The Kentucky Derby is an American classic: the thrill of horses racing through down the mighty dirt track, jockeys straddling the great steeds as the speed inches away from disaster. However, the Kentucky Derby is a joy that only a lucky few get to experience first hand. However, at Knott’s Berry Farm, park goers can get an idea of how it feels to race a mustang on Pony Express, a Zamplera Moto-Coaster with horse themed trains.
Opened in the spring of 2008, Pony Express was targeted towards a younger audience. With a relatively gentle 38 mph launch, this thorough breed coaster is quite tame. The slower speeds and lower heights certainly don’t make it the holy grail for thrill seekers but at just a 48-inch height limit, Pony Express is something the entire family can enjoy.
Another tradition of the Kentucky Derby is to place bets. In the coaster world, it would be similar to guests saying, “I bet you will love/hate this roller coaster”. And usually these bets are not too far off. But Pony Express is not a coaster I am not willing to bet on. The coaster receives very mixed reviews, some being that it is the best family ride in the park, but others calling it one of the worst. I have found the responses to be unpredictable
Personally, I enjoy Pony Express. Not exactly a ride worth dying over if you miss it, but still a solid, enjoyable ride.
Once aboard the train, the unique and controversial harness goes into action. A metal bar locks rider’s legs into place. While that happens, a cushioned harness rises from beneath the horse shaped train to push against the rider’s back locking them in place. Between the two restraints, riders are forced into a straddling position. Depending on guests’ body type and shape, the position can be extremely comfortable or uncomfortable – I find it to be manageable. Usually, this is the threshold which pushes guests to either side of the fence: enjoying or loathing the experience.
After leaving, the train makes a long pause at the launch track before accelerating from 0 to 38 mph in 3 seconds. Horses climb up and over the 44 foot high turn-around before gliding back down just over the railroad track. Once again, riders find them selves cresting a small hill before diving past the station where the on-ride photo point is located.
The rests of the journey consists of banked turns over Big Foot Rapids, an enclosed turn around and one more bunny hop. Finally, riders come to a very slow and long stop on the break run. At this point, at least every child has a smile on their face.
So what can we learn about Pony Express from this review? Ride it yourself and make your own decision. Pony Express gets mixed reviews and this is just one opinion among a thousand others. I give Pony Express a 6.5/10 – a coaster worth testing out yourself. But then again, those are just my Park Thoughts.