Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby was held on Saturday May 7, 2011.

                                      Kentucky Derby celebration will be held on Saturday, May 7 at Poplar Grove

The Kentucky Derby is America's original, extravagant springtime sports party. While a horse race is at the heart of the spectacle, there are many intriguing aspects of the Derby Experience...

Traditions for the derby include: Garland of roses, Twin spiries, the Song, Mint Julep, the Infield, Derby Trophy, and Silks

Garland of Roses

The roses were first established as part of the Derby celebration when they were presented to all the ladies attending a fashionable Louisville Derby party. The roses were such a sensation, that the president of Churchill Downs, Col. Lewis Clark, adopted the rose as the race's official flower. The rose garland now synonymous with the Kentucky Derby first appeared in the 1896 when the winner, Ben Brush, received a floral arrangement of white and pink roses.

In 1904 the red rose became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby. The tradition was strengthened when, in 1925, New York sports columnist Bill Corum, later the president of Churchill Downs, dubbed the Kentucky Derby the "Run for the Roses." The garland as it exists today was first introduced in 1932 for the 58th running won by Burgoo King.

Each year, a garland of more than 400 red roses is sewn into a green satin backing with the seal of the Commonwealth on one end and the Twin Spires and number of the race’s current renewal on the other. Each garland is also adorned with a "crown" of roses, green fern and ribbon. The "crown," a single rose pointing upward in the center of the garland, symbolizes the struggle and heart necessary to reach the Derby Winner’s Circle.

Each year the Governor of Kentucky and other dignitaries also present the winning jockey with a bouquet of 60 long stemmed roses wrapped in 10 yards of ribbon.
For several years, owners of the Derby winner also received a silk replica of the garland, but since Grindstone's 1996 victory, the actual garland has made the trip to Danville, Ky., to be freeze-dried. Some owners have even gone as far as to have a flower dipped in silver. A silver-dipped flower from the garland of Gato del Sol, the 1982 winner, is on display in the Kentucky Derby Museum.

The Kroger Company has been the official florist of the Kentucky Derby since 1987. After taking over the duties from the Kingsley Walker florist, Kroger began constructing the prestigious garland in one of its local stores for the public to view on Derby Eve.

The preservation of the garland and crowds of spectators watching its construction are a testament to the prestige and mystique of the garland of roses.

The famous garland of roses is made up of 564 individual roses sewn into a satin blanket.



Twin Spires

Throughout the world, the Twin Spires are a recognized landmark and have become visual symbols of Churchill Downs and its most famous race, the Kentucky Derby.

Constructed in 1895, the Twin Spires were the creation of a 24-year-old draftsman, Joseph Dominic Baldez, who was asked to draw the blueprints for Churchill Downs' new grandstand. Originally the plans did not include the Twin Spires atop Churchill Downs’ roofline, but as the young Baldez continued work on his design, he felt the structure needed something to give it a striking appearance.

Described as towers in the original drawing, the hexagonal spires exemplify late 19th century architecture, in which symmetry and balance took precedence over function. Although Baldez designed many other structures in Louisville, the Twin Spires remain as an everlasting monument to his memory.

Former Churchill Downs President Matt J. Winn is reported to have told Baldez, "Joe when you die there's one monument that will never be taken down, the Twin Spires."

My Old Kentucky Home

In the world of sports, there is not a more moving moment than when the horses step onto the track for the Kentucky Derby post parade and the band strikes up "My Old Kentucky Home."

"My Old Kentucky Home"By Stephen Foster 
The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
Tis summer, the people are gay;
The corn-top's ripe and the meadow's in the bloom
While the birds make music all the day.
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor
All merry, all happy and bright;
By'n by hard times comes a knocking at the door
Then my old Kentucky home, Good-night!
Weep no more my lady. Oh! Weep no more today!
We will sing one song for my old Kentucky home
For the old Kentucky home, far away.

History and Tradition of "My Old Kentucky Home"
Although there is no definitive history on the playing of the Stephen Foster ballad as a Derby Day tradition, it is believed to have originated in 1921 for the 47th running of the classic. The Louisville Courier-Journal in its May 8, 1921, edition reported, "To the strains of 'My Old Kentucky Home,' Kentuckians gave vent their delight. For Kentucky triumphed in the Derby." The story refers to the popular victory of the Kentucky-owned and bred Behave Yourself.

The actual year the song was played as the horses were led onto the track to begin the Derby post parade is also unclear. A 1929 news account written by the legendary Damon Runyon reported that the song was played periodically throughout Derby Day. A report by the former Philadelphia Public Ledger provides evidence that 1930 may have been the first year the song was played as the horses were led to the post parade - "When the horses began to leave the paddock and the song 'My Old Kentucky Home' was coming from the radio, the cheering started."

Since 1936, with only a few exceptions, the song has been performed by the University of Louisville Marching Band as the horses make their way from the paddock to the starting gate.
The composer of the song, Stephen Foster, died in New York's Bowery district Jan. 10, 1864, at the age of 38.

To honor the composer, Churchill Downs created the Stephen Foster Handicap in 1982. The race for 3-year-olds and older at 1 1/8 miles, has grown in popularity and now serves as a Grade II event with a purse of $750,000, the richest stakes at Churchill Downs besides the Derby.

