The first horse race I ever went to was in Louisiana, with my husband of about six months (I was 23, and my husband was 22), my mother-in-law, and my father-in-law Frank, who loved horse racing. His own father had owned a race horse who ran and won in minor races.

Frank knew my parents (and all the generations before them, as far back as anyone can recollect) were from eastern Kentucky, and so he assumed that I knew a lot about horse racing. Truth be told, my family of origin were tobacco farmers, more likely to have had mules than horses, and certainly they didn’t have horses for racing, or follow horse racing. Animals were for work, not for sports! What’s more, I was reared in a religious background that when it came to betting or card playing (including solitaire!), well, all bets were decidedly off.

It wasn’t a view I shared, and I wanted to get along with my husband’s family, so I confessed my lack of knowledge but shared that I was willing to give betting a whirl. I caught on to the concept of “win, place or show” fairly quickly, but Frank might as well have been explaining arcane, complex incantations in Latin when he tried to tell me his methodology for handicapping the horses.

I ended up making my choices based on the simple combination of how much I liked the horse’s name and/or the design/color of the jockey’s silks.

My horses won, placed, and showed. Frank’s… ran.

He asked me how I made my choices. Ever overly-honest (I took to heart the Thou Shalt Not Lie part of my upbringing), I shared my methodology. Now, Frank liked to talk. A lot. But my explanation struck him speechless. And I’ll never forget his expression of shock.

Fortunately, Frank forgave me. (He may have tried to hide it behind a gruff exterior, but he was a kind man.) And I learned that one does not need to be blunt about everything, all the time. But secretly, when we’d gather to watch the Run for the Roses with my in-laws, I still used my tried-and-true methodology–and only cheered inwardly when my methodology worked,

Whether or not you’re watching the Run for the Roses, a.k.a. the 2018 Kentucky Derby, this Kentucky Derby Pie is a sure winner. I got the recipe from a friend, former colleague, and book fan Pam Tippett. She says she got it from the 1776 Inn, in Waynesville, Ohio, back in 1977/78. It’s very rich, but I still like to have it with a mint julep while watching the Derby on television–and give a toast to Frank.

Kentucky Derby Pie


  1. 1/4 cup butter
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 3 eggs, beaten
  4. 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate bits
  5. 3/4 cup light corn syrup (Substitute pure cane or simple syrup if you are avoiding corn based products.)
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  7. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  8. 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  9. 2 tablespoons bourbon
  10. 1 unbaked 9″ pie shell (here’s my basic pie crust recipe)


  1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar.
  3. Stir in eggs, chocolate bits, syrup, salt, vanilla, nuts, and bourbon.
  4. Pour into pie shell and bake 40-50 minutes.
  5. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.