The venue was packed full, and Kentucky Derby Jockeys Johnny Velazquez (Uncle Mo), Rosie Napravnik (Pants on fire), and Julian Leparoux (Dialed In) were all behind the bar slinging Woodford Reserve and French Manhattans.
I arrived right as the party was reaching it's peak. The long wooden bar was four deep with sharply dressed people, most trying to order bourbon laced cocktails. Woodford Reserve bottles stood prominently behind the bar, so the bourbon choice seemed obvious. I took a spot at the corner of the bar and waited for a chance to order two French Manhattans, the featured drink of the evening.
My friend Paul ordered the first round and surprisingly, the bartender seemed to be disappointed at our drink choice. I guess they're a bit labor intensive or something. The bartender made the drinks and they came back a little on the light side for a Manhattan, but were perfect.
The jockey bartender closest to us was Julian Leparoux. Leparoux took on the challenge of mixing our second round, but not before clarifying with the bartender exactly what was needed to make a Woodford and water. Leparoux really hooked us up with water, but for the bourbon, well . . . not so much. Regardless, it went down smooth as Woodford always does. We then left the bar top to see who else was partying.
Walking through the party was difficult. I'd have to estimate there were a couple hundred people gathered on the first floor and around the bar. I couldn't make out any other jockeys in attendance, but ESPN's Jeannine Edwards was spotted and I talked to her about the charity, and her derby favorite.
Edwards has covered Horse Racing for years, and was herself an apprentice jockey and exercise rider. She said that the Disabled Jockey's Fund was so important because Horse Racing is especially dangerous for the riders who command the actions of a speeding 2,000 pound beast.
Edwards said, "It's an awesome charity. Lots of riders get injured on the job and they struggle."
Edwards credited Joey Wagner, Managing Partner at PRIME Lounge with being able to create a fundraising derby party that everybody looked forward to and enjoys.
Edwards said, "Joey and his team are doing a phenomenal job here. It's always a fun event. Everybody has a great time, and it's all for a great cause."
When asked about Her Derby favorite, Edwards says she was pulling for the "Jinks" Fires trained horse, Archarcharch.
Edwards said, "Archarcharch [is my favorite so far]. [I'm] not crazy about the 1 hole, but he's a nice horse. He's been training very well. "Jinks" Fires is an old school horseman, who has been here for a long time and if anybody deserves a shot he does. I just think he's moving in the right direction."
At the end of the day though, its all about the charity and the money raised. In this case, the party was a great success. Joey Wagner later tweeted that the party had set a record by raising more money than ever before.
Wagner tweeted,"[We] set a record tonight. We raised $3,019 in tips for the Permanently disabled Jockeys Fund!"
Photo: John Rott