May 9, 2005

Is it fair for hotels to charge $399 for a room that usually sells for 99 bucks, just because it's Kentucky Derby weekend? Why is that okay, but it's illegal to jack up prices after a hurricane or other natural disaster?

I recognize the difference. Race fans aren't newly homeless. But in both cases there are few options, and people are being taken advantage of. I won't name the hotel that (over) charged our FOX team four times the normal rate in Louisville this past weekend, but I think it's wrong. I feel fortunate my company is picking up the tab.

That is my one and only complaint about Louisville. The people there are terrifically friendly, Churchill Downs is an awesome facility (especially after the $121 million renovation), and the "Run for the Roses" is one of the best stories I've ever covered. It's just plain fun.

This was my second year at the Derby, and my second visit to the Barnstable-Brown party the night before the big race. The celebrity-studded charity event was a blast, and I met some pretty cool people, including Kid Rock, Usher, Cheryl Ladd, Smokey Robinson, DMC (from Run-DMC), Meatloaf, Travis Tritt (a really nice down-to-earth guy I first met in a FOX green room a few months ago) and Billy and Dusty, the two long-bearded members of ZZ Top.

Cooler still was when ZZ Top got up on stage at the party and played "La Grange," and then Kid Rock and Travis Tritt joined them to sing "Jesus Just Left Chicago."

Cuba Gooding Jr. was there too, and at one point I saw him standing next to Meatloaf as Boyz II Men performed. Cuba was smiling ear-to-ear, Meatloaf was not.

Michael Jordan was there, but I didn't see him until he walked by while I stood out front waiting for our ride. He got a police escort in and out of the bash. So did Usher and Kid Rock. Some celebs even got rides from Louisville's finest in unmarked SUVs. I wonder how it was decided who earned an officer and who didn't.

The party was thrown by Patricia Barnstable-Brown and Priscilla Barnstable, the former Doublemint Gum twins who've raised millions of dollars for diabetes since they began hosting the event 17 years ago. Tricia was nice enough to let us crash the party the past two years, and I'm hoping we get asked back for Derby #132 in 2006!

I watched Giacomo win from the confines of our satellite truck, then raced outside in time to see most people reacting with disappointment or disgust, throwing programs and ripping up tickets. I heard one guy say, "What a waste." It's exciting to see a long shot cross the finish line first, but most people had bet on the favorites, so most people lost. I lost too, even though I actually bet on Giacomo. Unfortunately I picked him to show. The ticket paid well, but not enough to cover my losses on Bellamy Road. I won't blame George Steinbrenner. He has enough problems with his New York Yankees these days.

E-mail Rick!

[Ed. note: Click the video tab in the upper right to watch Leventhal's reports.]

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