Some other melodies Foster composed include "Beautiful Dreamer," "Suwanee River" and "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair." For Kentuckians and the countless race fans who have taken in the Kentucky Derby in person or via radio or television, Foster will best be remembered for his moving ballad now forever intertwined with the “Run for the Roses.”

Mint Julep

The Mint Julep has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. Early Times Kentucky Whisky has been privileged and honored to be a part of that tradition. The Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail has been "The Official Mint Julep of the Kentucky Derby" for more than 18 years.
Each year, almost 120,000 Early Times Mint Juleps are served over the two-day period of Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs Racetrack. That’s a feat that requires more than 10,000 bottles of Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail, 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint and 60,000 pounds of ice.
The Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail is a staple at the track the rest of the year as well. You can also find the Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail at your local retailer. The commemorative bottles have become collectors’ items for many, capturing the mood and spirit of the famous Churchill Downs track and Kentucky Derby race. If the Early Times Ready-to-Serve Cocktail is not available from your local retailer, you can make your own with this time-honored recipe:

The Early Times Mint Julep Recipe

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Sprigs of fresh mint
  • Crushed ice
  • Early Times Kentucky Whisky
  • Silver Julep Cups
Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Early Times Kentucky Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

The Infield

The Infield on Kentucky Oaks and Derby Days compares only to Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, pairing the legacy and history of the Kentucky Derby with that famous all-out party atmosphere. Every year approximately 80,000 revelers pack the infield, hoping to catch a glimpse of the next Derby winner (or just an actual horse), to re-unite with old friends, "party maximus" and to have the experience of a lifetime.  (Many Facebook photos to collect here!) 

Traditionally, the infield offers two perspectives and two experiences:  the third turn party, where the young and the young at heart indulge in all things fun, free wheeling and, sometime, at little frisky.  If you visit the third turn and participate in its madcap antics on Derby weekend, take lots of pictures but think twice about showing them to dear old Mom and Dad!

On the opposite end, the grassy first turn offers a more sedate, family-like picnic setting that’s G-rated and great for all ages.  If you’re bringing kids to the infield, this is the place to go – just keep an eye on them.

In between these two encampments lies a vast sea of people with territories roped off, beverages in hand and people-watching skills at the ready. As the center of the Derby's famed "acceptable excess" the infield is a kingdom unto itself, and no matter which infield experience you choose, it's bound to be a memorable one.;

Derby Trophy

Since the 50th running of the Kentucky Derby in 1924, Churchill Downs has annually presented a gold trophy to the winning owner of the famed "Run for the Roses."

History is unclear if a trophy was presented in 1875 to the winner of the first Kentucky Derby, and trophy presentations were sporadically made in following years. Finally, in 1924, legendary Churchill Downs President Matt Winn commissioned a standard design to be developed for the "Golden Anniversary" of the Derby.

Outside of the jeweled embellishments that were added to note special Kentucky Derby anniversaries in 1949 (75th), 1974 (100th), and 1999 (125th), only one change has been made to the original design. For the 125th Kentucky Derby in 1999, Churchill Downs officials decided to defer to racing lore and change the direction of the decorative horseshoe displayed on the 14-karat gold trophy.

The horseshoe, fashioned from 18-karat gold, had pointed downward on each of the trophies since 1924. To commemorate Kentucky Derby 125, the change was made and the horseshoe was turned 180 degrees so that its ends pointed up. The trophy now annually incorporates the horseshoe with the ends pointing up. Racing superstition decrees that if the horseshoe is turned down all the luck will run out.

Since 1975 the trophy has been created by New England Sterling located in North Attleboro, Mass. The trophy, which is topped by an 18-karat gold horse and rider, includes horseshoe shaped handles, is 22 inches tall and weighs 56 ounces, excluding its jade base. The entire trophy is handcrafted with the exception of the horse and rider that are both cast from a mold.
To complete the trophy by April, craftsmen begin the process during the fall of the previous year and literally work hundreds of hours. The trophy is believed to be the only solid gold trophy that is annually awarded the winner of a major American sporting event.


Modern race fans are able to follow a horse's progress during a race through the use of some relatively new inventions:the race program, television monitors, the number on the horse’s saddlecloth and the track announcer's call.

But when horse racing first began in the early 18th century, there were no such things as program numbers, public address systems or closed-circuit television systems. So when King Charles II first assembled race meets on the plains of Hempstead, the dukes and the barons had trouble figuring out which horse was which. So, they adopted racing silks - or colors - to distinguish their jockeys for easier viewing.
  • Today, jockey silks are more colorful than when racing was really considered the "Sport of Kings." Photo: Churchill Downs
During the time of King Charles II, the silks were simple -- red for one duke, black for another duke, orange for one earl, white for another earl, and so on.

The tradition of the silks remains today as jockeys wear the colors of the horse owners, but because there are so many owners, silks have become even more colorful. Some of the most famous silks are the devil's red and blue of Calumet Farm, worn by the jockeys of Kentucky Derby winners Citation, Whirlaway and Ponder and Allen Paulson's star-spangled red-white-and-blue colors, carried by the champion racehorse Cigar.

The jockeys' room at Churchill Downs houses hundreds of silks which are hung on pegs in the order of each jockey's races for that day. You can see a sampling each racing day by watching the jockeys as they enter the paddock ready to meet their mounts.

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