Thursday, May 3, 2012

DERBY (+ a recipe + a fancy hat)

As we all know, Saturday is a big day. And no, it's not because of Cinco de Mayo. It's the Kentucky Derby!

The Derby (also known as "the greatest two minutes in sports") is a horse race for three-year-old thoroughbreds. It's held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, and is the first of three races in the Triple Crown series.

I'm a Kentucky girl--I'm actually from Louisville, born and raised--so the Derby is something near and dear to my heart. There are a few weeks leading up to the race, and they include more than 70 events, such as a parade, fireworks show, boat race, fashion shows, a marathon and mini-marathon, and much more. People all over the city participate.

The event that kicks it all of is Thunder Over Louisville, which is held on a Saturday two weeks before the Derby and is the largest fireworks show in North America. It's held over the Ohio River, and people gather along the riverbanks of Louisville and Southern Indiana. Before that, though, there is an air show with all kinds of military planes that fly over and do all sorts of tricks and other cool stuff. It's pretty awesome. We went to Thunder Over Louisville the year, and it was great, except for the weather (about 50 degrees, rainy, overcast, and windy)--not awesome

The day before Derby is Oaks. The biggest race that day, the Oaks, is for three-year-old fillies (female horses). The winner gets a blanket of lilies. The winner of the Derby gets a blanket of roses (which are sewn on at a local Kroger store--it's always fun to go and see the blanket of roses being made).

(A quick clarification: the Oaks is for fillies only. No boys allowed. However, fillies are allowed to enter the Derby instead of the Oaks if they qualify.)

One of the most well-known parts of the Derby is fashion. More specifically: hats. All the women who attend the Derby wear big, fancy, fabulous hats

Here's a picture of me in my Derby hat last year. This was before we even left the house, so my hair still looks nice:

I've been to the Derby a few times. The first time, I had a "real" seat in the grandstands. The other times, I've gone to the infield. The infield is the portion in the center of the track. It's generally filled with rowdy, drunk groups of people mud wrestling and causing general mayhem. It's pretty crazy, but the people aren't causing trouble or anything.... they're just drinking and having fun. You can bet on the races (although most people in the infield only bet on the Derby, if that), get food and drinks, and try to avoid getting the Port-A-Potty you're using flipped over while you're in it. (Helpful hint: Make sure a friend or two is standing outside to keep this from happening when you go to the bathroom. It doesn't happen often, but, well, it's been known to happen.) Oh, and sometimes people just run across the tops of the Port-A-Potties.... loud, but not quite as bad as flipping one.  :)  Also, you most likely won't even see a horse, unless it's on one of the big TVs set up in the infield.... it's just too crowded.

So why do people go to the infield, especially when you may not even see a horse? Money. Well, drunken mayhem, too. But also, money. A ticket to the infield is $40. A ticket to a "real" seat in the grandstands is at least a couple hundred dollars, and usually more. (Another option is to go through the infield and hang out in the paddock, where the horses are taken before each race and where patrons can go take a look at them before betting. If you go this route, you don't have a seat, and you still have to enter and exit through the infield, but you can get dressed a little fancier and use real bathrooms, and you're still paying only $40 for your ticket.)

David and I have been to the Derby the past couple of years (in the infield, along with some time spent in the paddock), but we aren't going this year. We're a little tired of the infield scene, and we're trying to save money, so this isn't the year to upgrade to better seats. Maybe in the next couple of years...

Instead, we're going to stay here in Indy. We'll watch the race on TV and drink mint juleps (the official Derby drink). And of course, we'll pick which horses to bet on and maybe have a pool. Oh, and there will be beer and wine, too. And appetizers. And maybe some sangria. Oh! And how could I forget Derby Pie? It's a chocolate nut pie that is just delicious. I don't like pie.... except for Derby Pie. (Unfortunately, you can only get them in Louisville. Or maybe only in Kentucky. I don't remember. But I haven't seen any in Indy. Bummer.)

Want to join in the Derby party? Think you'd prefer a Derby hat to a sombrero, or a mint julep to a margarita? Or maybe you want to celebrate Derby as well as Cinco de Mayo... or maybe something else (like the fact that it's Saturday)? Here's a recipe you may need (consider this also a thank-you for reading to the end of this very, very long post).

Mint Julep
(recipe and all information from the Early Times website,

The mint julep is THE drink to have on Derby Day. Early Times has a cocktail mix that requires little preparation--just add ice and mint.  It's "The Official Drink of the Kentucky Derby."

Here's the recipe from the Early Times website if you want to make your own:


2 oz. Early Times
1 tbsp. simple syrup
Mint sprigs
Crushed ice

Crush a few mint leaves in the bottom of an 8-oz. glass, then fill with crushed ice. Add 1 tablespoon of simple syrup and one tablespoon of water. Add Early Times. Stir gently until glass frosts. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig, sip and enjoy.

Simple Syrup With Mint
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 bunch fresh mint sprigs
Combine sugar and water. Boil for 5 minutes without stirring. Pour mix over mint leaves and gently crush the mint with a spoon.
Refrigerate overnight in a closed jar. Remove mint leaves, but continue to refrigerate syrup. Stays fresh for several weeks.

Happy Derby Week, everyone! And, as they say at the track... Go, Baby, Go!


  1. Hi, Liz!! Mint juleps..margaritas?! Tough choice:) Thanks for filling me in a bit more on the derby. You look beautiful in your hat!!! Have fun on Saturday!

    Thanks for your sweet comments on my blog today and for becoming a follower. Glad I found yours too, now I'm going to have a poke around;)

  2. I've never been to a horse race or anything before, so I'm definitely looking forward to Cinco de Mayo and Mexican food for Saturday ;) I may have to try a mint julep though! Yum!

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog recently! :)