This event is worth celebrating, and we’re going to do it in a big, big way,” and the Kentucky Derby has it.
The lesson for all of us is that there are moments in our lives that are simply worth celebrating and celebrating big. Maybe you’ve got a milestone birthday or anniversary coming up. Perhaps you’re about to achieve a big goal. Derby moxie gives you permission to dress to the nines, mix up your favorite drink, and step out for a big night on the town. You’ve earned it, and you are worth it.
Moxie weathers controversy.
Usually, in the week after the Derby, attention turns to the Preakness and the Belmont and speculation over whether or not we’ll see a Triple Crown winner this year.
That hasn’t been the case following the running of the 145th Kentucky Derby.
Since stewards made the historic decision to disqualify Maximum Security for veering into the path of other horses, the outcome of the Derby has been roiled in controversy. Trainers like Bob Baffert have weighed in with their opinions, as have commentators for and against the decision. Even President Donald Trump has sounded off on the call.
But the controversy doesn’t end there. Following the disqualification from the Kentucky Derby, the owners of Maximum Security decided not to run him in the Preakness or Belmont. Why bother, they reason, when there’s no shot at the Triple Crown?
Then came word that the horse that was declared the winner of the Kentucky Derby, Country House, wouldn’t be chasing the Triple Crown, either. He has developed a worrisome cough, and he’s not well enough to take on the grueling preparation for the next race.
All of this comes at a time when horse racing itself is under scrutiny for concerns over safety. A spotlight has been cast on the number of horses who have died racing this year. Some are now questioning the future of the Kentucky Derby and even the future of the sport.
From where I sit, I find it laughable to even consider the demise of the Derby. These controversies and challenges will likely serve to strengthen and improve the sport, as have all the challenges that have come before in its 145-year history.
Perhaps you need to apply that perspective in your own life. I recently saw on social media a quote that said, “On particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far, is 100% and that’s pretty good.”
We all face our own challenges and controversies. It’s not always easy, and sometimes those encounters leave us with scars. But we survive, and we carry on, and often we’re better for them. It takes moxie to embrace that truth.
Do you have that kind of moxie?