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May 13, 1978 - Image 11

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1978-05-13

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The Michigan Daily-Saturday, May 13, 1978-Page 11
and crooks in Louisville

h was run shortly after this shot was taken from the
3 those who have been waiting for 45 minutes have
e quite vicious.
common affliction unifies the hundreds of waiting
I and the ones inside the bathroom begin to chant,
0, go! She's beating you! Hurry!" at a deafening
'he inter-stall race is on for the sake of the others
g outside. A little toddler looks around and gives the
l of women a look of total bewilderment.
Y ALL vow to drink no more after waiting so long,
only 2:00, over three hours away from the Derby
d firm resolve wavers in the southern sun.
outside in the chaos, "Gorgeous George" from
is forthright with his Derby goals. Adorned with a
maroon paisley suit with tails and matching hat with
y rhinestone-studded cane, George admits, "I'm
catch me a horse and a wife, but first I want the
e is not alone in his pursuit of females. "I came to
he beautiful women and play the horses," says Dan
. Pierson is dressed in a leather trench coat with a
lenched in his teeth and binoculars hanging from his
is hat brim leans over his left eye, but despite his
gambler appearance, he reveals that he rarely bets
orses and has never been to a Derby before.
}ver, the police, including city, county, and national
0en, are not quite as thrilled with the gala affair. "I
very minute of it, you just try to make sure no one
1t," Tom Goss, a county cop, says. The problem
e police is the volume and rowdiness of the crowd.
r's 100,000 people on the infield and only 150 of us,"
tes. "There were three stabbings last year, but
it's just minor stuff. You can't describe the Derby,
have to be here - you won't come back," he warns.
R IN the afternoon Colonel Fred Roemele seems
with the crowd. "The Crowd is unusually mild, if it
e this, I'll be real happy." He expresses concern
e pickpockets, two of whom had just been arrested.
ognize them by the coat over their arms and they
mping into people," he said.
tele attributes the well-behaved crowd to the tighter

controls on incoming alcoholic beverages and the amiable
attitude of police. "A couple of years ago, they used to
throw bottles at us and get belligerent. Now we try to
mingle with the crowd, and be more friendly," the officer
observes. "We try to keep a level of discipline so they don't
get out of hand," Roemele adds.
He says Jackson County has an exceptional police depar-
tment, and most of the officers have college or master's
degrees. "But education alone is not enough, it's mostly
common sense," he points out.
HE APPEARED to be right; the cops were not assuming
the "tough guy" role. They knew it would be futile to arrest
people for being drunk, and they even ignored the pungent
aroma of marijuana wafting through the crowd.
The day drifts by marked only by the races and the
position of the sun. By the time the Derby (eighth race)
rolls around at about 5:30, spirits are high and wallet sup-
plies are low. This race brings out a wide spectrum of bet-
ting techniques, from the most scientific students of the od-
ds and biorhythms to the most impulsive hunches.
"I count the percentage of the jockeys' wins and losses
and double (my bets) until I win," said Tom Ray, a
Louisville native sporting a navy blue pinstripe suit.
"I come over here regularly and we always attend a Der-
by party amongst ourselves, even if we don't choose to go to
the Derby,". adds Ray, the executive director of the Ken-
tucky Governor's Council on Agriculture. He went on to ex-
plain how Churchill Downs, the ancient racetrack, is being
bought by shareholders outside of Kentucky as the old
stockholders die off.
"WWe're a convention city, and the Derby brings
tremendous publicity to Kentucky, but the old stockholders
of our own are dying off and the stock is split up between
out-of-state owners," he explains. "We're concerned with
preserving tradition, and we want Kentucky to buy Chur-
chill Downs," Ray adds. "Box seats are more available to
large firms and big businesses, I have to call my friends at
least two or three months in advance to get seats in the
stands," he says.
IN THE TUNNEL below the stands frantic last minute
bettors clamor to the windows while pickpockets take ad-
vantage of the close contact and oblivious track
enthusiasts. One glassy-eyed individual
stumbles through the crowd and positions himself in the
middle of the $10 to win line. "What the hell do you think
you're doin'? you're not in front of me!" growls the man in
line next to him. "I know, I'm behind you," slurs the young
man. "Who 'ya bettin' on?" the young man asks the older
one. "None of your goddamn business, I didn't ask you who
you were bettin' on," the older man snaps. The youth thum-
bs carelessly through a stack of bills and floats away. The
older man turns to the woman in front of him and asks,
"Who you bettin' on?"
Nearby a ruddy-looking gentleman keeps a studious eye
on the board flashing to odds on each horse. "This is my
second Derby, the first was 13 years ago when I walked
from the airport to save the $12 taxi fare so I could bet on
Lucky Debutante," says Dr. George Ferris, Mathematics
professor at Ball State University.
"I haven't bet in six months since I was at the Melbourne
Cup in Australia, but I've bet every race since the fourth,"
he says with a strong Australian accent.
Ferris eyes the board as he speaks about shrewd betting. "I
wait until the last five minutes for the odds to change, now
I'm waiting for "Believe It" to go to 8-5," he says. The
board glares 9-6 odds and fails to change before the race.
Ferris concludes, "There's nothing so final as a horse
Leon Stiggle came to the Derby as a result of a two-week
hunch that "Believe It" would garner the roses. "I just got
here for the six race . .. if I win I'll party, if I lose I'll par-
ty," he said: Stiggle's comment seemed to illustrate the
general consensus of the entire Derby crowd.
Finally, the betting windows close, but not before a
supervising policeman can slip in his own bet behind the
ticket counter window. The ticket sellers count their money
and one of them reports, "Sure we bet, we're just as excited
about it as everybody else but we don't have a real edge."
The prize steeds are unleashed for the feature mile and a
quarter race of the day. The screaming crowd blocks out
the announcer's words after the first turn on the track, nd

See DERBY, Page 14

although the race can be seen on closed-circuit television, it
is almost impossible to discover who won until the masses
calm down.
Hordes of winners and losers cram into the tunnel to cash
in their tickets. Although no one can really move, pushing,
shoving and pickpockets are prevalent. Tempers flare
quickly, especially when someone detects a hand creeping
into their pocket. The infield is inaccessible then because a
large part of the crowd leaves'after the big race. Two races
remain however, they are incredibly anti-climatic.
As the crowd and warm sunshine wanes, tons of garbage
are left behind. Those with a stake in the last races vocally
support their selected thoroughbred while sunburnt slum-
berers try to reduce impending hangovers.
WEARY travelers stumble through Louisville's streets
searching for their vehicles. Southern belles have apparen-
tly spent hours sprucing up for post-Derby parties as they
display their finery. Their chivalrous dates cover the bare
shoulders with their suit coats. Adults are already out on
their lawns proceeding with the festivities of the evening,
while some choose to indulge in "tailgate" parties with
well-stocked bars. The younger set choose to party out of
campers, vans or any available ground.
Any negative aspects of the race and the crowds must be
forgotten during the course of the year, or there would not
be so many perennial derbyites. Winners go home boasting
about their superior horse sense and losers grumble
without shame knowing thousands of others are also lamen-
ing their "almost wins".

AP Photo
And this is the horse that won it all. Affirmed, being led
by groom Juan Alaniz, is shown being taken to the track in
preparation for the great event.

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