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  • Writer's pictureTamara Schneider

Our First Derby

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

Kentucky Derby 144 is one for the record books! Not only was it our first time attending the Kentucky Derby, as well as the fun lead-up event known as Thurby, but it was also the rainiest, and the winner, Justify, broke a 136-year record. Epic is the only way I know to describe it and here are is our top five list.

1) The Fashion. Southern, eclectic, bold, outrageous! As a huge fashionista, this was by far my favorite part of the whole Derby experience. I was perfectly content sitting in a chair and watching as the throngs of people paraded in front of me showing off their colorful outfits. It was like a day-long runway show! There were the hats, which, of course, is an absolute must for any Derby attendee (men as well as women); there were beautiful dresses and suits, some bold and some more understated, and shoes that unfortunately were pretty much ruined by the end of the day due to the nonstop rain. You can tell people spend a lot of time and effort (not to mention money) putting together the perfect ensemble. Couples also go the extra mile by coordinating their outfits which makes for terrific Instagram photos!

2) The People. From all over the world people come to our little corner of the globe to relish in this historical event and they were another reason why we loved Derby! We met people from Hungary, Canada, Washington State, Florida, you name it. They were the nicest people and were so excited to meet some true Kentuckians! Feeling the pressure to be ambassadors for our state, we spread the love to everyone we came in contact with so hopefully they will return home knowing Kentucky is a special kind of place, where the people are friendly and welcoming.

3) The Red Carpet. Okay, folks, this was super fun! Due to the fact we were granted press passes, we were able to stand with the mainstream press and take photos of the celebrities as they walked the red carpet. Usually I'm sitting at home watching the Derby coverage on my local news channel, Lex18, so to actually be there and witness it in person...incredible! It's such an interesting process, but I felt bad for the lesser known people who the reporters weren't jostling for position to talk to them and were clearly waiting for the A-listers to arrive. Fortunately, they had handlers walking with them with dry erase boards with their names so we could do a quick Google search and find out who they were. We saw Anthony Anderson from ABC's "Blackish" sporting a canary yellow suit, Monte from TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta", and the over-the-top, never to be equaled, Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski, former Olympic figure skaters turned fashion commentators.

4) The Paddock & the Horses. The horses are what we're all here for, right? These champion 3-year-olds, many of which are bred, born and trained right here in Kentucky, are all vying for that garland of roses and the $1.24 million in prize money. The best place to see them up close is the paddock area, which unfortunately was a soggy mess on Derby. On Thursday, however, we were able to get exclusive access to inside the paddock where we were able to see these beautiful creatures up close as they parade around the circle. The horses, along with their trainers, jockeys and owners are all excited because they know soon they'll be racing for the finish line!

5) The Race. The whole week of Derby is like a musical score that is slowly building to a mighty crescendo that is the Derby race. They say it's the most exciting two minutes in sports, and it totally lives up to the hype. Standing in the crowded grandstands with 157,000 of our closest friends and listening as they sing in unison to "My Old Kentucky Home", and then the deafening roar as the gates open and the horses spring toward their destiny, is simply electric. I've never experienced anything like it! It's at that moment that all the craziness built into this event makes sense. Anything can happen in horse racing and in true fashion that's exactly what happened this year. Justify, a horse from Glennwood Farm in Versailles, Kentucky, broke a 136-year record for a horse who never raced as a two-year-old winning the Kentucky Derby. The track was sloppy, to say the least, and the horses looked like some of the infield attendees, covered in mud. But in the end, a good horse won and if you were one of the lucky few who placed your money on Justify, you left Churchill Downs with a little extra cha-ching in your pocket.

Win or lose, however, this experience has been the highlight of our year as Kentucky Taste Buds. We knew when we launched our blog last May that going to Derby had to be on our list of things to do. We believe it's something every Kentuckian should do at least once! And don't worry, we will be back next year...and hopefully without the rain!

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