Why We Love the Kentucky Derby® (And You Should Too)

Posted by Carolynn Wilcox on Mon, Nov 23, 2015

The Kentucky Derby is steeped in tradition, with a legacy that rivals that of any existing American event and a history that will soon celebrate its sesquicentennial anniversary.  The Derby experience can’t be duplicated outside of the beautiful grounds of Churchill Downs.  Trying to nail down everything we love about the Kentucky Derby is impossible, but we’ll at least hit the highlights! 

The Pageantry

Back in 1875 when the first Kentucky Derby was run, everyone wore hats and the patrons of Churchill Downs were always adorned in their finest!  While race day attendees these days don’t need to be dressed to the nines for most seating areas, a high standard of dress is still expected to be kept.  Because the Derby is held in early May, vivacious colors are common as both women and men alike flaunt the hues of spring.

As for the hats, not only are they a longstanding tradition of the Derby, they’re also said to be good luck!  Designed as statement pieces, they’re frequently loud and attention-grabbing – you won’t be able to miss these beautiful fashion accessories as you take in all the excitement of Derby day. 

Need to find the perfect Kentucky Derby hat, but don’t know where to start?  Check out our post here for tips on how to hunt down your ideal chapeau! 


The Traditions

The aura of romance surrounding the Kentucky Derby isn’t just a legend.  It’s a very tangible reality, handed down from generation to generation.  Once you step foot inside Churchill Downs and witness the soaring Twin Spires that set off the roofline of Churchill Downs or hear the crowd’s rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home,” you know that you’re in a very special place with a unique past. 

According to the Kentucky Derby website, the Twin Spires were “constructed in 1895 [and] were the creation of a 24-year-old draftsman, Joseph Dominic Baldez, who was asked to draw the blueprints for Churchill Downs’ new grandstand.”  He wanted to give the structure a “striking appearance,” and these hexagonal spires certainly fit the bill! 

When it comes to Derby traditions, the Mint Julep is at the top of our list!  According to the Kentucky Derby itself, nearly 120,000 glasses of this classic cocktail are served up over the course of the Derby and Oaks weekend each year at Churchill Downs.  If you’re looking to taste one of these delightful libations at home, follow this recipe to enjoy the flavors of Churchill Downs any time of year!

The Thrill of the Road to the Derby

Half the fun of the Kentucky Derby is the anticipation, and following the Road to the Derby builds that over the course of eight long months!  Twenty battle-tested contenders will line up at the gate for the Kentucky Derby in May, and you can bet they’ll be thoroughly vetted before that time comes.  This grueling process gets off to a slow start in September of the previous year with lower-stakes races before picking up in late February, when the truly substantial points come up for grabs.

After placing first at both the FrontRunner Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Nyquist currently sits atop the Road to the Derby standings!  His closest competitor, Exaggerator, possesses 14 points after finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and winning the Delta Downs Jackpot this past weekend.  Every race provides the opportunity for the standings to shift, however, and it’s entirely possible that we’ll see that happen at the finish of the Remsen Stakes next weekend.

Road to Derby Leaderboard resized 600

Want to learn more about the selection process?  Check out our post on how to qualify for the Derby here!

Be a Part of History at the 142nd Kentucky Derby®

Renovations are underway at Churchill Downs and are scheduled to be completed by the 2016 Run for the Roses!  Do the Derby in style – check out our new packages in upgraded premium areas!  These swanky, revamped seating areas bring a touch of Las Vegas to Louisville, which is appropriate given the high-stakes atmosphere of Derby day.

Be the first to experience the new upgrades at Churchill Downs with an Official Ticket Package from Derby Experiences!  Guests with premium packages will be out of the elements as they enjoy privileged views of the track and high-end amenities such as gourmet dining, open bars, outdoor viewing platforms and private wagering stations.  Three nights of luxurious hotel accommodations can be had at The Galt House, Embassy Suites Louisville-Downtown and The Seelbach hotels.  Reserve your package today before this once-in-a-lifetime chance sells out!

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Twin Spires image © Derby Experiences.