Who will win the Kentucky Oaks 2019
Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks - horse racing at the highest level
Isn't equestrian sport your thing? Don't worry, I'm not a fan of it either. But there is one exception: Attending the Kentucky Derby or the Kentucky Oak. These two legendary horse races let you see the world of equestrian sports in a different light, at least temporarily. You will be enthusiastic!
The images were kindly provided by the Press Room of the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Loosely based on Shakespeare: Much ado about nothing ?! / A lot of noise about nothing?!
In 1998 I went to the Kentucky Derby or Kentucky Oaks for the first time. At the time I had no idea what it was all about. Suddenly the whole host family was excited and looking forward to the Derby Weekend. Friends and relatives from all over the country signed up to visit because our house was only two blocks from Churchill Downs. Fancy clothes were laid out, the front yard and terrace in front of the house were cleaned, and a barbecue and chairs were set up. The evening before there was a bulk purchase of beer, chips, hot dogs, etc. Everyone was looking forward to something that I had never heard of. I only understood “equestrian sport” and “big races”, as a 17 year old I imagined yawning boredom.
The missed opportunity and the big money
But then the big day came and everyone freaked out. I included. Because what happened next I will never forget. After more than 15 years, two events are still as present to me as if they happened yesterday. We had no school on the first Friday in May because the Kentucky Derby was a big deal. Before we set out on the route, my host dad gave each of his children, and I was one of them, ten dollars in their hands. As soon as we stepped through the white gates of Churchill Downs, we should put that ten dollars on the Oaks. Everyone was free to decide and bet on whoever and however he or she wanted.
Back then I was extremely stingy and didn't want to gamble away the “foreign” money. After all, I had absolutely no idea about this sport. My guest dad then offered me the alternative of betting on the derby for me. I should give him a name from the start list. I didn't want that either. However, I called the name: Real Quiet. I was ridiculed for that, because “Real Quiet” wasn't exactly one of the favorites. But I liked the name so much, according to the saying “Still waters run deep”. What can I say? I could have made a lot of cash. Because "Real Quiet" actually won the derby at the time and as a non-favorite, its odds were extremely attractive. But that's just how life goes. We still tell the story today when I visit the States.
The second event that has burned itself into my memory is the evening of the Oaks. After a great day in the stands and a few races, we went home and the family started the grill for the visitors. It smelled delicious of sausages. Now the taxi drivers had lined up on our street to be able to move up towards Churchill Downs if necessary. It took less than five minutes for the first taxi driver to stand on our terrace and ask if he could buy a hot dog from us. We were surprised, but agreed. The purchase the day before had turned out to be generous. But as it is, imitators are quickly found, the next taxi drivers showed up. And finally, my host sister, host brother, and I had all sold hot dogs. My host parents thought it was so funny that they let us have the money. We immediately moved to the fairground in the parallel street and put it in non-alcoholic piña coladas and sweets. This story is also still gladly exchanged.
A very special atmosphere
Of course, I will never forget the horse races themselves. All the chic ladies with extravagant hats in the VIP ranks. All the celebs watching in their separate lounges. All the joy and sorrow of winning or losing bets. The binoculars, the cheers, the cheers at the award ceremony, the clatter of the hooves, the click of the gates when the horses sprinted off. The smell of hot dogs and champagne, of the horses left behind, of the churned-up grass in the infield, of the beer that was spilled with enthusiasm. The fanfares, the music, the jockeys and owners, the horses themselves and the spectators - young, old, fat, thin, man, woman, black, white, poor, rich - all cheered. The wonderful ambience between the towers (Twin Spiers), the hustle and bustle at the betting desks, the quiet in the run. The ribbon of roses, the pride, the honor of the winner. Oh, it was just impressive and captivating!
But what is actually behind the Kentucky Derby?
20 horses have the chance to compete in the Kentucky Derby every year. In order to be able to determine these participants, there is previously a racing series with 35 competitions. The best four horses in these competitions are always awarded points. The 20 horses with the most points will ultimately be admitted to the Kentucky Derby.
The Kentucky Derby always takes place on the first weekend in May. Meanwhile, it is about the stately winnings of two million USD. Of course there is a sponsor behind the prize money, currently the Yum brand! Experts argue whether Ascot or the Kentucky Derby is more important. I don't think you can compare the races at all. They have different historical backgrounds, they start on different continents and they enjoy a similar but different prestige.
