HORSE RACING | My First Kentucky Derby

05/07/2017 09:21 PM

Everyone talks about how special the Kentucky Derby is.

I thought I knew how special it was.

That was until I attended my first-ever Derby on Saturday. I realized I didn’t understand how important it is to the Bluegrass.

Now, I do.

The Kentucky Derby is a sporting event that everyone should attend at least once in their lives. But it’s a way of life for people that live in the Commonwealth.

My first Derby experience started around 12:30 p.m. ET when us media folks were bused into Churchill Downs. It was amazing to see all the spectators walking into the famous facility. There were so many hats, suits and smiles. The chance of rain was not going to keep these people away from the track.

Once I got off the bus, I walked into Churchill Downs. There is just something special about walking into the place on Derby Day. I honestly don’t know how to describe it.

After a few minutes of settling in to the track, I walked up to Millionaires’ Row and the Turf Club, where I conducted some interviews. (It was neat for me because it was a place that I have a feeling I’ll never be able to watch the Derby in my lifetime. But, it was really cool to see first-hand on Derby Day.)

Some time passed and then we came to the point in the afternoon when the Derby was roughly an hour away from starting.

I followed the media folks down toward the track, not realizing we would actually go out to the track.

I remember asking our photojournalist Kyle, “How long do we get to stand on the track?”

He responded, “We watch the race on it.”

I was in awe. Not only was this my first-ever Derby, but I had the best seats in the house.

Once the pre-race festivities began, I was just soaking it all in. I met some wonderful people sitting in row number one near the finish line. I got goosebumps during the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home.” I got chills as the horses were individually introduced. So much was happening, but it was all epic.

Then, finally, after hours of waiting, the race began. When the thoroughbreds ran by be for the first time, I kept thinking, “Wow!”

Once I lost track of the horses, I turned my attention to the big screen and was listening to the screams and cheers of the fans in the stands.

The intensity came up as the horses came off of turn four and down the stretch. The cheers got louder. People on the track near me were jumping up and down. I watched as Always Dreaming won. It is a moment I will never forget.

After the race, it became a mad rush for the media, conducting interviews, getting video, etc. There came a point though when I was waiting for the celebration in the Winner’s Circle to come to an end, when I was standing in the middle of the track, and again, just spent a couple minutes looking around the facility. There were so many celebrations and so much emotion all over the place. There were packed grandstands.

It was one of the neatest moments of my life. I felt like calling it the “calm after the storm.”

I got back home late Saturday night after receiving numerous calls and texts from friends asking how the Derby was.

I responded, “Amazing. You HAVE to attend this at some point in your life.”

I cannot wait until Kentucky Derby 144.

Andrew Chernoff

Andrew is a sports anchor and sports managing editor for Spectrum News. He covers sports all across the state of Kentucky for Sports Night, which airs weeknights at 6:30 and 10:30 on Spectrum News. Andrew was a sports anchor and reporter at KFDM/KBTV in Beaumont, Texas for four years before making the move back home to the Midwest. He is originally from Carmel, Indiana and majored in broadcast journalism and political science at Syracuse University.

When he’s not on the air or in the field covering sports, you can likely find Andrew playing golf, watching IndyCar and Formula 1 races, or exploring the state of Kentucky. His favorite sport is open-wheel racing. In fact, he has not missed an Indianapolis 500 since the early 2000s.

Whether he is working sporting events or not, he always loves talking sports. He is a prolific tweeter, so if you want to stay “in the know” about sports in the Bluegrass, follow Andrew on Twitter @ADChernoff. If you have a story idea for our sports team, send it to Andrew at


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