I had the most unbelievable day today. And if it wasn't for my brother falling ill last night, I may never have had a chance to experience it at all.
After my brother scratched from the BC, I was a late entrant, not having handicapped the card. But I was now to take my 73 year old Uncle Bob to the track and attempt to conquer the BC card w/no advance handicapping. But according to John, we had passes that would place us in a great spot, so I was excited as I met my Uncle Bob in the parking lot of the Derby Restaurant at 8:30 AM.
We made our way into the turf club, and then found that we were supposed to be in the Trophy Room. Huh? Our credentials looked impressive, and as we stepped into the room I could see we were going to be in for quite a day. There were a bunch of tables reserved for groups like PRESIDENT's INTERNATIONAL GUESTs (I never did figure this one out), West Point thoroughbreds, Little Red Feather (said hey to Billy Koch, and later to Jim Rome and his charming wife Janet), and finally I came to 4-6 tables labeled ESPN. Since my brother received the credentials from ESPN, I settled in at one of the tables.
Our day at the windows started in a rough fashion, and wouldn't improve from there. I thought M One Rifle was a lock, but he couldn't hold his speed and he ran 3rd or 4th. Oh well.
People began filing in earnest after the first 2-3 races. It was an impressive crowd stocked w/celebrities and power people. As the ESPN tables filled up, I was approached by a short man who said, "Hello, my name is Len, and I am hosting this event. Who are you?" I told Len that my brother John worked for the Jimmy Kimmel show, at which point he stopped me and said, "Welcome, Kevin. Let me know what I can do to make you more comfortable." Great, funny guy, I would later get his card and learn that is the Senior Vice President for ESPN programming back in New York. We would have many conversations during the day, and he was a real character.
Our table filled in with ESPN executives, some local in Los Angeles, and others from Bristol. All of them seemed to know each other quite well, but at no time did Bobby or I feel unwelcome. Quite the contrary, all were great fun.
Celebrities were everywhere.....I saw "Turtle" and his girlfriend, Jamie Lynn Sigler (is that her name?). "E", Kevin Connolly was there as well. I could swear I saw Andy Richter of Conan O' Brien fame, but not sure. I said hello to fellow Howard Stern fan Jerry O' Connell, who is married to Rebecca Romjin/Stamos or whatever her name is. There were many more celebs, but I couldn't recognize some, so I stopped trying.
The buffet lunch was unbelievable. They put out some crab cakes that were just money. You know how some crab cakes are all bread and no crab? These were divine, big chunks of dry crab that were perfect.
Open bar all day, sponsored by Grey Goose. I would be lying if I said I didn't partake, b/c I did, and it was fun. I had a very stressful work week, and it was a blast to kick up my heels a bit with this kind of crowd.
I met the folks at West Point, and one of their guys introduced me to Jeff Bloom. What a charming guy he is, and we had a great conversation. It's a shame we couldn't find a way for guys like him to get into management at some of these tracks. I hope to stay in touch w/him, he's awesome.
As the day progressed, I continued my conversations with several people from ESPN. One of the nice things about being in their section? We were the only group that had a huge TV to the side of our tables that ran football games all day. It was fun to watch Iowa lose to Northwestern in the morning. We were spoiled all day long. I have several business cards of the great people who work for ESPN now, but I will struggle to find a context or reason to contact them again. We'll see.
At the Derby later, where we ate, I found Ron Ellis in the bar and introduced myself. Ron was very kind and generous as I told him about my experience w/his horse, Canonize. Ron was nice enough to give me an update on his condition. Great, great guy, one of my all time favorite trainers, and meeting him was my highlight to a great day.
One of the cool things yesterday was the press that was gathered right outside, Extra was there, and they interviewed several celebs. I took a picture on this carpet with the Breeders Cup wall behind me. There were two women, from Dubai, who were on either side of me. I felt like a rock star as they snapped my picture. Later, they would bring it to our table as a keepsake.
Did I say I had a fun day? If only I could have cashed some tickets, that would have made it perfect. But spending time w/my Uncle, who I don't see often, in a scene like this was truly special. My brother John is so generous, he gave me yet another special day that I will always remember.