Everything You Need to Know About the 2014 Kentucky Derby

The Run for the Roses is right around the corner, so whether you’ll be watching from your couch, or making a trip down to Louisville, Kentucky, now is a good time to brush up on everything you need to know about the race. The race will take place on May 3 at Churchill Downs, with a $2 million prize on the line. This year marks the 140th Kentucky Derby, so grab your hats and get ready for the most exciting horse race of the year.

Former Champions:

If the announcers start talking about previous winners, here are the recent names to know!

2013: Orb

2012: I’ll Have Another

2011: Animal Kingdom

2010: Super Saver

2009: Mine That Bird


This Year’s Contenders:

The following horses will be competing in the Kentucky Derby. They are listed in the order of their season ranking and their names reading something like Bookstore Basketball team names.

1.      California Chrome

2.      Vicar’s in Trouble

3.      Dance with Fate

4.      Wicked Strong

5.      Samraat

6.      Danza

7.      Hoppertunity

8.      Intense Holiday

9.      Wildcat Red

10.  We Miss Artie

11.  Ride on Curlin

12.  Chitu

13.  Tapiture

14.  Ring Weekend

15.  General A Rod

16.  Medal Count

17.  Candy Boy

18.  Uncle Sigh

19.  Vinceremos

20.  Harry’s Holiday

21.  Commanding Curve

22.  Pablo Del Monte

23.  Bayern

24.  Social Inclusion

25.  Big Bazinga

26.  Strong Mandate

What to Wear:

If you’ll be attending the Derby in person, you’ll want to be properly attired. Here are a few must-haves!

1.      A Large Hat:

Wearing a hat to the Derby is supposed to bring good luck. The tradition was started by women, but recently men have started taking part as well (think ‘20s style for the men). For the most part, the bigger and more elaborate the better. Traditional styles have wide brims and are decorated with ribbons, bows, feathers or flowers. Infield headwear tends to be a bit more creative than what you’ll find in the clubhouse, so embrace your southern belle (or enjoy trying to find the most ridiculous hat you can).


2.      Vineyard Vines:

This is the “Official Style of the Kentucky Derby” so wearing any of your vineyard vines will be perfect for the Derby. If you’re looking for an excuse to buy something new, Vineyard Vines has a special line of Kentucky Derby fashion which includes hats.


3.      A Sundress:

This is a Derby classic. There’s some debate about whether you should pick your hat or your dress first. Whichever you decide to choose first, here are some good things to keep in mind.

·         If you’re choosing a crazier outfit, commit and make sure your hat is the center of attention.

·         Keep your dress simple if you’re determined to have a heavily patterned hat.

·         A simple and classy hat, should be paired with a simple and classy dress.

The word of the day for fashion is consistency. It doesn’t matter whether your outfit is simple or heavily accented, just make sure you’re consistent. The Derby was initially an opportunity for women to be seen in the latest fashions, so take this opportunity to showcase your personality and style.

Derby Traditions:      

There are some iconic images associated with the Derby, here are the most important ones to know.

1.      Garland of Roses:

The rose garland first appeared at the Derby in 1896. Roses were first associated with the Derby a little earlier when they were given to ladies attending a party. The president of Churchill Downs at the time, Colonel Lewis Clark, adopted the rose as the race’s official flower after the garlands of roses were such a hit with the women.


2.      The Twin Spires:

The Twin Spires were constructed in 1895. Joseph Dominic Baldez, who had been asked to draw the blueprints for the new grandstand at Churchill Downs, decided that the design was lacking something and added the spires to give the roofline a more striking appearance.


3.      “My Old Kentucky Home”:

This song is played when the horses step onto the track for the Derby post parade. Below are the lyrics if you’d like to sing along on race day!


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.

4.      Mint Juleps:

Mint Juleps have been the traditional beverage of the Derby and Churchill Downs for almost a century. Approximately 120,000 Mint Juleps are served during the two days of Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs.  This 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.

Here’s the Derby’s official Early Times Mint Julep Recipe, straight from their website:

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Sprigs of fresh mint

Crushed ice

Early Times Kentucky Whisky

Silver Julep Cups

Instructions: 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.



Horses to Watch:

While I won’t pretend to be a horse racing expert, I can tell you that according to the Kentucky Derby website’s experts, these are the horses to watch. This “Power Ranking” combines the picks of all of the Derby’s rankings and aggregates them into one list of the top contenders.

1.         California Chrome

2.         Hoppertunity

3.         Intense Holiday

4.         Ride on Curlin

5.         Wicked Strong and Samaraat (tie)



How to Watch:


If you’re planning on making the trip down to Louisville for the Derby, general admission tickets are on sale for $50.00 online at: http://www.kentuckyderby.com/tickets. Be sure to look into parking in advance, onsite parking must be bought before the event, however, there is nearby offsite parking for much cheaper. If you’ll be watching from your couch, NBC will be covering the Derby from 4:00-7:00pm. Happy watching!