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Derby Fun

Derby Fun

Heading to the Kentucky Derby?

Fun stuff about the Kentucky Derby and things to do:

Learn the tradition - The Kentucky Derby is steeped in over 135 years of tradition, much of it booze and hat related but tradition it is. The Kentucky Derby has been called “The Run for the Roses,” referring to the bed of 554 roses awarded to the winner. It has also been called “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” because it is usually done in about 125 seconds. The race is 1.25 miles, run by 15 three-year-old thoroughbred horses. Many traditions have developed around this longstanding race. Some add charm and class, others are just plain odd. The “Triple Crown” is a tradition that began in the early 1900s. Kentucky Derby winners began racing consecutively in two other races, the Maryland Preakness Stakes on the third Saturday in May and the New York Belmont Stakes, run in early June or five weeks after the Kentucky Derby. Sportswriter Charles Hatton started calling these races the “Triple Crown” in 1930.

Get your lady a nice hat - When Debbie and I made our first trip to the Kentucky Derby we literally spent half a day running around looking for the perfect hat. Guys need to take a back seat and be patient. This is important stuff and getting the right hat will make your Derby experience go smoothly. We started off by checking out the upscale hat shop in the Galt House, the epicenter of all things Derby. To me the hats are the icing on the cake and bring out the best smiles you'll ever see. My wife ended up picking up her hat at the local Von Maur department store which is a local favorite. Lastly, be sure to let your lady handle the purchasing of the hat, I mean the money part. It's going to happen and the money will be spent, so just accept it. Women don't just wear hats at the Kentucky Derby. They flaunt them in all their wide-brimmed, feather-festooned, flower-adorned, fancy-veiled glory. "We don't have a lot of documented history on the hats, but speculation has it that when the Derby was first brought here, they wanted it to be a social affair," says Courtney Stinson, public relations manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum. In some ways the Derby is the ideal sporting event for the fashionista: dressing up is strongly encouraged, the actual event only takes two minutes and involves horses, the race has a signature cocktail, and there is a better-than-average chance of meeting a well-dressed, drunk plutocrat or oligarch.

Kentucky Derby Hats

Attend the Barnstable Brown Party - For more than two decades, some of the brightest stars from the worlds of film, television, music, fashion and sports have celebrated the night before the “Run for the Roses” at Louisville’s quintessential Derby Eve party – the Barnstable Brown Party. Truly a family affair, the Barnstable Brown gala is co-hosted by twin sisters – and famed Doublemint twins – Patricia (“Tricia”) Barnstable Brown and Priscilla (“Cyb”) Barnstable, their mother, Wilma (“Willie”) Barnstable, and Tricia’s son, Chris Brown. The black-tie gala raises money for programs supporting diabetes research, treatment and education at the sisters’ alma mater, the University of Kentucky. Diabetes claimed the life of Tricia’s husband, Dr. David Brown, and the glamorous Derby Eve event is still held at the posh home Tricia and her late husband shared in Louisville’s beloved Highlands neighborhood. This party still has more buzz than The Julep Ball -Formerly called the Mint Jubilee, the Julep Ball takes place the night before the Derby. Local and national business leaders, horse industry professionals and celebrities from sports, music, cinema and television join forces to help raise money for the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. Contact your eSeats agent at 800-660-6031 for tickets to either party.

Attend the Taste of Derby Charity Event - Taste of DerbyThe "Taste of Derby" event takes place at the Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center in downtown Louisville and has become an exciting new addition to the Kentucky Derby week, which made its inaugural debut on April 29, 2010, the eve of the Kentucky Oaks 136, and attracted 1,000 guests. The evening celebrates and showcases cuisine of popular horse racing destinations across the country, where masterful chefs from these cities serve samples of their signature dishes, while guests also enjoy unique wines paired with the chefs’ regional offerings, and mix and mingle with Thoroughbred horse racing celebrities.    The Taste of Derby raises money for hunger relief organizations. The Taste of Derby Festival has the feel of an upscale cocktail party, but it's open to the public - as long as tickets are still available. The participating restaurants will offer a selection of signature appetizers, entrees and dessert items. Some of the liquor vendors will feature small-batch brands not commonly available.  A Silent Auction returns to the event offering unique items from generous donors.

The event takes place on the Thursday on the eve of the Kentucky Oaks race. Tickets to this fun, tasty and heart warming event, sell for $275 each and can be purchased by calling 800-660-6031. In 2010, the event featured a roster of award-winning chefs and horse racing celebrities from cities including Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans and New York.  Louisville and its signature races, the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby, were represented by 2010 Louisville Chef Challenge winners Chef Anthony Lamas of Seviche and Chef Aaron Stordeur of The Oakroom, respectively.

