Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

Riva Ridge, who won in 1972. (Photo: National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame)

The first Saturday in May is a special day for anyone connected to the Bluegrass State, where I grew up.  This is the day where Kentucky is the only place to be.

In the summer of 1972 my best friend Roy Upton and I worked as ticket sellers at the $50.00 windows at Churchill Downs during the season before we began medical school.  I loved the drama and magic in every race, the nod of the touts, the handicappers and tip sheets, the gamblers and the spectators.  It was theater and narrative.

I placed a wager every day on just one race and never once won.  But the tips from the superstitious or grateful winners whose tickets were purchased at my window were often generous, and always made up for my bad luck at picking winners.

I left Kentucky for work and life in New York City so many, many, years ago, yet I have always found time to watch the Run for the Roses on Derby Day. I always look for the story.  I always find the magic.

I watched yesterday’s 136th Derby race with the same excitement and pride I feel each year about my birth state on this day.  Rain all day had produced an ugly and dangerous mud and water track.  But shortly before the race, the sunshine reappeared.  Everyone seemed really pleased to sing “The Sun Shines Bright on my Old Kentucky  Home.”

The drama:   Trainer Todd Pletcher, famous for his work across the country, took home his first Derby win after 24 attempts.  The colt, Super Saver, was homegrown from WinStar Farms in Versailles, Kentucky.  WinStar had nine previous Derby entries and Super Saver became the first to win.

The background:  The green and white silks of WinStar Farms were designed in memory of a daughter lost in the Bali fire in 2002. She was the vibrant 22 year old daughter of Bill and Susan Casner, who are partners with Kenny and Lisa Troutt in WinStar Farms.  Karri Casner would have been 31 years old this year.

The magic: Borel, the winning jockey, who at 43 looks years older and is one eccentric fellow on television, grabbed the rail early out of the gate and stayed there until he crossed between two horses in the last part of the race, went back to his place on the rail to ride Super Saver to victory.  When asked why he used this strategy, Borel, who has been riding horses for a living since he was still a child, said, “My Daddy always told me that the fastest way around is the shortest way around”.  Today, he became the first jockey ever to ride three Kentucky Derby winners in a four year span and promised the crowd that this horse would win the Triple Crown.

There is always drama and magic in a horserace along with the handicappers, touts, gamblers and the spectators who want to be part of it all.  In this particular horserace, there is lots of history, 136 hundred years of it.

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  • Susan Casner May 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    I too worked the windows at racetracks around the US..where ever we were running. It was ALWAYS A GREAT EXPERIENCE. That’s where I met my husband! Horses are amazing animals..they give you their “all”. I am so fortunate to be in the business. I LOVE EVERYDAY!

    Susan Casner, WinStar Farm