Kentucky Derby Q&A

Kentucky Derby Q&A

Tomorrow is the 139th Kentucky Derby, and I’m a Louisville girl. So I asked on twitter and facebook what you wanted to know about the Run for the Roses. Here are your questions—and my answers. 

Mandie: Have you ever gone to the Derby?

I’ve been once, in 2009 (I think). That’s me in my Derby hat, above.

Tiffany: Is The Hat Thing for real, and is it really a big deal?

Oh, it’s real, and it’s a big deal. The women wear hats. Some of the men do, too. Women plan their outfits around their hats, order them months in advance, spend hundreds of bucks or raid the craft stores to do it on the cheap. The hats are a big deal, and a huge part of the fun.

All bets are off for the infield, which is a world unto its own.

Karianna: Do you have a hat?

I borrowed that lovely black one above when I went. I was thankful it matched my dress!

Leigh: Do they kick you out if you don’t wear a hat? Drink alternatives to Mint Julep? Percentage of straight single men in attendance?

Why wouldn’t you be wearing a hat? If you think mint juleps are gross (and I do), try the Oaks Lily, the official drink of the Kentucky Oaks. I have no idea, but I’ll wager that the percentage of straight men wearing pastels is higher at the Derby than at any event in the country.

Seana: Do you go to the Derby because it’s what you do, or do you actually know about the horses and have a vested interest?

Most Louisvillians don’t go to the Derby, but they’ll throw or attend a Derby party. (Think Superbowl party, but with horses and mint juleps.) The Kentucky Oaks, held the day before, is known as “Louisville’s Day at the Races.” The two days are pretty similar, but the Oaks is less-expensive and a tiny bit more low-key. (It’s a fashion faux pax to wear the same hat both days.)

Some people know about the horses and some don’t. (I don’t.) The Derby contenders and odds are front-page news all week, so it’s easy to get a quick crash course in horse racing.

Jamie: What is the go-to whiskey drink? What is your favorite tradition? What is the height of the shortest jockey ever to win?

The mint julep, of course! That’s a tough one: it’s a toss-up between the hats and the communal singing of My Old Kentucky Home before the horses enter the starting gate. I have no idea, but the jockeys have to weigh in under 126 pounds. Which is not much.

Katie: Do Louisvillians actually hate the Derby because it messes with traffic? I have heard that from a lot of people who live near Big Event Sites that the locals don’t actually attend because it’s so expensive and that a huge pain.

Generally speaking, Louisville loves Derby. Many people do their part to ease Derby Week traffic by leaving work early all week, and closing their offices on Oaks Day. Seriously.

Tim: How do the Bogels make mint juleps?

The Bogels do not make mint juleps, but if they did, they would skip those gorgeous silver cups, because anything served in one of those tastes like a wet nickel.

Caris: When I visited, I was so struck by the poverty surrounding the immediate area. Kitty-corner from the derby was We Buy Gold and graffiti. I was just kind of blown away by that….It’s just not where I would have imagined Churchill Downs being located.

Churchill Downs isn’t in the heart of rural horse country (as many would guess) but in an urban setting, just south of downtown Louisville and adjacent to the University of Louisville.

Fun fact: much Derby parking takes place in the yards and driveways of homes within walking distance of the track, and our friends in the area say the cash they bring in from two days of parking can cover their rent or mortgage for a month, or even two. Ditto for renting out your house for four days to pay your mortgage for a month or even two or three: the airbnb business is BOOMING in Louisville this week.

Hännah: Can I go with you?

I don’t have tickets. How about next year?

Katie: “Attending the Derby is one of my childhood dreams that actually has a chance at coming true, unlike marrying Prince William or saving the life of the Pope or discovering a door to Narnia under my bed.”

You should totally do it. And ring me up when you do.

Are you watching the greatest two minutes in sports on Saturday?

16 comments | Comment

16 comments

  1. Deborah says:

    Fun post Anne! Ken and I had our first real date at the Derby . Infield of course. Not as classy, but I picked the winner! The Collins make mint juleps with shaved ice, double the bourbon and in an official Derby glass. I would also stress that while out of towners come and enjoy the Saturday race, Louiville natives enjoy the festivities the entire week…balloon race, boat race, Thunder over Louisville, Pegasus Parade etc. Looking forward to tomorrow!

  2. Katie says:

    <3 your hat!

    That's great that workplaces even close down to help traffic. No wonder Louisvillians love the Derby! 😉

    I totally will ring you up when I come! 🙂

    Why don’t you like mint juleps? Is it the mint, or the whiskey, or the two in combination? Though the Oaks Lily sounds good, too.

    • Anne says:

      I’m not really into sweet drinks, and I’d just as soon have my bourbon in Derby Pie. Not that I eat that anymore (gluten!), but I’m still loyal to the idea….

  3. Tim says:

    Great hat, Anne, and I have to say that you two are quite the handsome couple!

    On the mint julep question, I’ve never had one. Are they grosser than a Long Island Iced Tea (my drink of choice back in college)?

    Aaaaand they’re off!

    Cheers,
    Tim

  4. Jennifer says:

    When you said people leave work early all week, you forgot to mention that the public schools and most of the private schools are not in session on Oaks day,and a lot of the local businesses (that do not rely on tourist income) are closed early on Derby Day. And as I am typing this on that Friday afternoon, there are only 3 people in my office of 23.

    For the people concerned about how bad the mint julip is, Cinco de Mayo could be combined with Derby and you order a margarita!

    I’ve never been to the Derby. The best Derby party I’ve been to was when I lived in Orlando and planned one for my non-Louisville co-workers.

    • Anne says:

      Great point about the schools, but 3 out of 23 is crazy!

      I love your idea of a Cinco de Mayo-Derby combo. And rumor has it expat Derby parties are the best!

  5. I love the hat you’re wearing in the picture! You’re so pretty.

    Some year I’m going to visit during the Derby and we’ll go. But you’ll have to borrow a fancy hat for me. I am all about getting dressed up but I’m not spending lots of cash on something I’ll wear once.

  6. Jessica says:

    Nobody asked the really important question–pie! Bourbon pie, chocolate chess pie…I’m missing the Pie Kitchen.

    I ran the Derby half-marathon in 2010 and we ran through the Downs. It is interesting because for such a “rich” event the only thing that looks stellar about the area is the building. The chain link fence and gravel park lots aren’t so impressive. And, of course, the horses make it quite stinky.

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