Visit the Kentucky Derby Museum - The Kentucky Derby Museum, which sits on the front steps of historic Churchill Downs, is a very visible part of our community as one of Louisville’s premiere attractions. Graciously welcoming over 210,000 guests through the doors each year and giving them a first-hand look at the event for which Louisville, Kentucky is known worldwide. The Museum aims to provide a lasting impression of tradition, hospitality and pride to our many visitors. Although the Museum is closed during the weekend of the Derby, we have the right contacts to accommodate you and your group. Please contact our office at 800-660-6031 to inquire about getting passes to enter the Museum Club. The experience includes a full buffet along with a derby hat contest that is sure to make you smile!

Take in a Mint Julep - No other drink associates itself to the Kentucky Derby like the Mint Julep. A mint julep is traditionally made with four ingredients: mint, bourbon, sugar, and water. Traditionally, spearmint is the mint of choice used in Southern states; in particular, Kentucky. In the use of sugar and mint, it is similar to the mojito. The mint julep has been promoted by Churchill Downs in association with the Kentucky Derby since 1938. Each year almost 120,000 juleps are served at Churchill Downs over the two day period of the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby. Don't return back home without trying a Mint Julep. I had mine at the bar of the Gault Haus and between you and me would have to say it's an acquired taste. Typically, mint juleps are served in a silver mint julep cup, although most Kentucky Derby attendees drink their mint juleps from a souvenir glass imprinted with the names of past Derby winners.

Try some Bugoo - a close cousin of Brunswick stew, is a dish popular throughout Kentucky that Derby attendees can sample at Churchill Downs. Early settlers of Kentucky made burgoo from wild game and any available vegetables, but modern burgoo typically contains vegetables and beef, chicken, lamb, and/or pork cooked for up to twelve hours over an open flame.

"Sing along to My Kentucky Home" - One of the most affecting experiences in the world of sports is the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home” as the horses assemble on the track just moments before the start of the Kentucky Derby. No one can point to a definitive year that the Stephen Foster ballad became a tradition, but it was fist mentioned in The Courier-Journal in the May 8, 1921 edition. Since 1936, barring a few exceptions “My Old Kentucky Home” has annually been performed by the University of Louisville Marching Band. Churchill Downs honors the famed composer with the Stephen Foster Handicap which was created as a 1 1/8 mile race for 3-year olds in 1982. For anyone attending the Derby, especially a Kentuckian, the song is a point of pride and many Louisvillians know the tune by heart.

Around the Track

Art and Landscape - You will appreciate the statues around the grounds of the Churchill Downs. From the newly unveiled statue of the great Barbaro, to the statue of the Jockey and lantern near the pre-race viewing area you will enjoy the beauty of the finely manicured gardens around Churchill Downs.

Roaming the Track - If you have a 3rd floor clubhouse ticket you can go down to the 1st floor level and have a good look around. I highly recommend visiting the several of the sections to get an idea of the full track. You might want to consider picking up tickets in another section for a future year. Remember, at the Churchill Downs you can go down, but not up. So if you have a 1st level ticket you cannot visit the 3rd level. To get up to the Millionaires row you need a 4th floor or 6th floor pass. Contact 800-660-6031 to discuss your options.

Infield Party Area- The infield is the part of the racetrack where general admission spectators sit. Very little of the race can be seen from this area, so there is less pomp and circumstance here. Instead, track goers arrive in common dress and attend for the traditional celebrations. The race takes a back seat to the celebrations. Expect to find a lot of inebriated fans and very creative costumes in the infield. The atmosphere is very festive and attracts a lot of people who are at the Derby for the party!

Be a paparazzi and spot a celebrity - The best place to spot the rich and famous is hanging around the Turf Club. The Turf Club is where you'll see the likes of Bo Derek, Professional athletes and lots of music stars. The Derby has always attracted the well-heeled and well-known, many of whom sit in Millionaires Row. Although the Derby gets its share of royalty—Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip attended in 2007, and oil-rich sheiks commonly own competing horses—it’s the hard-partiers and scenesters who usually steal some of the spotlight. Get your cameras ready because you're sure to stumble across a few famous people at the Derby.

Place a bet - Even if you are not a gambler or like watching your money go down the drain, you should place a bet at the Kentucky Derby. The betting booths are everywhere and nothing gives you a rush like watching your horse who you bet to win and has a 200-1 chance of winning takes the lead! There are many ways to place bets at Churchill Downs. Ask the attendants at the counter for a quick run-down on your kentucky derby and oaks betting options. You will be amazed at how many ways there are to watch your money go go go.