I may not be much into horse racing, but each year I do enjoy watching The Kentucky Derby. With its rich traditions, I am entertained by the Southern Belles donning their beautiful hats, sipping on their mint juleps, and joining fellow race fans in singing “My Old Kentucky Home”. It is quintessential Southern America. This famous horse race is held annually in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May at the historic Churchill Downs. The track is named after John and Henry Churchill who leased 80 acres of land for their nephew Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark. After visiting England and France in 1872, Clark wanted to start a horse racing event in America. On the acres from his uncles, he started the development of the racetrack which eventually became known as “Churchill Downs”. Dating back to 1875, the horses at The Kentucky Derby originally ran 1.5 miles. It was changed in 1896 to its current 1.25 miles.
There are 20 Thoroughbreds that race in The Kentucky Derby each year. I always like to hear the names of the horses. This year there are names Justify, Good Magic, My Boy Jack, Vino Rosso, Promises Fulfilled, and Flameaway. Even though Promises Fulfilled set the pace early, it was a two horse race for most of the final stretch between Justify and Good Magic.
Here are the first four horses to cross the finish line:
- Good Magic
- Instilled Regard
Justify won the race in a time of 2:04:20. This is fast but the record is still held by Secretariat in 1973 who clocked-in at 1:59:40. Secretariat was a massive Thoroughbred with powerful, well-muscled hindquarters which were the main source of his power. An Australian trainer once said of him, “He is incredible, an absolutely perfect horse. I never saw anything like him.” Maybe that is why there was a major motion picture made after him. In fact, ESPN listed Secretariat the 35th of the 100 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century. He also was on their list of the greatest sports performances by individual athletes – and he was a horse! The only non-human on the list. Pretty incredible. After his death, it was revealed that his heart was 22 pounds which is two and a half times the size of an average horse.
There are many traditions at the Kentucky Derby. Probably one the comes to mind first is the hats worn by the women. In 1875, when the Kentucky Derby began, American and British women alike wanted to wear their finest outfits to the races. Back in the day, that included a hat. Well, this tradition stuck. In fact, the choice of headwear worn depends on where one is watching the race. For example, in the general admission infield, hats tend to be eccentric, while those seated, tend to be more elegant. Most hats have some variety of ribbons, feathers, or flowers and is believed to bring good luck to the gamblers.
If I ever do make it to the Kentucky Derby, I would put some Derby style hats on my Penless idea board. The Penless idea board is a fun place to put things that you may want to go back to later and look at. You can collect photos of your favorite ideas from the web, on-the-go or from your photo album and add to your idea board. It would be fun to browse online and see what outlandish hats I could find!