If “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” is nowhere in sight on your bucket list, it should be. The Kentucky Derby is a horse race held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May and this year I had the opportunity to cross this one off the bucket list and attend. It’s where socialites can have every bit as much fun as the suits on Millionaires Row who arrive in block-long limos and every other gaudy form of transportation you can imagine. This is definitely a place where anyone can be a winner, whether you’re a first timer or a Churchill Down’s Twin Spires vet. Its really all about the experience and playing dress up of course.
I spent much of my time walking around pretty much shoulder to shoulder which was kind of cringe-worthy because big crowds for long periods of time give me anxiety but it was still nice to people watch. The good part is we were able stay sheltered for most of our time there or at least until the big race began. So, while we waited, we went in search of food! Of the few choices they offered I opted for the chicken tenders basket with fries because the line wasn’t as long as the others in which case I ended up using a trash can as my table that I shared with a couple of strangers because tables don’t seem to exist there. We had a good laugh about how classy the Derby is hyped up to be but there we were eating off of a trash can in our fancy hats and ponchos; classic!
Needless to say, it was raining which seems to be the norm every year at Derby and umbrellas are prohibited so poncho up because that’s the only way you’ll stay halfway dry; so, there’s that. I did find that downloading the Churchill Downs app was like a lifeline for parking and directions, a place to house my tickets, placing bets on the horses and races, finding restrooms, concessions, and the best part…the express pickup for food and drinks if you didn’t want to wait in the long food lines; not sure why I didn’t utilize that when ordering my food but water under the bridge. What was also nice was that they were passing out promo codes for a $10 credit to bet with just for downloading the Twin Spires app which was also helpful in avoiding the long lines if betting is a strong suit.
If you plan on attending have an extra $1,000-$2,500 to burn because just about everyone who attends will enjoy at least one Mint Julep, a popular trademark Derby drink. It actually cost $1,000 for this rare drink because it’s aged for 145 days in an oak barrel just for this occasion. As for me I happily settled for the $5 watered down one the drink couriers toted around; at least I can say I tried it. To make up for the less than savory drink, though, I did get to enjoy a delicious fruit and brownie kabob; it was both sweet and savory.
Highlight of the experience: seeing both men and women flaunt around in their Sunday best and even those who decided to dress down in something less extravagant because at the end of the day, it was all about the hats and feathers! You can’t show up to the Derby without a hat no matter how cliché it may seem. The hats are a key element of your place among the see-and-be-seen crowd. I had debated about wearing one but oh, how happy I was I decided to just bring one because I would have undoubtedly felt left out and to purchase one at the Derby would have cost me my first born.
I don’t like being around too many people for too long so “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” seemed tedious as the light sprinkles of rain soon turned into what seemed like a monsoon at the time. One of my regrets was opting not to put my rain boots on. I had to say R.I.P to the shoes I was wearing from water damage and mud because of course the infield was full of dirt that turned into mud. Soon everyone wearing their nice crisp suits and dresses looked like they had got into a quarrel with a pig in a sty. I saw a few men who had fallen in the mud and the whole left side of their suits were covered in filth. Lots of women had dirty legs from the splashes of muddy water, flat hair from the rain, you get the point; not cute! It seemed everyone stampeded back to the long tunnels leading from the concessions to the infield and made themselves comfy as we waited for the big race. Once the trumpets went off everyone made their way to the closest big screen to see if the horse they bid on would make their pockets a little heavier than before they arrived. The intense two minutes as the racers made their way around the track had the crowd in an uproar and then it was over. Winners made their way to the bidding booth to collect their winnings and those not so lucky, heads hung low, made their way to gates. Until there was an announcement that a couple of the racers requested a review of the footage as they contested the winner cheated but that’s a story for another time. That was my experience at the Derby and one less thing on my bucket list.