The scream of the crowd, the thunder of hooves, and the race is on for the fame, glory and two million dollars prize money.
Since 1875, the first Saturday of May is a time when grown men and women gather at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky sporting strange hats and sipping Mint Juleps out of frosty silver cups. They are here to watch some of the world’s most expensive horses thunder down the track and into history in a spectacle known as the Kentucky Derby.
There are actually two major events going on at Churchill Downs during the Derby.The first is of course the horse race, where three year old colts are loaded up with a pint sized jockey and whatever weights are required to ensure all horses are carrying 126 lbs. As the crowd watches, the star equines parade to the post to the sound of Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home"; and then race pell-mell over 1¼ miles of dirt track; each vying for the 2 US million dollar prize and the garland of red roses that is draped over the withers of the victor. We like to think the horses know what’s at stake here, and are fixated on that glorious goal of retiring to a stud farm where they enjoy the high life while their owners collect stud fees that can reach $100k a pop.
Secretariat obviously knew what a stud farm was
The other event that happens on race day is in the infield. This is where 80,000 or so people gather to celebrate a day at the races with raucous fun, alcohol and general debauchery that has been described as being similar to
The not so well-to-do travel via tunnel under the race track and into the field at the center of the Downs, far from the well dressed and well-to-do of Millionaire Row. Here the crowds divide into traditional areas around the race track’s turns, the rowdiest of them heading for the “Third Turn Party.”
Race? What Race?
Few of them will even see the race, as the view from the infield is extremely limited. Not that they care, for most infielders the race is an after thought, they’re here for the “experience”, which we have determined through careful research to mean "alcohol and boobs".
The Mint Julep:
Tradition would have this frosty concoction sipped out of silver cups, though most at the
Ice from the Bavarian Alps, a gold cup & a silver straw.
Some folks are just not taking this recession seriously
The Hat Parade:
The Kentucky Derby was first held in 1875, and since its inception it has included a dress code for those spectators not in the infield. It took its cues from the Royal Ascot in the United Kingdom, and part of that dresscode has been the requirement that all ladies wear a hat. Today that requirement has evolved into a tradition and a source of entertainment all its own.