Jim and Jane Elliott of Fairfax, the parents of Spend A Buck co-owner Linda Diaz, decided to watch the Kentucky Derby with relatives and friends at their home rather than travel to Louisville.
They decorated the white fence in front of their ranch-style house and the trees in the backyard with streamers of blue and gray (the colors of Hunter Farm in Odessa, Fla.), hung the silk blanket that the horse earned in the Garden State Stakes and stocked up on supplies for mint juleps. The Elliotts invited about 50 guests and tuned the race in on five televisions.
Calm probably prevailed until post time. "I was hootin' and hollerin' from the start," said Jim Elliott, a public information officer for NASA at Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt.
"Nothing can compare with this," he said. "I have experienced (working on) the shuttle launch and trying to retrieve the satellite on the Solar Maximun Mission in April, but this is more personal. This is more exciting because the family is involved."
In addition to Linda and Dennis Diaz, the Elliotts were represented in Louisville by daughter Laura, 36, and son Jim, 19. The elder Elliott, an avowed newcomer to the sport of kings, had been to the Derby in 1971 when he was working for a now-defunct airlines that flew horses to the race.
"Down there, I'm going to get kicked around," Jim Elliott said. "I have a really great bunch of friends. I had a double barrel good time. I probably saw the race better and had the satisfaction of seeing my friends enjoy my family's success."
This morning, Elliott placed a $200 bet (through his son) on the winner, and tried to send a telegram to the horse.
It read: "Chief's Crown, Tank's Prospect, Eternal Prince are all a bunch of pikers, Bucky. We know you'll show proper respect for them in the Derby and respectfully display the southside of your northbound anatomy, with your tail wagging 'so long, it's been good to know you,' all the way."
Western Union was unable to deliver, but the horse ran as if it had gotten the message. In return, a vase of roses arrived at the Elliotts' home with a message from the horse.
"Here's hoping we all can smell the roses today. Love, Spend A Buck."
"She was a nurse in Tampa," said Jim Elliott about his daughter Linda, who graduated from W.T. Woodson High School. "And Dennis was dating her roommate (before he met her). He was always successful."