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Beyond the Race: The Greatest Events in the Kentucky Derby

There is More to the Prestigious Event Than its Horses and Wagers

The world’s most legendary racetrack, Churchill Downs, has conducted thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875.

However, there is more to the Kentucky Derby than its horses and wagers. Learn more about this prestigious event and its traditions through the article below.

The Race

The Kentucky Derby, presented by Woodford Reserve, is top rank, Grade I stakes race for 3-year-old Thoroughbred horses. The competition is run on the dirt racetrack at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky and is one and one-quarter miles long.

Twenty horses compete in the Kentucky Derby, which is a larger field size than most horse races; where on average eight horses race against one another.

In the Kentucky Derby, the 20 horses racing must first travel along the Road to the Kentucky Derby, which is a series of 35 races taking place at tracks across the country and the world.

The Kentucky Derby typically draws a crowd of 155,000 people and takes place on the first Saturday in May every year.

It is the longest continuously held sporting event in America, and it is one of the most prestigious horse races in the world.

Kentucky Derby Traditions

Garland of Roses
Now synonymous with the Kentucky Derby, the rose garland, is the source of the nickname “Run for the Roses” and has a history almost as long as the Derby itself.

Each year, a garland of more than 400 red roses is sewn into a green satin backing with the seal of the Commonwealth on one end and the number of the race’s current renewal and the Twin Spires on the other.

The Twin Spires
The Twin Spires are a recognized landmark and have become visual symbols of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby throughout the world.

Constructed in 1895, the Twin Spires was the creation of a 24-year-old draftsman, Joseph Dominic Baldez, who was asked to draw the blueprints for Churchill Downs’ new grandstand.

Initially, the plans did not include the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs’ roofline, but as the young Baldez continued work on his design, he felt the structure needed something to give it a striking appearance.

Visitors from all over the world come to have their photos taken in front of the iconic Twin Spires as of today.

My Old Kentucky Home
My Old Kentucky Home is believed to have been originally played in 1921 for the 47th running although there is no definitive history on the playing of the Stephen Foster ballad as a Derby Day tradition.

With only a few exceptions, since 1936, the song has been performed by the University of Louisville Marching Band as the horses make their way from the paddock to the starting gate.

Kentucky Oaks
When Churchill Downs was known as the Louisville Jockey Club, the first running of the Kentucky Oaks was on May 19, 1875. Along with the Kentucky Derby, Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. founded the race.

The Oaks and the Derby are the only horse races to be held at their original site since its conception and the oldest continuously contested sporting events in history.

Mint Julep

The Mint Julep has been the traditional beverage of the Kentucky Derby and the Churchill Downs for nearly a century.

Each year, almost 120,000 Mint Juleps are served over the two days of Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs Racetrack.

The Derby Fashion
The spectacular fashion often seen at the Kentucky Derby is not solely a product of modern times; instead, the opulent feminized dress has played a significant role in the history of the Kentucky Derby.

What Colonel M. Lewis Clark Jr., founder of the Kentucky Derby, envisioned was a racing environment that would feel comfortable and luxurious. An event that would remind people of the Grand Prix and the Epsom Derby – European Horse Racing Events that attracted an elegant crowd.

Bet the Derby
As the sport of horse racing itself is historic, betting on horse racing is just as important. To the betting windows at Churchill Downs from the ancient civilizations across the world, the desire to bet on the horse that is fastest on a set course at a fixed distance has remained unchanged.

Don’t miss out on the main event of the day and face the Kentucky Derby odds. Place your bets now and get the chance to win a large sum of money.

There is more to things than what we initially see. When we talk about the Kentucky Derby, the first thing that comes to mind is either horses or a hefty sum of cash.

However, it also pays to know its origins, customs, and traditions. By understanding the roots of the race, we get to enjoy the event more and even value it deeper.