The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports

1 05 2008

Churchill Downs

Tradition! Tradition! There are certain traditions that any native Kentuckian (one of which, I am proud to be!) looks forward to every year: Midnight Madness, the Kentucky Derby.

This year’s Derby is taking place this Saturday, May 3rd, 2008. It is the 134th annual Derby to be held, one of America’s oldest traditions. The Kentucky Derby is a one and a quarter mile horse-race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses, held each year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The “Run for the Roses” holds its origin in 1872 when Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., the grandson of William Clark (of Lewis and Clark), traveled to England. There he visited the Epsom Derby. Upon his arrival home, Clark organized the Louisville Jockey Club, in order to raise the funds to build Churchill Downs, named for, John and Henry Churchill, who provided the land for the track.

The inaugural race was won by Aristides, a colt who was trained by future Hall of Famer, Ansel Williamson. Aristides rode to a second-place finish in the Belmont Stakes later that year. Although the race was a success at first, the track had financial difficulties and was incorporated with new and improved facilities. But it still struggled until 1902 when Col. Matt Winn assembled a group of businessmen to acquire the facility. As a result, the Kentucky Derby prospered and became the premier horse race in America that it is today.

Horse owners began racing their winning Derby horses to compete weeks later in the Preakness Stakes followed by the Belmont Stakes, which together offer the largest purse, and therefore became known as the Triple Crown.

The first national television coverage of the Kentucky Derby took place in 1952. The show will air this year on NBC, beginning at 4 p.m. The actual race will probably begin sometime around 5 p.m.

Get together with your friends to watch, and throw a Derby party. If you do, be sure to dress up, as a tradition is that the patrons sitting in “Millionaire’s Row” wear lavish outfits, complete with elaborate hats. You’ll also want to be sure to serve traditional Kentuckian fare. Burgoo, hot browns, derby pie, and of course mint juleps are time-honored favorites. (I’ll include a recipe for Mint Julep Iced Tea below from the May 2002 issue of Coastal Living.) Many thematic decorations can be found online. One of my favorite party décor/favor websites is And also be sure to find a recording of Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home.”

Revelry is a major part of the Derby tradition, so whatever you do, have fun, and enjoy the most exciting two minutes in sports of the year!

Mint Julep Iced Tea


8 mint leaves
1 lemon, sliced
1 lime, sliced
1 cup bourbon (optional)
3 cups cold sweetened tea
Cubed or crushed ice


Combine first 3 ingredients in a 2-quart pitcher, pressing with spoon to crush mint. Stir in bourbon and tea. Add ice.


2 quarts

On which horse are you placing your bet?




2 responses

22 04 2010
My Bluegrass State: Unbridled Spirit « Sweet Iced Tea

[…] A Kentucky Derby Tradition & Recipe […]

4 05 2012
Kentucky Pie Bars « Sweet Iced Tea

[…] Mint Julep Iced Tea […]

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