Derby Fever

My bucket ran over last year when by husband presented me with Derby tickets for the 143rd Running of the Roses at Churchill Downs. The race has been nicknamed the “Run for the Roses” because the winner is given a garland of more than 400 red roses sewn together, a tradition that dates back to 1932. There is a reason they call it “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports,” as frivolous as it sounds those two minutes didn’t disappoint. Growing up I loved everything to do with horses. I rode and competed in English Style in upstate New York for many years.

The Kentucky Derby held May 5th is the first leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, and is followed by the Preakness Stakes on May 19 and the Belmont Stakes on June 9. The 1 1/4-mile race runs on a dirt racetrack at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Last year the dirt turned into mud after a morning deluge but that didn’t stop our fun.

Twenty horses enter the Derby, which is one of the largest fields in horse racing. To qualify for the Derby, horses and their jockeys travel on the road to the Kentucky Derby, a series of 35 races featuring a point system. The top four finishers of those races earn points and the top 20 horses from the 35 races earn a spot in the starting post in the Kentucky Derby race.

Churchill Downs is packed with over 150,000 fans all dressed to the nines with hats and sipping mint juleps hoping for their pick to be the one lucky windfall of the race. In fact, Always Dreaming, last year’s winner, did provide a little pay day for us helping me to recoup the cost of my dress and hat. The whole weekend was a lovely experience full of southern charm and hospitality. You should plan on spending a good amount of money to check this bucket list item off.

Places to Stay

During the Derby you have hotels that are high-end and make their year during Derby weekend and a selection of very nice Bed & Breakfast establishments. The B & B options were less pricey but not by much.

We stayed at a charming bed & breakfast close to Churchill Downs called The Samuel Culbertson Mansion. This was a good plan because the day of the race it rained and we were able to take a quick rickshaw ride right into the stadium. Many visitors were traipsing through the mud, dresses and white slacks ruined and splattered as they fought their way into the Downs. 

Places to Go & Things to See

Louisville can be summed up in three words, bourbon, horses & history. Before the Derby went off, we had a drink at the historic Brown Hotel and toured a couple of the distilleries in downtown Louisville. The Galt House is another well-known stop for a drink or a bite. The Louisville Slugger Museum was a fun and interactive stop. You get to make a bat and take a few swings in a cage. When planning your trip reserve your dinner reservations ahead of time. Most of the restaurants are booked out months in advance. We ate at Bucks and 610 Magnolia.


Expert Insight

I don’t like to be negative but there was one area of dissatisfaction during our visit. Churchill Downs has very poor signage and flow. When we and the other 150,000 people were departing it was a sea of crushing bodies pushing and trampling one another to get out. For a world-class sporting venue like the Derby, I was shocked and disappointed by the experience. People were pinned against the tunnel walls and it was very uncomfortable. There were handicapped people who couldn’t get through and no one was around from the stadium to direct the flow or help. This needs to be improved or someone will get hurt.

The Race

Who will it be this year? The odds makers are abuzz with speculations. Betting is complicated. You have to take into consideration so many details including the horses’ pedigree, breeder, trainer, jockey, race position and past wins. Last year it rained a good amount and some horse are considered good “mudders” while others are not so great. The process of dissecting and selecting can be overwhelming and exhilarating. We were in section 113, Row 3 by the finish line and just under cover enough so we didn’t get wet when the relentless rain kept coming all day. The pomp and circumstance was rich, the Juleps were flowing and they were off. You’re out of your seat cheering as the blaze of horse’s race by. As the field narrows you can barely control your excitement as you see your horse, Always Dreaming, clomping his way to first place. You never know when another Secretariat or American Pharaoh is just around the corner.

Dreams do come true! This year, we’ll be watching from our living room but our memories will keep us smiling for years to come.

Here is to the field for 2018 and it’s off to the races on May 5th at 6:34 post time!

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Have You Lost Your Why?

Have You Lost Your Why?

Are you making a difference in life? What will your legacy be? Living intentionally and with a purpose takes sacrifice and hard work. Recently, a friend of mine was describing a mission trip to Africa and how she spent three months working in a remote village. Her goal was to help the village people by contributing to their vision. Like many why experiences in life, those three months ended up transforming her from the inside out. After my recent birthday, I started thinking about what I wanted for the next half of my life. We are each the navigator of our own destiny and are therefore responsible for what path we take. For me a resounding voice kept repeating a desire to create deeper and more meaningful fulfillment. But how?

Finding your purpose or your why has to do with making an impact, tapping into something deeper inside and recalibrating your passion. Ultimately your why is not about you, it is about making a difference in the world. And no that doesn’t include surfing Facebook and making random comments to distant friends. Think about your life, what does it say about you? By aligning yourself with your passions you will tap into your greater purpose. Passions are the result of taking action and doing something that moves you.

For example, I didn’t know I loved to travel until I took my first trip. Then I was hooked on seeing the world and learning about other cultures. When it comes to finding your purpose you need to get out of your head and into your heart.

There are common themes around finding your why, they include:

  • Contributing to a bigger dream or mission through sacrifice
  • Pushing past fear and allowing yourself to become vulnerable and living outside your comfort zone
  • Finding a greater good beyond your individual selfish interests or limitations
  • Finding a problem and trying to solve it
  • Getting out of your head and turning your passion into action

We only have a set number of days on this planet, what will your epithet be? If we all just take a small step out of our comfort zone and get involved with something we feel passionate about, miracles could happen.

Jodi Cross is a marketing strategist, speaker and writer and can be reached at Jcross@crossnm.com.


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Who Have You Touched In This Life?

Who Have You Touched In This Life?

By: Jodi Cross 

When I was 11 years old, my family went on a vacation to Hawaii. As my brother, Lee would say, I was never the same after that trip. He was right, that trip opened up a whole to new world for me. A woman by the name of Rebecca Roberts from Robert’s Travel in Rochester, NY led the trip and her passion for what she did was truly inspiring.  I decided from that point on I was going to college for Travel and Hospitality and my passion for travel and adventure blossomed.

I am sure many of you can remember a turning point in your life or a person who touched you in a meaningful way.  Many names and faces flood my mind as I think of this topic. There was my grade school friend, Michelle who invited me to Circle C camp in NY, when I was 14. That camp introduced me a new way to see religion and a passion for horseback riding. I went on to be an accomplished rider and competed in shows. Another high school friend, Wendi, loyally defended me in a school fight when I was about to be beat up by the school bully. Her loyalty has remained true to this day and we still see each other frequently.

In my adult years, there was Paul, who encouraged me to continue my Landmark Forum training. This knowledge unlocked so many mental blocks for me it actually gave me to have the courage to start my own business.  

My husband Rich, continues to inspire me with his kindness, empathy and unconditional love.

It seems in life that everything connects to something else; you never know when a person or a small gesture is going to change your life or someone else’s. When you think about this, you can’t help but wonder, if you have been paying it forward?

Who have you touched in this life? Who has witnessed a passion in you that has been so inspiring that they have wanted to get involved in your cause or change their path? Knowing that your actions or attitudes are enough to impact someone’s life in a monumental way is an amazing realization. It is powerful tool that should be used for the good. It seems that being able to impact people has to do with  having a passion that people can witness, expressing the truth in a way people can hear it and doing all this with  love.

I encourage all of you to think about those who have touched your life in some way and reach out to them and let them know how important that was to you. At the same time, when you are in a relationship with others don’t be afraid to show your passion and speak the truth, with love it can make a difference and change the course of someone’s life. ©

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