A Triple Crown quest always is filled with strange twists. The latest journey of racing's most coveted piece of hardware was very eventful, though it was all for nothing.
Churchill Downs communications executive Darren Rogers fetched the Cartier sterling silver Triple Crown trophy Tuesday from the track's Kentucky Derby Museum, put it in a plastic case and headed for Louisville's airport. That's when things got interesting.
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As Rogers and the 8-inch by 13-inch bauble went through security, TSA agents discovered what he was bringing to New York. Abandoning their posts, they insisted on posing for photos with it, as did many passengers on line. "They must have taken 60 pictures," Rogers said. "It was lots of fun, all good.
"I finally get to the gate and the woman there says, 'I'm sorry, sir, but you're going to have to check that bag,' " he said. "I asked, 'Didn't they tell you about the Triple Crown trophy?' She said, 'Oh, so you're the one. Please, can I see it?' "
A few more photos later, Rogers boarded with his precious cargo, which he would have stashed in the overhead bin if the flight had been undersold. So he strapped the case into the seat next to him, and the flight attendants did not offer it a soft drink, peanuts or pretzels.
Rogers probably could have used a cocktail to steady his nerves, because the idea of losing or damaging such a prize was profoundly disturbing. Yet devotion to duty demanded intense focus. At his hotel room on Long Island, he hid the trophy in a closet overnight. Never was a "Do Not Disturb" sign more critical.
Rogers said he didn't relax until Wednesday morning, after he handed the trophy to Belmont Park's operations department so it could be displayed at the Belmont Stakes draw. Many pictures and videos were shot, and Friday night, Rogers lamented a lost opportunity for maximum exposure.
"I had nothing to do Friday afternoon," he said, "and I could have taken it to Times Square."
Destiny would have demanded a photo of Rogers, a Texan and a lifelong Cowboys fan, holding the trophy with Times Square's celebrity, the Naked Cowboy. What a New York moment it might have been.