“Riders up!” In 2019, Saturday, May 4 marks the 145th-annual “most exciting two minutes in sports.” The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is the longest-running sporting event in U.S. history. While the race is only a couple of minutes long, the tradition is a two-day spectacular filled with private events, parties, tours and mint juleps. Excitement already fills the air as fans monitor the contenders that could start in 2019’s Derby. Charter a private jet to Louisville International Airport (SDF) to get in on the action in person.
Kentucky Derby History
America’s “Greatest Race” began in 1875 after Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., explorer William Clark’s grandson, toured Europe. He formed the Louisville Jockey Club to raise money and build a quality racing facility like the ones he saw in England and France. The track was soon called Churchill Downs, after the men who provided the land.
The first race was a hit. Within a decade, however, the track experienced financial difficulties. In 1902, the track underwent a change in leadership, encouraging thoroughbred owners to send their successful Derby horses to Kentucky to compete. In 2019, the Kentucky Derby will begin offering $3 million in purse money.
Who Competes in the Kentucky Derby?
The Grade I stakes race is for three-year-old thoroughbreds. Before the big day, the 20 competing horses and others ran in a series of 35 races around the world in what is known as the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The thoroughbreds that receive the most points in the races leading up to the Derby earn a spot at the starting gate.
The Kentucky Derby Festival
The Kentucky Derby Festival in the two weeks leading up to the race includes:
- The Great Balloon Race in Bowman Field
- The Great Steamboat Race on the Riverfront, featuring the Belle of Louisville
- The largest annual fireworks display on the continent, Thunder Over Louisiana (be sure to get tickets to the VIP rooftop party)
- The Pegasus Parade, one of the largest parades in the country (don’t forget to purchase and register your Pegasus Pin)
- A marathon and mini-marathon
Kentucky Derby Tickets
On Derby Day, you can walk right up to the gate and pay a general-admission entrance fee to get in. Paying for Premium Seating or Ticket Package options, however, will make your experience more comfortable and memorable for the right reasons. Other ticket options include:
- Outdoor seating
- Outdoor seating with hospitality
- All-inclusive indoor dining overlooking the track
- Private suites at the starting gate, home stretch, finish line, Winner’s Circle, next to the turf course, and at the first turn of the track
Derby Day Insider Tips
- If you plan on making a wager on the race, place your bet as soon as you arrive.
- Derby Day is an all-day event. Hydrate and pace yourself accordingly (especially with mint juleps).
- Plan for the weather. Bring sunscreen if it’s warm, a sweater if it’s chilly, or a poncho if it looks like rain.
- The Kentucky Derby is the place to show off the finest in spring fashion. Women typically wear outfits with simpler colors or patterns as to not take attention away from their show-stopping hats. If wearing heels with your fabulous outfit, bring a pair of flats or sandals so you can focus on the festivities instead of your feet if they start to ache. Men get as decked out as the ladies with smart outfits in unparallel color palettes, a classic three-button blazer, and a fedora or bowler hat. Don’t be afraid of bold patterns, vibrant colors, and flashy ties. Also, don’t wear socks with your horse bit loafers. The most important article to wear to the race: confidence.