“The Unofficial Kentucky Derby Program”

The days leading up to the Derby were magical. Reading the “Racing Edition” in the local newspaper, and listening to stretch calls on radio with my Dad. There was not much television coverage with the exception of the Derby race itself. I look back and think about the times spent with a man who was my friend, betting partner, and Father. We’re getting older now, and there are fewer trips to the track. Watching the ponies is on TVG/HRTV, and the magic has dissipated into flipping from channel to channel. I guess this generation will never know the excitement of being there on a cold windy day, or battling the brutal heat in the summer. I didn’t think anyone could share my feelings until I opened the mail. In a large white envelope, there was a sense of excitement that came over me like a fever. On the outside of the huge letter were the golden words of ” Your Green Sheet is here.” It was after reading, that I knew more than ever before.

 

The “Green Sheet” was the brainchild of Jim McCullough. He wanted to make the Kentucky Derby more interesting for the casual fan, and give a detailed insight into the Sport of Kings. The sheet has been produced since 1959, and the mailing list is a melting pot of recipients. You’ll find CEO’s, factory workers, and a track announcer on the list for this work of love. Jim began by hand typing the first editions, and what stated as a 12 edition opus to racing in 1959, capped at over 220 in 1983 due to his schedule of hand delivering the news. There was a short disruption in delivery of the “Green Sheet,” but it has not missed a beat since 1994. Jim had a rule, ” once you’re on the list, your always on the list.” First printed on a green-colored onion skin paper called “Mac’s Green Sheet.” It has now evolved into green construction paper that still holds the magic from it’s first inception.

 

Jim would include a detailed recap of the previous year, and discuss his sweet victory, or something that he may have overlooked. Introspective in design and entertaining for the reader. In his first 35 editions of the “Green Sheet,” he was able to select 10 winners (29%). Incredible numbers if you think about it, and if ESPN had been around, he would have surely made a prime candidate to be an anchor. There is a comprehensive analysis of every horse going in the Derby, with a detailed explanation of how to use the runner, or why they should be discarded. After my first copy, I thought I was one of the only folks in the area to receive this gift. When I mentioned to an older bookmaker about this incredible piece of handicapping. I told him I would lend it to examine. It was at that time I realized the scope of the “Green Sheet.” – ” Oh, you mean the Green Sheet? I’ve been getting that for years.” Jim McCullough passed away on December 20, 1998. His love and passion for racing may have been equaled, but never surpassed. – That was until his son Kevin would pick up the torch of racing knowledge, and continued the long standing tradition of informing racing fans about The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.

 

As the tradition carries on, I love the detailed analysis. Kevin does a remarkable job at bringing to light the subtle nuisances of each and every runner. He gives a full recap from the previous year just as his father, but in his 16 editions he has only produced one winner. No matter the winning percentage, the “Green Sheet” lives on in a son’s love and devotion to his Dad’s passion. Kevin quotes his father with quips of “If you like a horse, the first $2 goes on his nose.” A self described “World’s Worst Handicapper” couldn’t be farther from the truth. At the end of the day, it’s not always about how much money was made, or the last mistake that kept you from taking home the gold. This began as a celebration of the horse. It’s rare to find such passion in racing as times have changed on the gambling/entertainment landscape. But it’s good to know some of the best things will never change. Thank you, Jim for the creation of one of the most anticipated handicapping items of the season. And to my friend, Kevin McCullough. Thank you for carrying on the tradition of your father’s passion. I start looking for the “Green Sheet” everyday as we near the Derby, and when it arrives I tear it open like a kid with a Christmas gift. One of my favorite quips from the “Green Sheet” comes from Jim McCullough from the 1978 edition: “My legs are sore from all of the exercise at the track yesterday, it was a 12-race card.”

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