The first Saturday in May is officially the Kentucky Derby and has been ever since 1875. The Derby is a one and a quarter mile race (2 km) by three-year-old thoroughbred horses, which takes place in Louisville Kentucky. It is also known as “The Run for the Roses” because the winning horse and jockey wins a handmade garland of roses, in addition to… oh, a 2 million U.S. dollar prize!
For us Kentuckians, it’s basically our Super Bowl. People travel from all over the world to celebrate, consuming delicious delectables and gambling their hearts away on “The Most Exciting 2 Minutes in Sports”.
Below is a list of tips that may help you breeze through your Derby Day like a seasoned pro. Here we go, in no particular order…
- If you want to sound like you’re a local, than perhaps no other single method will do so more effectively than learning how to pronounce the name of our city correctly, Louisville. Check out this informative video, rinse, wash and repeat.
- Woodford Reserve), a little sugar, water, cracked ice and fresh mint. A note on bourbon whiskey, if it wasn’t made in Kentucky, then it isn’t true bourbon whiskey… just ask any Kentuckian. ;)
- Kentucky is not particularly known for its high fashion, but during the Derby, Spring fashion is perhaps at its pinnacle. If you’re coming to the Derby, try to dress appropriately for the specific area of Churchill Downs you will be in. If you’re heading to the infield, then a tank top, cargo shorts and flip-flops will help you to blend in with the rest of the posh crowd. You’re probably going to either be rained on, puked on or have someone’s drink spilled on you so your Sunday best isn’t required. If you’re going to be anywhere else in the Downs, then make sure to don your best sundresses and seersucker suits in bold colors. Think southern gentile 1920’s and 30’s fashion and you will be right on the money. Most importantly, DO NOT FORGET THE HAT! Why? Because its tradition. Regardless if you’re in the infield or millionaire’s row, if you want to fit in, wear a hat. WEAR A HAT.
- Kern’s Derby Pie. Throwing a few chocolate chips in a pecan pie, isn’t a Derby Pie. It has to be Kern’s Derby Pie or it just ain’t a Derby Pie. The pie was created at the old Melrose Inn in Prospect Kentucky and has been a staple of the Derby ever since. Contrary to popular belief, it does go well with a mint julep (see number 2)
- Bring a camera. I know I’m a photographer and you’re probably expecting me to just throw that in because… well, just because. That’s not it, it’s the freaking Kentucky Derby for Pete’s sake, just bring the damn camera, you’ll be glad you did.
- Weather in the Ohio Valley area is unforecastable. Oh sure, some courageous weathermen around here try to put their finger on it like a toothless gypsy reading a crystal Orb, but in reality, only Mother Nature knows what will be served up as the dish of the day. That being said, it’s a good chance it’s going to rain that day, so be prepared.
- If you’re one of those people that have to go the bathroom frequently, then God Bless you but just don’t come to the Kentucky Derby. Getting in to the bathrooms can be a harrowing experience for the most seasoned vet. Long lines abound and the torrential odors that tickle your nose hairs can make a truck driver lose his lunch. It is seriously not a great experience, but if you go, and think you might even slightly have to use the bathroom, then go get in line at least 30 minutes prior to when you think you just can’t hold it any longer… and hopefully, you will make it. I won’t even get in to the port-a-potty details.
- A mudder. A mudder is not how some yankee from New York identifies his maternal parent (well, it might be). It’s a horse that runs well in the rain. The main track at Churchill Downs is a dirt track, and since the odds are fairly favorable that its going to rain (especially if you have a killer outfit), that track will literally become something akin to a mud run at a truck pull… another Southern sporting event. Pick a horse that you think can win, but also have one on the back burner that’s a good mudder… just in case.
- It’s ok to smoke at the Derby (uhh, that is, legal agriculture). It might not be acceptable to do this anywhere else in the country at this point, but it’s perfectly fine at the Derby as long as you’re outside. Good cigars are the usual fare. If some tobacco snob throws you a dirty look, haughtily stick your nose in the air and reply “outtatowner”, you’ll win on this day.
- Betting on horses. Ahhh, what its all about really. You come to the Derby in your best fashions, enjoy a mint julep or two, post some photos to Instagram (see what I did there?) and partake in the largest party in the state, yet what it really comes down to is, does your horse win. Honestly, I have no tips on this other than to say, pay attention to the horse’s trainers. There are a few trainers that seem to consistently produce horse racing winners. They are (and this is just my opinion) D. Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert (dude looks like a Hollywood movie star 24/7) and Nick Zito. These guys seem to know what it takes to produce a winning horse so if you see a horse in the Derby that was trained by any of these guys, I’d say your chances of winning are pretty good. If it rains, and one of these guys has a mudder (see number 8) that they have trained, you’re certain to win, pick that one! As any realistic handicapper will tell you though, its all in the betting Gods that day as to who steps up and claims the garland of roses!
- Oaks). So what do Kentuckians do on Derby Day? We go to Derby parties, grill out and plant our vegetable gardens.
Good luck and hope your horse comes in! Happy Derby!