Saturday, May 4, 2019
Most of us do not give a single thought to horse-racing 364 days of the year (we’ve found a few other ways to entertain ourselves in the age of smartphones and streaming content). But come the first Saturday in May, horse-racing becomes fashionable (literally) again for “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports.”
There is so much more to the Kentucky Derby, however, than those two minutes. The race, which holds the title as America’s longest running sports event, is the centerpiece of a Southern-steeped weekend celebration (or longer if you are a local) of horses, hats and hooch.
The Kentucky Derby is run by three-year-old Thoroughbred horses. The 20 horses running the race win a spot by accumulating points during the Road to the Kentucky Derby, which is a series of 35 races that take place worldwide in the months leading up to the race. The race takes place at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY which opened in 1875, held the first Kentucky Derby that same year and has hosted the race ever since.
The night before the Derby is another race at Churchill Downs called the Kentucky Oaks. Like the Derby it was first held in 1875 and is also a race of three-year-old Thoroughbreds, however only fillies run in the Oaks.
Spectacular millinery is as much a part of the Kentucky Derby as the horses. The tradition began with the race’s organizer, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., who modeled the race after high-society European events. Full morning dress for spectators was mandatory and attending the event became an opportunity to show off the latest in spring fashion.
Derby hats, however, didn’t reach their current level of spectacular until the 1960s, a decade of breaking with social and fashion traditions. At the same time, the Derby became televised and wearing an extravagant hat increased your chances of standing out among the crowd.
The mint julep is the official beverage of the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, and over race weekend over 120,00 are sold at Churchill Downs Racetrack. Featuring Kentucky’s greatest contribution to the world, Bourbon, they’re not as genteel as their name implies.
Getting to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby
Derby-goers have a short six-minute drive from the Louisville International Airport (SDF) to Churchill Downs. However, as Louisville isn’t a major hub, direct flights to the airport are limited. A private charter can take you directly to Louisville from any location worldwide and provides the quickest and easiest access to the Kentucky Derby.
Whether you are checking the Kentucky Derby off your Bucket-List, or attending the event is a long-standing tradition, taking a private charter to Louisville is the perfect way to start your Derby celebration.