The Triple Crown of thoroughbred horse racing kicks off in a month with the 136th annual Kentucky Derby. Dubbed as “The Greates Two Minutes in Sports,” the Derby is one of the premier sporting events in the world.
Steeped in history and tradition, the “red carpet” event attracts avid racing fans and celebrities alike. Here’s a run down of a few treasured traditions:
* The Twin Spires – As the international symbol of Churchill Downs, the spires were designed by a 24-year-old Joseph Baldez and constructed in 1895. All these years later the original architectural design still stands as a testiment to time honored traditions.
* The Song – “My Old Kentucky Home” was written by Stephen Foster and has been played by the University of Louisville marching band as the horses make their way to the starting gate since 1936. Be sure to learn the lyrics before attending!
* The Fashion – From ultra chic to absolutely ridiculous, hats are THE fashion accessory for men and women at the Derby. Head to your favorite millinery to get the perfect personalized hat for you!
* The Silks – Colorful jockey uniforms or “silks” were adopted by King Charles II in 17th century England to identify horses. The tradition was carried over from England and still stands today as Churchill Downs houses hundreds of silks.
* The Mint Julep - As the traditional beverage of the Derby for over a decade, the mint julep consists of sugar, water, fresh mint, ice and whisky. Roughly 120,000 mint juleps are served during the Kentucky Oaks & Derby each year.
* The Derby Trophy – Beginning in 1924, Churchill Downs has presented a gold trophy to the winning owener. The horse and rider atop the trophy are 18-karat gold cast from a mold while the rest of the trophy is entirely handcrafted.
* The Garland of Roses – The winner’s garland of roses is composed of 564 individual roses sewn into a satin blanket and first appeared in 1896. In 1904 the red rose became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby.