2018 Kentucky Derby Highlights

Get excited for this years Kentucky Derby Gala!

2019 Derby Fashion trends

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Kentucky Derby History and Lingo


Alternatively referred to as “The Run for the Roses” or “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports,” the Kentucky Derby is a 1.25-mile race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses. The Kentucky Derby draws an average of 150,000 visitors each year, including residents, out-of-towners, celebrities, presidents, and even members of royal families.


The first Kentucky Derby race occurred in 1875. Close to 10,000 people watched as 15 thoroughbred horses ran what was then a 1.5-mile course. In 1876, the length of the race was changed to 1.25 miles. By the early 1900s, owners of winning Kentucky Derby horses started sending their winners to run in the Preakness Stakes in Maryland and the Belmont Stakes in New York. In 1930, sportswriter Charles Hatton coined the term “Triple Crown” in reference to the same horses running the three races consecutively.


Mint Julep – The Mint Julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. It is an iced drink consisting of bourbon, mint, and a sweet syrup and is traditionally served in a commemorative Kentucky Derby glass. During Derby season, they are available throughout Louisville. And, of course, at the track.

Burgoo – A thick, meaty stew that is the traditional meal of the Kentucky Derby. There are as many recipes as cooks, but burgoo is typically three types of meat along with corn, okra, and lima beans. It is one of the traditional foods of Louisville, including Derby Pie, Henry Bain Sauce, Hot Brown Sandwiches, and more.

Millionaire’s Row – The premium seating area that houses all of the rich and famous Kentucky Derby guests during the races. Think rock stars and royalty. Of course, the service for this clientele is superior and not accessible to the public.

Triple Crown – A series of three races, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes, that is run annually by a group of thoroughbred horses. Horse racing fans watch all three closely.

Derby Hat Parade – The derby hat parade takes place inside of Churchill Downs and refers to the sea of stylish and elegant hats worn by women and men alike during the Kentucky Derby. Hats range from glamorous and pricey to humorous and timely. Fancy hats are believed to bring lucky bets.

Kentucky Derby Festival – The annual two-week series of events held in Louisville beginning with Thunder Over Louisville and leading up to the Kentucky Derby. There is no shortage of things to do; hot air balloon festivals, marathons, art fairs, and parades.

The Infield – The flat, grassy area inside of the track. The infield is best-known for hosting the largest Kentucky Derby party. While it is at the track, the track is only visible to a few at this huge event.


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Fun Facts


Why is Derby called “The Run for the Roses”?

 The red rose is the official flower of the Kentucky Derby. After winning, the victorious Derby horse is draped with a garland of red roses. The floral blanket carries the same symbolism as a winning crown. It is said New York sports columnist Bill Corum was the first to refer to Derby as “The Run for the Roses” in 1925. Corum later became the president of Churchill Downs. His Derby nickname, like all good pet names, stuck. And, it's worth mentioning, the horses aren't the only ones who get fancy. 

Who takes the Kentucky Derby trophy home?

 The Derby trophy goes to the owner of the winning horse. Weighing 56 ounces, or three and a half pounds, the trophy is 22 inches tall, including its jade base. Most of it is made of 14-karat gold with the adorning horseshoe, horse and jockey fashioned from 18-karat gold. It is allegedly the only trophy for an American sporting event made of solid gold. Maybe you could make a faux one for your next Derby party. 

How fast do the horses run?


Each year, 20 horses compete in “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” Despite all the festivities surrounding Derby, the race itself usually takes just over two minutes. Secretariat, the racehorse holding the Kentucky Derby record, ran it in 1:59. That was in 1973. The track was really muddy for the 1908 Derby, which slowed the horses down. That year, Stone Street won Derby with a time of 2:15. That’s right, the span between the fastest and slowest winning Derby times is a mere 16 seconds. The race distance of the Kentucky Derby is 1.25 miles.​​

What is the song everyone sings when the horses are led to the starting gates?

“My Old Kentucky Home,” written by Stephen Foster in 1853, was established as the state song of Kentucky in 1928. The song is played by the University of Louisville Marching Band each Derby Day. Everyone sings along, from the crowds of Churchill Downs to revelers at Derby parties around town.

Do fillies (female horses) ever win the Kentucky Derby?

 The day prior to Derby is Kentucky Oaks, also known as “The Lilies for the Fillies.” Only fillies run in Oaks and the winning horse is draped with a garland of lilies. But that doesn’t mean fillies are out of the running on Derby Day. Some fillies strong enough to compete against the boys on the first Saturday in May. That said, in the history of the Kentucky Derby, only three winners have been fillies; Winning Colors in 1988, Genuine Risk in 1980 and Regret in 1915. 

Is Derby always held on hot days?

 Not necessarily. The Kentucky Derby takes place the first Saturday in May, whatever the weather may be. It is usually sunny and pleasant but, of course, there have been exceptions. In 1959 the temperature was a balmy 94 degrees and in 1935 it was a chilly 47 degrees. 

Why the fancy hats?

 Extravagant and decorative hats are a fashion tradition for Derby-goers. It’s a fun and festive way to celebrate spring, keep the sun out of your eyes and look gorgeous. Traditionally, women wore the lavish hats, but more recently, men have gotten in on the fun, too. The hats are also thought to be good luck, and every bit of luck counts when you are at the track. Short on cash? Make your own Derby hat.