Apr 25, 2016

Kentucky Derby Time

The most exciting Kentucky Derby for those of us who live in
Upstate New York was in 2003 when Funny Cide from Sackets Harbor “Ran for the Roses.” He was the first New York bred horse to win the Derby.  After Funny Cide won the Kentucky Derby the excitement continued when he went on to win the Preakness Stake. Excitement reached a fever pitch when Funny Cide ran in the Belmont Stakes. A win at Belmont would mean Funny Cide would earn the coveted Triple Crown. Alas, Funny Cide came in third but his name is in a place of honor at Churchill Downs with all the other Kentucky Derby winners. 

The gleaming white Churchill Downs has an elegant look and in front of the main entrance is a larger than life statue to Barbaro, winner of the 2006 Kentucky Derby. On a visit to Louisville, Kentucky, John and I went to the Kentucky Derby Museum and toured Churchill Downs.  There are several tours: the Barnyard and Backside Van Tour was booked several days ahead but we were able to get tickets for Behind the Scenes
Walking Tour. The tour included the betting windows, the statue of jockey Pat Day (the all-time leading rider at Churchill Down), and the viewing areas.  The view of the race track was impressive.  I tried to imagine 170,000 people standing while the Louisville Marching Band played the derby’s signature song, “My Old Kentucky Home,” and most of the people singing along. Most likely visitors will not see many race horses but there is a paddock with two horses including a “resident thoroughbred,” Twinspired. The race is called “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports.” There are many events leading up to race day which is always the first Saturday in May.  

The Kentucky Derby Museum has everything a race aficionado dreams of from jockey racing silks to a 360-projection of “The Greatest Race,” to a simulated horse race where visitors can try their skill as a jockey. When the race is televised they always show ladies in their extravagant derby hats.  The hats have their own dedicated section in the museum. After the race there is a contest for the most “outrageous” hats. About 25 hats are selected to be on display for a year. 

John and I had lunch at the Derby Café and imbibed on the
traditional derby cocktail – a Mint Julep made with mint and, of course, Kentucky bourbon. Each year almost 120,000 Mint Juleps are served over the two-day period of Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend. The café also offers another specialty cocktail – the “Donerail: The Longest Shot.” It is served in a souvenir hand-blown shot glass. The drink pays homage to the 1913 Derby Winner who had the biggest long shot victory in the history of the Derby. With odds at 91-1, a $2 ticket paid out $184.90, which is what this unique cocktail costs. We passed on that Derby tradition and decided on another Kentucky specialty. Kentucky Burgoo, the state’s official dish, a mixture of at least three meats and plenty of vegetables; and, we ended with Derby Pie, a decadent chocolate and walnut tart in a pie shell. 

There are many other great places to visit in Louisville. While in Louisville we visited: The Mohammed Ali Museum, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, the Frazier, and the Evan Bourbon Experience.