They just kept coming on Saturday.
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs was the place to be on Arkansas Derby Day, and the attendance was reported at 60,000. In time, another 60,000 will claim to have been there.
Yours truly was there early, but having been just out of a bout with covid, the fatigue sent me home before the first race.
The Arkansas Razorbacks' football coaching staff was taking a day off to attend the races. It was a much-needed day of relaxation as they continue to put the pieces together for this fall, and prepare for the incredible expectations of the fans.
Normally when I get to Oaklawn, I find a way to meet with my friend of more than 40 years, Eric Jackson. Derby Day is always the best because he has his wife Lynda with him.
I'm sure they were already at the track when I eased out and made what seemed like a longer than usual drive home.
Pretty sure covid was the unwanted souvenir from the trip to Buffalo for the NCAA Tournament. While the symptoms were like a sinus infection that sidelined me for my daughter's wedding, the recovery has been a bit slow and has left some lingering issues.
Anyway, this is about Arkansas Derby Day and a very All-American thing that happened that day. I'm going to let my friend Eric tell it in his words:
Lynda and I went out Saturday for Arkansas Derby Day. We were in the Oaklawn Club. When the horses came out for the first race, I noticed the bugler was struggling a little with Call to the Post. Understandable, I thought. Had to be a little nervous with 60,000 people at Oaklawn, hundreds of thousands at other racetracks and millions more watching on live TV.
Who wouldn't be nervous? But when he still struggled some on subsequent races, I began worrying there might be something wrong with our bugler and wondering why General Manager Wayne Smith (who replaced Eric who is now a senior vice president) was not defaulting to our prerecorded Call to the Post.
Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, I know the rest of the story.
Oaklawn learned late Saturday morning our regular bugler had had an accident, was injured, and was not going to be able to play. We were in a bind when someone remembered that one of our parking attendants played the bugle some.
His name is Ross Rumore. We asked him if he would give it a try. He said he had never played Call to the Post. But if we needed help, he would do his best. So we scrambled to get him pants, boots and a coat, and sent him straight out onto the track.
People who know Ross were not surprised he would jump in to help like this. That was his normal MO when he played the bugle 61 years ago in the Marines. Ross is a veteran. Korean War. He played the bugle throughout his 11 years in the Marines, including once on Mount Suribachi, the highest point on Iwo Jima. It was at Iwo Jima where 6,800 fellow Marines died fighting for our freedom in World War II.
Now close to 90 years old, Ross still plays the bugle a little. But never Call to the Post. Usually just Taps. And only at military funerals.
So, no, Ross did not have time to practice when he was asked if he could help Saturday. He just said he'd try. He didn't hit every note. He wasn't always on key. But just as he had when he was called on by the Marines more than 60 years ago, he simply did his best.
And his best was good enough for Oaklawn President Louis Cella to say later it sounded perfect to him.
Jason Milligan has all the details.
Ross Rumore is a great American.