The Kentucky Derby holds a title that it truly deserves: “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” But, despite what you might think, the 1.5-mile race isn’t limited to the horse racing crowd. Rather, this race is an emblem of tradition.
It holds a special place in American sporting culture. The Kentucky Derby ignites the spirit of competition across the United States…and beyond. On Kentucky Derby Day, it seems like everyone wants to be a Kentuckian.
History of the Kentucky Derby
The first Kentucky Derby at the now world-famous Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The twin-spired venue opened in 1875. It was the first Kentucky Derby year.
The founder, Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., is the grandson of the famous American explorer William Clark. Clark had traveled abroad to England and France. While there, he was impressed with the racing traditions.
He came home from his travels to Kentucky. He was a man on a mission and established the Louisville Jockey Club. His goal was to raise money for building a quality racing facility, which, as you know by now, was Churchill Downs.
About 10,000 spectators came to that 1875 Derby. Aristides, a stunning chestnut thoroughbred, raced his way into the history books that year.
Since then, the Derby has been a widely anticipated annual event. It has withstood some incredible tests of time, including the World Wars and the Great Depression.
The Kentucky Derby has wider implications than a stand-alone race. It’s the first event of three – the American Triple Crown. The Derby is followed by the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, which round out the trio of races.
How to Celebrate the Kentucky Derby
You don’t have to actually be in Kentucky to enjoy the festivities! Here are some ideas for enjoying the Kentucky Derby – either at the track or from your living room:
Attend the Race
It gets no better than the thrill you will feel if you have the opportunity to go to Churchill Downs. Attending the Kentucky Derby in the flesh is an indescribable experience. The crowd’s energy is electric.
Few words explain the sounds of thundering hooves on the track. Until you see it, you can’t imagine the parade of bonnets and dresses. Witnessing the race in person allows you to feel the pulse of the event.
You experience a knot of tension as the horses line up. It’s also thrilling to cheer as they dash around the turns to the finish line. The Kentucky Derby is only a horse race. Indeed, it is also Kentucky’s hottest social event of the year.
Host a Kentucky Derby Party
Text your friends – a Kentucky Derby party is a fantastic way to bring the excitement of the race into your living room. Here are some traditional Derby delights to try:
- Hot Browns: A Louisville classic hot brown is an open-faced sandwich. It has a base of bread topped with turkey and bacon. It then gets bathed in a rich Mornay sauce and broiled.
- Mint Juleps: This minty, refreshing cocktail is Derby’s official beverage. It is made with bourbon, fresh mint, sugar, and crushed ice. Serve it in a silver cup (or whatever you happen to have – it’s delicious regardless of glassware!).
- Bourbon Balls: These delightful candies are a true treat. They are made with crushed cookies, nuts, and chocolate. The best part is how they’re infused with genuine Kentucky bourbon.
Watching the race live on TV with your friends – preferably all dressed in bonnets and your finery – makes for a memorable Kentucky Derby Day.
Learn About the Kentucky Derby History
The Kentucky Derby is steeped in history. Exploring the history of this race adds depth to the day. Learn more about the Derby’s origin. Read how its traditions evolved. Read about its spot in horse racing history.
Discover stories of its horses like Secretariat, the unforgettable 1973 winner. Read up on the famous jockeys who have left their mark on this historic race. The Derby will tell you some very colorful stories.
Embrace the Traditions
It doesn’t matter if you are going to Churchill Downs or watching the race on your tv screen. It’s fun to follow the traditions of the Derby, either way:
- Fashion: Derby fashion is part of the entertainment. Women wear elaborate bonnets and elegant dresses. Most men who attend will opt for bright, dapper suits.
- My Old Kentucky Home: The legendary tune, My Old Kentucky Home, plays, as the horses parade before the grandstands. It’s a feel-good moment that unites everyone at the track.
- Mint Julep: Kentucky is the proud home of the best bourbons you can imagine. This cocktail connects you to a century-old Derby tradition. This wonderful drink is a symbol of hospitality, Kentucky style.
These customs are a large part of the Derby experience..
Place a Wager on the Race
Betting on the Kentucky Derby adds an element of excitement to the race. It’s also your investment in building interest in the outcome. Placing a wager, even a tiny one, on your can make the race all the more thrilling.
It’s not just about the potential to win money; it’s about studying the horses, making predictions, and feeling a personal stake in the race’s outcome. Placing wagers on the Derby is a tradition in itself – one that adds to the drama and fun of the event.