Derby Day

The First Saturday in May, what wonderful memories the Kentucky Derby brings to Jack and me. Since this is Derby Day I thought I’d share some with you. In 1994 we lived in Las Vegas and became very good friends with Dave and Lola Wagenvoord. They owned several radio stations and obtained press passes for us to be on the backside during Derby week. WOW. What an experience. We were up a 4:30 AM and at the track at 5 to watch the morning workouts. The sun rising over the track, the twin spires, listening to the galloping hooves in the early morning mist, watching steam rise off the flanks of the horses being cooled out. It brings goosebumps. My heart still skips as I flash through the thousands of images in my mind. That was before digital cameras, these pictures are scanned from photos but you get the idea. Just click on the picture to see any of these images larger.

Walking with Pat Day, one of the top jockeys of all time. I’m 5″9″ in boots, so you can see how small the riders are. I was in heaven, drawing as many of the people and horses I could. Many of them, the people that is, signed their sketches as you can see on Pat’s above. Jack interviewed owners, trainers, jockeys, grooms and hot walkers. He would have even interviewed the horses if they could talk. Each morning he’d broadcast, by a mobile telephone in a huge suitcase, on Dave’s show back in Las Vegas.

Tabasco Cat was one of D. Wayne Lukas’ entries in the Derby that year. “Cat” was pretty unruly and had severely injured D. Wayne’s son a few months earlier. So any time he was taken out two handlers accompanied the fiesty horse. Fortunately he was pretty calm when I made the sketch above. That’s me with D. Wayne on the right.

Ronnie Lamarque was quite a character from New Orleans. He owned several car dealerships along with Kandaly, his Derby entry. We went to his big bash the night before the Run for the Roses. Ronnie loved to tell stories, his favorite was about his wife taking out a contract to have him killed. He said, “She only paid $20,000. I was pretty insulted, that seemed awfully low for someone as famous as me. Then I found out you could have had almost everyone in New Orleans taken out for that price.” He was a hoot. Unfortunately Kandaly was scratched the morning of the Derby with a hoof problem.

The day before the Derby Jack said on Dave’s show, “After talking with all the grooms and hot walkers I’m convinced Go for Gin is going to win and I think Strodes Creek will come in second.” Well, Go for Gin WON and Strodes Creek PLACED. Jack’s $2 ticket for Dave paid off big time. After that everyone in Las Vegas was hitting Jack up for betting tips! Nick Zito, on the left, was the Trainer of Go for Gin. He had won the Derby in 1991 with Strike the Gold. Thank you for joining me in this walk down memory lane.

Last, but not least, Jack’s newest article is out at FASO, Fine Art Studio Online. Click Here to read Sell Like You’re Rich.

Hugs, Mikki Senkarik

5 Responses to “Derby Day”

  1. Marian Fortunati Says:

    Nice!! Thanks, Mikki! Loved the sketches… they’re wonderful.

  2. Ivan Kelly. Says:

    Wow, you are a whiz with the pencil, pen or marker.
    So much said with minimal line work.
    Ever thought of painting horses for a living ? ( smile)

    • Mikki Senkarik Says:

      Ivan, I love horses and painted them when Jack first taught me to paint. In fact my portrait of Secretariat is in the International Museum of the Horse. To make a long story short Jack was in a car accident and messed up his painting arm so he learned to paint left handed. His right handed work is really photo realistic, but he had to go loose and impressionistic with the left. I told him it looked like such fun to do so he suggested I try a small painting with some flowers. I did the courtyard of one of the California missions with lots of flowers. We sent it to the gallery that was carrying my horse paintings at the time and they sold it right out of the box. They asked for more and sold ten of the architecture and flowers paintings. In the meantime none of the horse paintings sold. We decided it was time to put the horses out to pasture, they just weren’t earning their keep!

  3. mjspringett Says:

    Great memories and wondeful sketches, i can see your love for horses is still alive and well, thanks for sharing MJ

  4. Ivan Kelly. Says:

    Thank you Mikki,
    Among my collection of art publications there is one Fine Art collector magazine. You probably know which one.

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