Derby Day + Thirsty Thursday = Kentucky Bluegrass Country, Racing and Mint Juleps


I have always been a huge fan of thoroughbred racing.  I love the majesty of "The Sport of Kings" - the jockey's silks, the pomp and circumstance, the whole scene in the paddock and grandeur of the thoroughbreds themselves. The king of all thoroughbred races here in the United States is, of course, The Kentucky Derby which is taking place this Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky - just as it has on every first Saturday in May since 1875. 

Last year's winner "I'll Have Another"

Is any one going to the Derby this year? If so, I want a guest post! Are you going to a Derby party or watching from home? Whether you are watching from Millionaire's Row or from a comfy chair in your family room, if you want to know everything you need to know about this year's Derby, go here.

I will be glued to my TV all afternoon - other than the race itself,  I really enjoy all the back stories about each horse and their owner, trainer and jockey. For the record, I pick "Orb" to win this year!


While I have never had the pleasure of attending the Derby, I have been to Louisville and Churchill Downs many times and it great place to visit. Kentucky is perfect for a family vacation, particularly if you have children who love horses.

If you are fortunate enough to visit Louisville during Churchill's racing season, then a day at the track is definitely in order. No need to sit on Millionaire's Row...$3 buys you general admission and you can pretty much wander all over the whole complex. It's fun to watch the horses being saddled and "riders up" in the paddock. There are often different family activities going on, in addition my kids' favorite track activity when they were young - getting the autographs of the jockeys and trainers (my youngest actually has three time Derby winner Calvin Borel's goggles!). Sip a Mint Julep, try a traditional Kentucky "Hot Brown" sandwich, or nibble on Strawberries and Cream...while watching your favorite horse win...sounds like a perfect day to me!

Be sure to leave time to visit the Kentucky Derby Museum - it features an excellent overview of the history of the "Run for the Roses" and thoroughbred racing and a some amazing racing memorabilia. Be sure to see the 360 degree movie, "The Greatest Race". There are several tour options offered through the museum including a backstretch tour where you can see the horses in their stalls, getting bathed or being trained. If you are in Louisville when they are not racing at Churchill, the museum is still open and is a must see.

Another fun activity in Louisville is the Louisville Slugger Museum. Even my horse loving daughter enjoyed taking a break from the ponies to see how the iconic baseball bat is made.

As long as you are in Louisville, it's worth the short scenic drive to Lexington, Kentucky. Take the back roads past sprawling horse farms and rolling blue grass covered hills.  Many of the horse farms offer tours if you schedule in advance. The Kentucky Horse Park is a veritable theme park for any horse lover. Keeneland Racecourse is drop dead gorgeous. If Churchill isn't running, then Keeneland may be. It is a smaller, more intimate track and a great place to watch live racing.
 Now...on to the a taste of the Derby we can make at home...Mint Juleps!



Here is the classic recipe straight from the source - the official caterer of Churchill Downs:

Classic Mint Julep
(serves 8)
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
16 oz Kentucky Bourbon, 2 per mint julep
Crushed ice
10 sprigs fresh mint
8 mint julep glasses

Combine water and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil to make a simple syrup. Boil for 5 minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with 2 sprigs of fresh mint and refrigerate overnight. To make your mint julep, start by filling each mint julep glass with crushed ice. Add 1 tablespoon of the mint flavored simple syrup then 2 ounces of Kentucky Bourbon. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the glass. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Sip and enjoy!