Derby Day…Every Day

A favourite race of Queen Elizabeth II, the Kentucky Derby is considered to be the longest continually run annual sporting event in the United States, and celebrates its 150th running, this 4th May.

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Named by Travel + Leisure, Fodor’s, and Reader’s Digest as a top reason to visit in 2024, the Kentucky Derby is considered the longest continually run annual sporting event in the United States, with the inaugural running taking place in May of 1875. On 4th May 2024, the 150th running of the iconic horse race will take place at the historic Churchill Downs, a National Historic Landmark and must-visit attraction when visiting Louisville.

During her 70-year reign, the Queen visited Kentucky five times, including her final visit in 2007 to attend the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby. The attendance that year was the third largest in Kentucky Derby history with favourite Street Sense winning the Run for the Roses. To honour her majesty, a special blend of tea was created by the executive chef at Churchill Downs for her visit.

History of Churchill Downs

Founded by Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., the grandson of the famous explorer William Clark, Churchill Downs was originally named the Louisville Jockey Club when it was purchased in the 1870s. As the popularity of the sport grew and the track began to expand, a new grandstand debuted in 1895 which included the iconic twin spires that still stand today and were named a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

This historic racetrack will be wrapping up the most extensive renovation ever in its 150-year history ahead of the 2024 Kentucky Derby, seeing a complete re-design of the paddock area that will enhance the visitor experience for nearly every guest who enters the track.

The Kentucky Derby Museum is one of the region’s premier attractions, celebrating the tradition, history, hospitality, and pride of the world-renowned event that is the Kentucky Derby. With a general admission ticket, visitors can enjoy two floors of interactive exhibits, a 30-minute guided historic walking tour at Churchill Downs Racetrack, and get their heart racing and emotions soaring watching the Museum’s signature 18-minute movie, “The Greatest Race” on a 360°, 4K high-resolution screen.


The Legacy of Black Jockeys

The first-ever jockey to win the Kentucky Derby was Oliver Lewis when he rode Aristides to victory in 1875. Lewis was one of eleven African American jockeys to win the Kentucky Derby between 1875 and 1902 before Jim Crow-era laws unfortunately pushed them from the sport. Jockey Isaac Murphy secured a spot in the history books with three wins during the late 1800’s, being the first to cross the finish line in 1884, 1890, and 1891.

Jockeys James “Soup” Perkins and Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton were both only 15 at the time of their victories, making them the youngest ever jockeys to win the prestigious race, a record they still hold over 100 years later.


Dress to Impress

With nearly 175,000 spectators attending the Kentucky Derby annually, you could say it's one of the world’s best-attended fashion shows. Modelled after the Epsom Derby in the UK, Kentucky Derby fashion brings a hint of English sophistication with a heavy Southern influence with an array of brightly coloured attire appropriate for the Springtime event. For men, seersucker suits and bowties are commonplace among a variety of caps and fancy footwear. For women, it’s all about the hat. Go big with an oversized hat complete with flowers or a bow, or for the more modern and conservative, you wouldn’t be out of place with a sleek fascinator.

Don’t forget to wear pink the day before the Kentucky Derby, as Phillies race for the title of Kentucky Oaks champion. It is tradition for all guests to incorporate pink into their attire on Oaks Day in support of the fight against breast and ovarian cancer. Whether hats or handkerchiefs...or from sunglasses to stilettos, a touch of pink not only honours the Oaks official flower of the stunning stargazer lily, but supports a worthwhile cause.

Think Pink!


The Winning Mint Julep

In the 1930s, the Kentucky Derby proclaimed its official cocktail as the Mint Julep, which helped popularize the libation to worldwide acclaim. A Mint Julep is a must on the first Saturday in May, or as early as April, which has been officially dubbed Mint Julep Month.

The springtime sipper is made with simple syrup, ice, mint, and of course, Kentucky Bourbon, and has been a derby-time tradition for nearly 90 years.

Other Derby Day staples include pimento cheese, creamy cucumber spread Benedictine on small triangle cut sandwiches, some version of Louisville’s official sandwich, the Hot Brown, and locally made Derby-Pie®.

Mint Julep Recipe

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Sprigs of fresh mint
  • Crushed ice
  • Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Silver Julep Cups

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Sprigs of fresh mint

Crushed ice

Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Silver Julep Cups


And remember, it’s Derby Day…Every Day

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