Churchill Downs - an institution in Louisville, KY
The Kentucky Derby takes place at Churchill Downs, a world famous horse racing track in Louisville, Kentucky. The complex's white towers, known as the Twin Spiers, are known around the world and are a symbol of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. They have adorned the appearance of the beautiful competition venue since it was built in 1895. From 8.00 a.m. you can get a seat for the races. You can place your bets from 10.30 a.m. The betting offices for the Kentucky Oaks are open from 5:45 p.m., on Saturday you can bet on the Kentucky Derby from 6:24 p.m. Beware, because the times to bet are tight, so don't miss your stake! There are no extra announcements.
In 1904 the red rose became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby. Before that, the ladies always received a red rose when they attended a well-known derby party. This was so well received that it was eventually taken over by the person in charge at Churchill Downs. But already in 1896 there was the rose ribbon for the first time, but still with white and pink roses. The winner of the derby got it at the ceremony. The tradition continued in 1925 when a sports journalist referred to the Kentucky Derby as the "Race for the Roses." The red rose ribbon as we know it today was introduced in 1932.
Since then, 400 red roses have been sewn into a green satin ribbon every year, bearing the seal of the Commonwealth, the symbol of the Twin Spiers and the number of the race. In the middle, a rose stands out, which can be understood as a crown. It symbolizes the hard way to the Derby Winner’s Circle. You can also learn more about the rose ribbon by visiting the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Mint Julep - cult drink made from bourbon and mint
For almost 100 years, "Mint Julep" has been THE drink of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Of course, it can only be prepared with the best Kentucky bourbon. Each year, over 120,000 Mint Juleps are sold on the counters of Churchill Downs during Derby Weekend. That means a warehouse of 10,000 bottles of bourbon, 500 kg of fresh mint and 30 tons of crushed ice.
If you want to try the cocktail at home, here is an old recipe from Kentucky:
- Make a syrup of sugar and water by boiling the mixture for five minutes.
- Cool the mixture, fill it with the fresh mint in a bottle and put it in the refrigerator overnight.
- Fill a glass with crushed ice, add a teaspoon of mint syrup and fill the glass with 60 ml of Kentucky Bourbon.
- Stir the mixture and garnish with a mint leaf. Finished!
Tips and trivia about visiting Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby
In my article on the Kentucky Derby Museum, I wrote about the visit to Churchill Downs. In it I also mention the dress code, for example. Especially for the Derby weekend, it means “block, don't mess!”. I'm talking about suits, high heels, suits and bow ties, but above all about trendy hats. It's only a bit more relaxed in the infield, as it can get dusty or muddy there, depending on the weather. However, umbrellas are not allowed anywhere, so you should either protect yourself from moisture with a rain jacket or from too much color on your face with sunscreen.
But there are a few other points to keep in mind. Depending on the seating category, you should enter Churchill Downs through different gates. Tips can also be found on the Kentucky Derby website. You will then be scanned on this. So plan enough time. The security guards on the Derby weekend will take a closer look at the items already mentioned. In this case, cans, laptops, camcorders, cameras with interchangeable lenses or a lens longer than 15 cm, tripods, handbags larger than 30 cm, backpacks, suitcases, fireworks, pepper spray and laser pointers are not permitted. What you can bring with you, however, are food in transparent bags or boxes, water or soft drinks in unopened plastic bottles, carrier bags for babies and their needs, small compact cameras, binoculars, sunscreen in plastic containers, small radios and TVs, smartphones or tablets, seat cushions, strollers including child, chairs (if you come through gate 3) and blankets (if you come through gate 1 or 3).
An expensive or exclusive treat - Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby
Finally, a few words about the entrance fees. Forget the regular three USD entry fee, the rules of the Derby weekend are different. Because then 40 USD will be called for the Kentucky Oaks and 60 USD for the Kentucky Derby. You can save five USD each if you buy the tickets between 01.01. and the day before the race, e.g. online. If you decide to visit both competitions right away, you can buy in advance for 80 USD. However, if you want to go to the reserved area, an additional fee will be charged.
But you are there live when the horses wait impatiently for the start and then whiz past you at an unbelievable speed. You can also visit the infield, where you can experience everything between a picnic and a party. However, you then only have the races in view on a screen. To stretch your legs, you can walk to the saddle place and watch how horses and jockeys are prepared.
Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby are really a very special kind of experience. By the way, 2015 will start on May 1st, for the 141st time. Plan your next trip to the USA for the beginning of May and visit Louisville. I am curious how you like it and would appreciate a short report. You can find cheap offers for flights, hotels and rental cars under the following links:
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