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Joe Nevills opens a small notebook and reads a poem:

Hated the Oaklawn slop.

Rain on the Derby Forecast.

Doomed by the doppler.”  

Nevills is a horse handicapper who writes his predictions in haiku — a form of Japanese poetry. That one was about Long Range Toddy, a horse set to compete in this Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

Ashlie Stevens | wfpl.org

Nevills’ notebook of horse racing haikus.

As you may have picked up from Nevills’ poem, Long Range Toddy isn’t a great mud runner.

Nevills has a poem ready for every single Derby hopeful. He even had one for Omaha Beach, the frontrunner who was slated to be ridden by Mike Smith, but had to scratch because of epiglottal blockage.

“The best endorsement —

is Mike Smith taking the mount.

A win candidate,” Nevills said.

And Nevills poetic approach to Derby isn’t the only unexpected thing I ran into today at the Kentucky Oaks.

For example, there are lines of people waiting at the various champagne and bourbon tents, which makes sense; but I was most surprised to see the trackside lobster booths, including one with $20 lobster rolls and an attendant who occasionally shouts out, “Lobster, lobster — Derby lobster!”  

Kristie Curry, a Louisville-native, says she was initially skeptical about eating seafood from a concession stand, but she decided to take her chances:

“Sure, yeah, it’s Derby.” Curry said. “Derby weekend anyway. I figured, ‘Why not?’”

Ashlie Stevens | wfpl.org

Track lobster.

Hats certainly aren’t unusual at the track. But for some people, like Christy Singer and Toni Miller, they’re more than just an accessory — they’re an activity all their own. The two make their own hats every year.

“We have big pink rose, crazy pink ‘I don’t know whats’ and netting,” Singer said, motioning to her large pink hat.

Ashlie Stevens

Christy Singer and Toni Miller

Miller said the key for a good Derby hat is finding inspiration.

“Find your dress first and then you need to find a hat that kind of suits the dress and the outfit,” Miller said. “So, I went with a bold hat because my skirt was bold, and I picked this giant blue flower.”

Singer and Miller have been getting together to make their own Derby hats for the last seven or so years; the entire process usually takes about three hours, and they say it’s worth the time to have something totally unique for Derby weekend.

Ashlie Stevens is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.