You would think that, by being a neighboring state of Kentucky, I would know more about the Kentucky Derby than I do, but aside from getting married on the same day as the Derby 14 years ago, I am pretty clueless about the whole thing. So as a novice, I find myself asking the question, “There has to be more to it than just horses running around a track, right?” So I set out on a journey to find out five fun facts about The Kentucky Derby you may not know! What I found out was pretty neat and I can’t wait to share!
- It’s Official Drink is the Mint Julep. According to cocktailtimes.com, No Kentucky Derby would be complete with out a Mint Julep. It is no surprise really since the main ingredient of the julep is bourbon, which we all know Kentucky is famous for! The Mint Julep became the official drink of Churchhill Downs, the track that is famous for hosting the Derby, in 1938. It was served in a tiny collector’s cup for 75 cents. Today, however, over 80,000 juleps are served over a two-day event at $8.00 a drink! That is quite the mark up from 1938!
- Traditionally the derby has been run on the first Saturday in May, but did you know that has only been since 1946? According to newsday.com, in 1945, the last year of WWII, the derby was ran on June 9th.
- The derby itself has been around since 1875! That’s an amazing tradition for this country! It was fashioned after The Epsom Derby, a 1 1/2 mile grass track, that has been run in England since 1780.
- I found this next fact to be particularly interesting! According to blackmaleequestrians.wordpress.com, 13 of the 15 riders in the first Kentucky Derby were African Americans. As a matter of fact, Ansel Williamson, an African American jockey, was the winner of the very first derby!
- Now, you can’t talk about the Kentucky Derby without addressing the AMAZING hats that reside on the head of nearly every lady in the stands! According derbymuseum.org, though many fashions have come and gone at the derby since the 1930’s, the fantastical derby hat remains, and is as much a staple of The Kentucky Derby as the race horses themselves.
In researching the Derby I found it to be a wonderful American Tradition full of rich history and pride! Events like this help to define our great southern heritage, and remind us of the little things that help The United States stand out from the rest of the world!