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Billy Reed: The Turtle Derby has a nice, slow ring to it — how about another with a political twist?

In my 56 years on the Kentucky Derby trail, I had never heard the Turtle Derby story. It sounds preposterous, I know, but it is true. On May 9, 1945, turtles raced in Louisville instead of horses. I swear I am not making this up.

At the first of that year, World War II still was raging and the government canceled horse racing. It looked as if the Derby would be canceled for the first time since the race started in 1875.

Did you bet o the second-ever Turtle Derby? Will you bet on Billy’s Line-up for the political one?

What should Louisville do to fill the void? Well, have a Turtle Derby, of course.

Apparently it was the brainstorm of some Courier-Journal editors with too much time on their hands. But they talked some others into buying in because all proceeds would go to the Crusade for Children.

So the Turtle Derby was held on the first Saturday in May at the Louisville Armory (now Garden). A crowd estimated at 6,500 bet $11,483 on a card that included 20 turtles each in seven races. The Turtle Derby, which was called “the slowest eight minutes in sport,” had a 20-turtle field.

Three local radio stations sent their sports announcers to do play-by-play. The winning turtle, Broken Spring, paid $2.50 to win. After expenses, the Crusade for Children got a check for $8,000.

Yesterday it happened again.

Thanks to some creative soul at Brown-Forman, the Turtle Derby was revived with You Tube and Old Forrester as the title sponsors. Larry Collmus did the race call and Churchill Downs bugler Steve Buttleman played the “Call to the Post.” All proceeds were earmarked for the Hospitality Industry Emergency Relief Fund with Brown-Forman matching everything up to $100,000

The field included Seattle Slow, Sir Hides-a-Bunch, American Toruga, and Galapa-GO! In the interest of full disclosure, the race was pre-taped in Chicago.

I like the idea a lot – heaven knows, we all need a laugh – but I would have given it a new twist considering that this is an election year.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon.

The field of 20 should have 10 turtles representing each political party. The shells of the Republicans would be painted yellow, for obvious reasons, and the Democrats would get their natural blue.

The Republican entry would include turtles named Moscow Mitch, Narcissistic Liar, Pucker Pence, Confused Collins, Un-rushed Limbaugh, Fake News Fox, Backward Barr, Hardshell Hannity, Roadkill Rudy, and a filly, Cooter Conway. (Turtles have fillies, right?)

The Democrats would have Sleepy Joe, Crooked Hillary, Build the Wall, Blame Barack, Social Distancing, Pokey Pelosi, Ninja Schiff, Tortoise Shell Schumer, Wash Your Hands, and Soupy Sanders.

The winner, for obvious reasons, would be Moscow Mitch.

You can hear the Collmus call, right?

“…and now Confused Collins does a U-Turn. Hardshell Hannity and Tortoise Shell Schumer bump into each other and retreat into their shells. Narcississtic Liar hits Sleepy Joe from behind and flips him onto shell, where his four little legs kick futilely at the heavens. And now here comes Social Distancing, but he backs off and opens the way for Moscow Mitch, who veers right just after he trundles across the finish line.”

The spectators all would get a big laugh – except for Donald J. Trump, who has no sense of humor. On the Monday after the Turtle Derby, he would appoint Mike Pence to head a task force to determine whether turtles can cause the dreaded Slowness Disease.

He said Pence should be in no hurry to get back to him.

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One Comment

  1. Marv Dunn says:

    A great read! I particularly liked the line: “. And now here comes Social Distancing, but he backs off and opens the way for Moscow Mitch, who veers right just after he trundles across the finish line.”

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