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Doing the Derby in style – friends with Yarmouth ties went to the races

Kentucky Oaks survivor walk was a favourite memory of the trip


A group of women with Yarmouth connections watched the race of a lifetime on May 4. Their trip to the Kentucky Derby took in much more than the “run for the roses,” however.

Linda Deveau says their experiences in Louisville exceeded all their expectations. She and four other friends made their reservations last year and immediately started planning what to wear.

The Kentucky Derby is renowned for the opportunity it presents every female to express her inner Southern Belle and hats are part of the fun. Wearing a hat to the Kentucky Derby is believed to bring good luck.

Deveau says there were store-bought designer clothes and Frenchy’s clothes involved in the preparations, plus hats, shoes and purses that were traded, borrowed or found in closets.

Flowers, tulle and brooches were added to some of the hats to make them more “Derby” appropriate.

“You can do a lot with a glue gun and a sewing needle,” laughed Deveau. The women also decided to wear dresses and fascinators/hats to the Pegasus Parade.

They carried plastic raincoats and a folding stool that both fit in their purses, along with flat sandals.

The May 2 Pegasus Parade showcased marching bands and equestrian units, along with inflatable characters and colourful floats.

Prior to the trip, Deveau nominated her friend Leslie Keevill for the May 3 Survivor’s Parade. During the event, 145 breast and ovarian cancer survivors marched around Churchill Downs’ historic racetrack prior to the 145th running of the Longines Kentucky Oaks race.

After Keevill’s nomination was accepted, she was selected by votes, out of approximately 520 nominees, to be one of the participants.

She says she was unaware of the walk until Deveau nominated her.

“I grew up riding horses and have always been interested in the Kentucky Derby, so the opportunity to participate in the Kentucky Oaks survivor walk the day before was an incredible honour,” she said.

She asked her friend Melissa Hammerly, a critical care nurse in Ohio and Deveau’s daughter, to walk with her as her guest.

“Nurses play such an important role in a patient’s treatment journey,” said Keevil.

Deveau says watching them on the jumbotron screen as they participated in the walk was one of the biggest highlights of the trip. Other memories include meeting the chair of the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade at the Pegasus Parade, seeing the Budweiser Horses live, riding the carousel at the Louisville Zoo, hearing the roar of the crowd as the horses rounded the final corner, and visiting the Kentucky Derby Museum and watching their presentation video.

“Everyone was emotional at the end of it,” Deveau said.

In addition to the survivor walk, Keevill says other favourite memories include making a hand-blown bourbon glass at Flame Run, touring the Angel’s Envy bourbon distillery, and, of course, the Kentucky Derby, where group member Christina Blake bid on the disqualified horse to win.

The undefeated Maximum Security, at 10-1 odds, crossed the finish line first but was disqualified for an interference foul (blocking the path of other horses.) Country House, a 65-1 shot, was declared the winner. Jockey Flavien Prat, who originated the claim of foul, won his first Derby as a result.

Deveau says that while her heart breaks for the “disqualified” team and she didn’t sense from anyone any intention (of blocking), she agrees with the ruling.

“We did see a horse tumble coming out of the gate in the Oaks Race; while both rider and horse were fine afterwards, it was heart stopping to watch.”

Each person in their group had favourites based on their odds, their name and/or their back story. Deveau chose Lady Apple, as she grew up in the Annapolis Valley and was involved in the Apple Blossom festival.

She also chose Code of Honour as a salute to her Air Show involvement and her brothers Air Force career.

Her wagers cost her $45 and she was the lucky winner of $142.50.

“We were all just excited to be at Churchill Downs for the Derby,” she said. “However, placing a bet and ordering a Mint Julep were part of the overall experience.”

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