The Buzz by Mike Schaffer - PR, Social Media, Pop Culture and Sports


April 7, 2010

The Importance of the Kentucky Derby

{Note from Mike – This post is part of Guest Blogger Month on The Buzz!  We wrap up the first week with an excellent look at one of America’s finest sporting events, the Kentucky Derby!}

Guest Post by

The first Saturday in May, 1973- The chestnut colt came thundering down the stretch. His hooves kicked up dirt as he

America's most famous non-Derby horse, of course, of course, the famous Mr. Ed!

pulled away from the competition in the final furlong and won the Kentucky Derby by 2 ½ lengths. Jock Ron Turcotte, wearing Meadow Stable’s blue and white checked silks, waved his crop in the air after he rode Secretariat to a first place finish. Secretariat set a still-standing record for the fastest Kentucky Derby time ever, 1:59 2/5.

The Kentucky Derby is the country’s most prestigious horse race and takes place at the beginning of May, every year. This race is the oldest continuous sporting event in the United States. It started in 1875 and was won by a horse named, Aristides, in front of a crown of 10,000 people. Today, Churchill Downs attracts over 150,000 people on Derby day.

The Kentucky Derby is a Grade I stakes for three-year-old Thoroughbreds, usually colts or geldings, but fillies have been known to make the occasional start. The race is run at a distance of 1 ¼ miles and is the first leg of the Triple Crown. The other two races are the Preakness  and Belmont Stakes. There have only been eleven horses to win the Triple Crown, including Secretariat. The last horse to win all three races was Affirmed in 1978.

A horse must first win the Derby in order to have a chance at the Triple Crown. For this reason, the Kentucky Derby has been nicknamed “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” Another nickname given to the Derby is “the run for the roses” because the winning horse is presented with a blanket of red roses.

After the race, the horses are cooled off and given buckets of water. The spectators opt for mint juleps, which are the traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby. Four parts bourbon, one part sugar, and three mint leaves are muddled together, poured over ice, and garnished with a sprig of spearmint. Approximately 120,000 mint juleps are served each year.

Since bourbon flows like water in Kentucky, the Derby is also known as the biggest party of the year. Thousands of people buy general admission tickets and stand in the infield to watch the race. The ironic part about this is that the majority of them never actually see a horse go by. The grass ends up littered with beer cans and losing tickets and most people go home without even knowing who won.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have millionaire’s row, which are the box seats reserved for the very rich. This is where you will find owners, trainers, and celebrities sitting in three-piece suits and fancy hats to watch the prestigious race.

The Kentucky Derby is an experience like no other. Perhaps Hunter Thompson said it best in his story; The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved. “The clubhouse bars on Derby Day are a very special kind of scene. Along with the politicians, society belles, and local captains of commerce, every half-mad dingbat who ever had any pretensions to anything at all within five hundred miles of Louisville will show up there to get strutting drunk and slap a lot of backs and generally make himself obvious.”

Katherine Sarasohn is an avid New York sports fan who is pursuing a career in sports journalism/public relations.  She has worked for The Saratoga Special, covering the racetrack and Phelps Sports, an equestrian public relations firm. She herself is an elite equestrian and has two horses of her own. She not only blogs about horse racing, but sports in general on Sports and Spritzers. (

  • jasonmollica
    I may not be the biggest horse racing fan in the world, but Derby Day is a must watch for me. Thanks to Katherine's blog, I feel like I have an even better understanding of it.
    Nice work.. aaaaaannnd down the stretch we come!
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