Moving and running horse in Derby--we must be crazy

May 01, 1991|By Kim Johnson

LOUISVILLE — Kim Johnson was born and raised on Maryland's Eastern Shore, graduated from Garrison Forest School in Reisterstown and just last week moved to Kentucky from Los Angeles.

Her and her husband, Murray, are running their first horse in the Kentucky Derby. He is Green Alligator, owned by Kim's grandfather, Anderson Fowler, of Far Hills, N.J.

Kim has agreed to share her experiences at Churchill Downs this week with Evening Sun readers.

LOUISVILLE -- The reality of all of this still hasn't hit me. It is such a dream. We never really thought we'd get this close to running in the Kentucky Derby.

For one thing, A-Pa never really wanted to run in the race. I have always called my grandfather A-Pa. When I was little, I couldn't pronounce Grandpa, so it's been A-Pa ever since.

He thinks the Derby is too far (12 furlongs) to run a young horse. But Gator has done everything perfectly, and we were moving here from Los Angeles anyway, so he finally decided to run.

But moving and running a horse in the Kentucky Derby all in the same week is too much. I think we must be crazy.

Murray made a trip here about three weeks ago and found a house for us to rent out in the country. We had lived in L.A. for six years. But the drive to and from the track [Hollywood Park] was getting to be too much. It would take us 45 minutes to get to work, and two hours to get home. And we wanted to raise our kids in the country.

Murray flew here on the plane with our two horses. Wayne Lukas was also on the plane with some of his horses, so Murray really got an earful. Our two dogs, a Lab named Aiken, and a Jack Russell terrier we call Jane, came with him as well as two chickens. I came separately with our two little girls, Elizabeth, 2, and Katie, 4 months.

Since I gallop our six horses myself, I have to have a babysitter. So a nice young girl named Lupe came with us. Lupe doesn't speak a word of English, but we're all trying to teach her. The house Murray rented is so far away that we're all staying in a motel close to Churchill Downs.

But we forgot to rent extra rooms and they are impossible to get now. So it's Murray and me and Lupe and the two girls all in one room.

The moving van came yesterday and we paid the guys just to unpack everything themselves. They gave us $100 to bet on Green Alligator.

What really helps is that my whole family is here. My mom and dad [Eddie and Binnie Houghton from Chestertown] drove down with my sister Jen. They brought us a 2-year-old named Fatty to train. Jen is just getting over a terrible fall she had while galloping a horse at Fair Hill Training Center last Christmas. She broke three vertebrae. But she's out of her cast and is the official hotwalker for Green Alligator.

There's so much to do, it's a wonder Green Alligator ever gets to the track. But we're up at 5 a.m. The horse is so tough to gallop, he has to go out in the dark. I try to be on the track as soon as it opens, around 6 a.m.

COMING UP: Kim and Murray size up the competition and look forward to seeing "Stormin' Norman" lead the Kentucky Derby Parade.

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