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Memories of the Kentucky Derby

11:33 AM, May 7, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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To get in the mood for today's Kentucky Derby, I highly recommend reading WEEKLY STANDARD senior editor Lee Smith's recent reminiscence of attending the event as a child. After all, not many people can say that their grandfather owned the thoroughbred that won the run for the roses:

On the first Saturday in May, when I hear the opening strains of “My Old Kentucky Home,” my thoughts turn not to the Bluegrass State, but to the island my mother came from. The one time I went to the Kentucky Derby, in 1976, it was because my grandfather had entered a horse from his stable in Puerto Rico, and our family went to Louisville to watch him run.

My grandfather’s father had been a taxi driver, and in the early 1900s a cab was a horse-drawn carriage. His son pitied the ragged beasts and resolved that if he ever got rich he’d fill whole fields with horses. Fittingly, it was the horse’s replacement, the automobile, that was the engine of my grandfather’s success. He owned the island’s first Dodge dealership, and the money it made him funded his childhood passion. Before long, he was making a twice yearly pilgrimage to Kentucky for the yearling sales in Lexington.

His horses were competitive, and his stable—named after his hometown, Ponce—several times won top honors on the island. He named a foal after each of his six grandchildren and wrote us regularly to keep us up to date on our horse and on his champions, especially Caribbean Lad. A large dark colt with a white star on his head, Caribbean Lad was a hero at the local track, El Comandante, and the picture of equine glamour.

Read the rest here.

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