The Kentucky Derby: Why the Kentucky Derby Captivates

“THE KENTUCKY DERBY: HOW THE RUN FOR THE ROSES BECAME AMERICA’S PREMIER SPORTING EVENT”
Book review by Liam Durbin / [URL="http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/ae/book-reviews/americas-premier-sporting-event-why-the-kentucky-derby-captivates-633523/"]Pittsburgh Post-Gazette[/URL]
Author:  James C. Nicholson
Your first reaction to “The Kentucky Derby: How the Run for the Roses Became America’s Premier Sporting Event” will be: this book is exceedingly thorough and well-researched. The first few chapters firmly establish it as a suitable reference guide for anyone who wants to know more about the history of the Kentucky Derby. Through each period covered in the book, James C. Nicholson does a brilliant job of finding and using documents to support his points.
However, the book is much more than reference material. Clearly, the author has a fondness for Kentucky that he wants to give to his readers. He is not content with educating readers about the Derby. He wants them to understand why Kentucky was uniquely positioned to incubate an event that could captivate the nation.
As an example, by its location, Kentucky is just Southern enough to borrow from all the favorable traditions and stereotypes of the South, but not so Southern that it becomes tarnished by the less desirable history of the deep South, specifically where it pertains to racism and segregation. Kentucky’s position in the center of the country worked well as a gathering place before air travel was available.
The relationship between Kentucky and her beloved bourbon became integral to the fabric of the Kentucky Derby. During Prohibition, the Derby and bourbon kept their affair alive, and both came out stronger on the other side. Personally, I’ve never cared for mint juleps. But having read the book, I now feel a bit ashamed for not drinking one, and drinking to Kentucky’s history, when I go to the Derby. (This year, when I go, I intend to have one.)
Mr. Nicholson’s love of Kentucky comes through frequently by his choice of quotes. Here’s one from the Louisville Times in 1975: “The Kentucky Derby is more than a horse race. It’s an American institution, perhaps the only one left. The Derby has survived a hundred springs, despite wars and riots, despite panics, depressions, recessions. It flourishes because everyone believes it’s a ritual handed down from a more elegant century. The Derby’s anachronistic caress soothes the nation with visions of bluegrass farms and mint juleps and Kentucky colonels.”
Similarly, the author wants you to love Kentuckians. You cannot help but come away from this book feeling that they are savvy business people, brilliant marketers, sports enthusiasts, people passionate about a champion, a comeback, a longshot or an underdog, and yes — even blessed by God. The survival and success of the Derby was not so predetermined that it could not have happened without the likes of great Kentuckians such as Merriwether Lewis Clark Jr. and Colonel Matt Winn. But the author implies there is little doubt God wanted the race to survive, and that he likely continues to enjoy the event today.
Upon reading this book, you will watch the race with a different perspective and appreciation. This year’s Kentucky Derby is Saturday.

“THE KENTUCKY DERBY: HOW THE RUN FOR THE ROSES BECAME AMERICA’S PREMIER SPORTING EVENT” Book review by Liam Durbin / [URL="http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/ae/book-reviews/americas-premier-sporting-event-why-the-kentucky-derby-captivates-633523/"]Pittsburgh Post-Gazette[/URL]Author:  James C. Nicholson
Your first reaction to “The Kentucky Derby: How the Run for the Roses Became America’s Premier Sporting Event” will be: this book is exceedingly thorough and well-researched. The first few chapters firmly establish it as a suitable reference guide for anyone who wants to know more about the history of the Kentucky Derby. Through each period covered in the book, James C. Nicholson does a brilliant job of finding and using documents to support his points.
However, the book is much more than reference material. Clearly, the author has a fondness for Kentucky that he wants to give to his readers. He is not content with educating readers about the Derby. He wants them to understand why Kentucky was uniquely positioned to incubate an event that could captivate the nation.
As an example, by its location, Kentucky is just Southern enough to borrow from all the favorable traditions and stereotypes of the South, but not so Southern that it becomes tarnished by the less desirable history of the deep South, specifically where it pertains to racism and segregation. Kentucky’s position in the center of the country worked well as a gathering place before air travel was available.
The relationship between Kentucky and her beloved bourbon became integral to the fabric of the Kentucky Derby. During Prohibition, the Derby and bourbon kept their affair alive, and both came out stronger on the other side. Personally, I’ve never cared for mint juleps. But having read the book, I now feel a bit ashamed for not drinking one, and drinking to Kentucky’s history, when I go to the Derby. (This year, when I go, I intend to have one.)
Mr. Nicholson’s love of Kentucky comes through frequently by his choice of quotes. Here’s one from the Louisville Times in 1975: “The Kentucky Derby is more than a horse race. It’s an American institution, perhaps the only one left. The Derby has survived a hundred springs, despite wars and riots, despite panics, depressions, recessions. It flourishes because everyone believes it’s a ritual handed down from a more elegant century. The Derby’s anachronistic caress soothes the nation with visions of bluegrass farms and mint juleps and Kentucky colonels.”
Similarly, the author wants you to love Kentuckians. You cannot help but come away from this book feeling that they are savvy business people, brilliant marketers, sports enthusiasts, people passionate about a champion, a comeback, a longshot or an underdog, and yes — even blessed by God. The survival and success of the Derby was not so predetermined that it could not have happened without the likes of great Kentuckians such as Merriwether Lewis Clark Jr. and Colonel Matt Winn. But the author implies there is little doubt God wanted the race to survive, and that he likely continues to enjoy the event today.
Upon reading this book, you will watch the race with a different perspective and appreciation. This year’s Kentucky Derby is Saturday.

This entry was posted in Horse Racing. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>