The Derby is a big deal in Kentucky! The first Saturday in May is the Kentucky Derby which kicks off the first of 3 horse races in the Triple Crown Series. It is followed by the Preakness Stakes, then the Belmont Stakes. It is a huge event with more than 170,000 people that attend this race from all over the world. (The first race had 10,000 people attend the race in 1875)
I had the chance to visit the Kentucky Derby Museum and Churchill Downs with my daughter on a field trip and it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about the history and the culture of the race.
I will share a little bit about what I learned on my field trip – so if you are in the Louisville area, it’s a great place to visit! Check their website – you may even be able to catch race.
The horses that can race can only be 3 year old thoroughbred horses. That is the only year they can race – so they get 1 shot to race. Only 20 horses can race and there are thousands that are registered thoroughbred horses. A large majority of the horses that have won the Kentucky Derby were raised and trained in Kentucky.
They claim that because Kentucky’s hills are filled with limestone, the bluegrass that grows there is rich in calcium. This supposedly builds unusually strong bones in horses. (Source)
Unlike the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes the Kentucky Derby has been run every consecutive year since 1875, even during both World Wars – it is considered the longest running sport in North America.
It was started by Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. (grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition). He traveled all over Europe and discovered horse racing and when he came back to the US he organized the Louisville Jockey Club.
You may have heard of Secretariat. This horse was special because he still has the fasted time set for running the race. But something interesting happened while he was running the race. The more he ran – the faster he got. They discovered that his heart was 3 times the size of a normal heart.
In 1954 the winner received $100,000. In 2018 the winner will receive $2 million dollars!
About the Derby Museum at Churchill Downs:
You enter the museum through the gates similar to the ones they have on the field where the horses wait to get ready to wait. There are many exhibits. You can see the Gold Derby Winner’s trophy, outfits from celebrities who have attended the event, and different items all significant to the race.
They have a replica of the winner of the past years race with the jockey, and the roses. There is also a bridge to stand on that is similar to what is used in the winners circle. It’s a great place to take a photo.
Around the exhibits you will find videos of past races. There are phones set up all around the room where you can listen to things from the races.
We also Historic Walking Tour of Churchill Downs Racetrack (We didn’t get the full tour because of time but Im sure it’s amazing!) This was a lot of fun. We were right next to the track and we were told about the 1400 horses that are taken care of on the stables on the property. There is also a giant screen where people in the infield can watch the race. (The screen is the size of 3 basketball fields!) You also get to hang out in the winner’s circle. (Not the one for the Derby winner.)
We watched showing of “The Greatest Race“, our one-of-a-kind 360º immersive sound and visual experience. This was an awesome movie. You learn so much about it gets you so excited about the race and hope you understand more about it.
Theres even a place to bet on some horses. Plus an area to rid them in a virtual race.
Im sure there is so much more to do when you are on your own. You can visit the barns and have lunch. Here are some suggested itineraries for the Derby Museum.
Make sure you check out everything that is available. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to spend the day in Louisville!
Looking for a Derby Inspired recipe for a Kentucky Derby Party? Check out my Derby Pies – Mini Style! They are easy to make and so fun to eat!