Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said Sunday that her first Kentucky Derby experience was "heavenly."
The former Alaska governor and her husband, Todd, spoke about the Derby while attending a fundraiser for the Headley-Whitney Museum in Lexington.
The Palins were the guests of socialite and museum supporter Marylou Whitney and her husband, John Hendrickson, at the annual Brunch and Bibelots party on the museum grounds. Hendrickson knows Palin from when he lived in Alaska during the 1990s.
The Palins attended the Derby as guests of Whitney and Hendrickson.
"That was a blast," Sarah Palin said of the race. She said she and her husband had been to the Belmont Stakes with Whitney and Hendrickson, but this was their first Kentucky Derby.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Sarah Palin said. "It was heavenly."
Palin, who was known for her "Drill, baby, drill" catchphrase in support of more domestic oil-drilling during the 2008 presidential campaign, said she bet on Frac Daddy. The horse was named for "fracking," the nickname for hydraulic fracturing, the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at high pressure to fracture shale rocks and release natural gas or oil."
"Frac Daddy, the name alone warranted a bet," Palin said. The horse finished 16th in a 19-horse Derby field.
Palin said she also bet on Politicallycorrect, which ran in a race on the Derby Day undercard. The colt finished sixth.
Palin said Hendrickson "was the only one who actually won out of our whole group over the weekend."
"To have grown up watching this iconic event on TV all these years, then to actually be there and be among people who are so passionate about these amazing athletes, who have accomplished so much, it was a wonderful experience," she said.
Palin said it "reminds me, on a much smaller scale, of the dog mushers with the dog sleds with the Iditarod" annual race in Alaska.
Organizers expected about 220 people at the museum fundraiser.
Linda Roach, chairman of the museum board, said she expected the event to raise $50,000, which would be used to pay operating costs.
Palin said she was happy to help the "worthy cause."
"Certainly we get a sense of this wonderful part of our nation," she said. "This area is gorgeous, aesthetically; the people are gorgeous, they're fun, they're practical, they're grounded."
Amid steady rain, guests were kept dry beneath a tent next to La Belle, the 1936 house where jewelry designer George Headley lived. The museum has put the house up for sale. Roach said there has been interest from potential buyers, "but whether that translates into a closing, I don't know."
Organizers and attendees emphasized that the event was not political. Tracy Farmer, former state Democratic Party chairman, said the fundraiser was attended by Democrats and Republicans alike.
"This is an equal opportunity event," Farmer said.
In his conversation with Palin, Dr. Ron Saykaly said he "kept it nonpolitical."
"I just greeted her to Kentucky, asked whether she was having a good time and how she is enjoying herself," Saykaly said.
Political or not, there were some Palin admirers in the audience. Among them was Kot von Unrug, a retired professor and director of rock mechanics laboratories in the University of Kentucky department of mining engineering.
"She has guts, which no one has any more," von Unrug said.
Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.