USA // The South //

The Kentucky Derby


The Kentucky Derby is one of the world’s premier horse races; it’s also, as Hunter S. Thompson put it, “decadent and depraved”. Derby Day itself is the first Saturday in May, at the end of the two-week Kentucky Derby Festival. Since 1875, the leading lights of Southern society have gathered at Churchill Downs, three miles south of downtown, for an orgy of betting, haute cuisine and mint juleps in the plush grandstand, while tens of thousands of the beer-guzzling proletariat cram into the infield. Apart from the $40 infield tickets available on the day – offering virtually no chance of a decent view – all seats are sold out months in advance. The actual race, traditionally preceded by a mass drunken rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home”, is run over a distance of one and a quarter miles, lasts barely two minutes and offers around a million dollars in prize money. The excellent hands-on Kentucky Derby Museum (mid-March to Nov Mon–Sat 8am–5pm, Sun 11–5pm; Dec to mid-March Mon–Sat 9am–5pm, Sun 11am–5pm; $12; w, next to Churchill Downs at 704 Central Ave, will appeal to horseracing enthusiasts and neophytes alike. Admission includes a magnificent audiovisual display that captures the Derby Day atmosphere on a 360° screen; you can take a Behind the Scenes tour of the stables and racecourse for an extra $10.

Read More