Racing man goes all the way to Kentucky
A trip to Louisville, Kentucky, was Bernie Wood’s 70th birthday gift from his son.
The pair made the expedition to the legendary race course to attend the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.
On the way they detoured to Memphis to indulge another of Mr Wood’s passions, Elvis Presley.
‘‘We spent three hours, my son and I, going through Gracelands and the grounds,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve been a fan all my life. Often impersonated him at birthday parties, family shows and so on.’’
They made another detour on the way to Kentucky, to Memphis, Tennessee, where they took in a show at the Grand Ole Opry.
The Derby ‘‘ was brilliantly presented’’, said the Whitby resident and president of Porirua Vikings Rugby League Club.
There were no queues to place bets, or to buy drinks or food, in spite of a crowd of 96,000 people.
When the University of Louisville Marching Band struck up My Old Kentucky Home they all stood, hands on heart, to sing.
Mr Wood sampled the mint julep traditionally served at the track on Derby Day, and brought home the cup it was served in.
So did the bourbon-based cocktail hit the spot? ‘‘The third one did.’’ Mr Wood said he may have watched a little of history being made. ‘ Bodiemeister’ led the race comfortably only to be run down and beaten by ‘I’ll Have Another’ on the final straight.
Two weeks later at Pimlico in Baltimore the two horses repeated the performance in the Preakness Stakes.
If ‘I’ll Have Another’ wins the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York, in early June, she will win the Triple Crown, a feat not achieved since 1973.
It didn’t help Mr Wood, though. His betting ticket was on favourite ‘ Union Rag’, which stumbled out of the gate and finished mid-field.
Cheers: Bernie Wood raises a glass of mint julep to good times at Churchill Downs, Kentucky.