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Dark Now, Party Once Was a Dazzling Event

The Kentucky Derby has been called "the most exciting two minutes in sports," but it is much more than that.


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It was a lot quieter on Kentucky Derby eve last year, because Anita and Preston Madden didn't hold their traditional bash in nearby Lexington.

Hands down, the Madden soiree was considered to be the best and the worst of the many Derby-week parties. Best, as in the most fun. Worst, as in leading the league in tackiness.

The Maddens, who had a run of more than 40 years with their party, aren't throwing one this week. But there are unconfirmed reports that Anita Madden misses the action and may be reviving the blowout for 2001.

The Maddens were known to invite 5,000-6,000 people--some of them beautiful, some not--to their Hamburg Place farm, where Alysheba, the 1987 Derby winner, was bred. The Madden parties are actually charity affairs, having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Bluegrass Boys' Ranch.

One year, Anita Madden noticed some guests leaving and wondered why.

"I guess they didn't have a good time," she said.

It was 5 a.m.

The Madden party has been highlighted by streakers, scantily clad women on overhead swings and a flying-carpet theme with (almost) real flying carpets.

At one time, Anita Madden was a member of the Kentucky Racing Commission. Over an issue about horse medication, she was outvoted by the rest of the board.

"It's sad," she said after the meeting. "For all the good I did in there, I might just as well have stayed home and painted my toenails."



2:30 p.m. Saturday, Channel 7

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