Equestrian fans around the world will be tuned in on Saturday, May 5, for the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby – arguably, one of the most famous races on the circuit and the definitely in the US. While the field of 20 and the $2 million-dollar purse are the main focal point, the event boasts an entire week of celebrations steeped in southern culture and tradition. This is a rightfully famous occasion, and it certainly seems this year’s Kentucky Derby will live up to the reputation. Here is some of what race fans can expect as they don beautiful hats, sip mint juleps, and anticipate the most exhilarating two minutes in sports.
This year’s race promises to be an excellent one, with top horses including the highly favored Justify, international hopeful Mendelssohn and a popular long shot, My Boy Jack taking part. With expert trainers such as Bob Baffert, Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher, as well as some of the country’s best jockeys, including Victor Espinoza and John Velazquez, it’s hard to choose a favorite. If you have one, however, you may want to get in on the action by waging a bet or better yet, selecting the top three in order of finish to take home the trifecta.
The race itself is far from being the only attraction of the event. On Wednesday, May 2, 2018, the Great Steamboat Race will take place with local radio station IBEW 369 presenting the event. Spectators will cheer as the hometown steamboat, Belle of Louisville, faces off with rival Belle of Cincinnati, which replaced the Delta Queen as Belle of Louisville’s competitor in 2009. The two will race to the Clark Memorial Bridge with this year’s champion being determined by the steamboat winning the most points in a series of tasks. Spectators can watch from the shoreline or pay for tickets aboard one of the vessels.
The festivities continue with a tradition that started in 1956. The Thursday before the race, Kentucky Derby’s Pegasus Parade brings a fun touch of fantasy to Louisville. Between marching bands and equestrian groups, beautiful floats sporting flowers and winged horses fill race goers and locals with delight. Peggy Bank, the large Pegasus balloon, leads the two-hour parade. The event, put on by Republic Bank, offers free viewing along 90% of the route, and this year is expected to pump about $22 million into the local economy.
The morning of Saturday May 5, Derby Day, will see the U.S. Bank Great Balloon Charity Race. Beginning at 7:00 a.m., the sky above Louisville Kentucky will be filled with colorful hot air balloons. This event pits local celebrities against each other with the victor winning a $1,000 donation for the charity of their choice. Race-goers will gaze from the ground as 29 hot air balloons vie for first place.
In addition, music, vendors, parties, food, and much more will fill the day between horse races—all of it swimming in Southern charm! See the Derby Day schedule at https://www.kentuckyderby.com/derby-day-schedule. Of course, the most anticipated moment of the day comes with the announcement of “riders up.” This is where the real excitement begins, and the adrenaline starts to flow. Jockeys mount their steeds, take to the track and head for their starting posts. A mile and a quarter later and once the thunderous sounds of hooves have silenced, one spectacular thoroughbred will rise above the others to be draped with the traditional Garland of Roses having earned the winning title in the 144th Run for the Roses.
Whether equestrian enthusiasts plan on being at the Kentucky Derby in person, or attending a watch party, the race promises to be spectacular. However, with days of festivities, and so much to experience, this is an event that fans should attend at least once. It’s little wonder that the Kentucky Derby has become the most famous horse race—and related festival—in the United States.