<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - ]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/feature/triple-crown http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.comen-usTue, 24 Oct 2017 07:40:46 -0400Tue, 24 Oct 2017 07:40:46 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Triple Crown: Top Stories]]> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 12:31:29 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[Belmont Stakes: 'Test of the Champion']]> Fri, 19 May 2017 11:22:24 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[Kentucky Derby: A Look Back]]> Thu, 19 May 2016 10:59:20 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[Preakness Stakes: Triple Crown's Second Jewel]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 11:13:34 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[Road to the Triple Crown]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 11:36:48 -0400 ]]> <![CDATA[American Pharoah's Historic Feat]]> Tue, 02 May 2017 13:47:33 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/American_Pharoah.jpg

Photo Credit: Invision for Longines via AP ]]>
<![CDATA[Outrageous Kentucky Derby Hats]]> Sat, 04 May 2013 18:21:55 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/edt-168014126_10.jpg See the biggest, craziest and most outrageous hats at the 139th Kentucky Derby.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Triple Crown Glory: American Pharoah Makes History]]> Tue, 02 May 2017 12:39:22 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/476139066_master.jpg American Pharoah has become the first horse to clinch the elusive Triple Crown in 37 years with a stunning win in the Belmont Stakes. Here's how he got there.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Horse Racing Terms for Derby Beginners]]> Sat, 03 May 2014 15:40:13 -0400 Derby A Derby is a type of horse race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses. The Kentucky Derby is a famous example of such a race. The same racetrack that hosts the Kentucky Derby also hosts the Kentucky Oaks, another three-year-old thoroughbred race. The Oaks, however, is restricted to fillies, female horses that are too young to be called mares.]]> Derby A Derby is a type of horse race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses. The Kentucky Derby is a famous example of such a race. The same racetrack that hosts the Kentucky Derby also hosts the Kentucky Oaks, another three-year-old thoroughbred race. The Oaks, however, is restricted to fillies, female horses that are too young to be called mares.]]> http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/484298019.jpg Horse-racing is a complicated sport, made no easier by the wealth of confusing terms and definitions. Click through to brush up on your equestrian vocabulary in time for the Kentucky Derby.

Photo Credit: Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Is the Preakness' Trophy the Most Expensive in US Sports?]]> Fri, 19 May 2017 14:50:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/preakness-trophy.jpg

The owner of the horse that wins this weekend’s Preakness Stakes will get an oversized floral garland, 15 minutes of fame and a copy of a storied trophy that's said to be the most valuable in American sports.

The Woodlawn Vase, an ornate, Tiffany-designed solid sterling silver piece dating back to 1860 is touted as “the most expensive trophy in American sports” by Preakness officials. A 1983 insurance appraisal valued the vase, which stands 34 inches tall and weighs 29 pounds, at $1 million. Today it is estimated to be worth $4 million.

What makes the vase so valuable?

It was designed by luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co., but so were many major American sports trophies: the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy, the World Series trophy, the U.S. Open trophy.

But the Woodlawn Vase was the first sports trophy designed by Tiffany. 

It’s also arguably the most ornate of the major American sports trophies. The vase is covered in inscriptions and emblems and topped with four winged victories and, finally, with a jockey mounted on a stallion.

The vase "may be the most spectacular example in sports for its great craftsmanship by Tiffany. It also may have the best back story," said longtime sports memorabilia appraiser Leila Dunbar in an email.

The Woodlawn Vase carries a great deal of history. During the Civil War, when competitive racing was put on hold, the Woodlawn Vase was buried to keep it from being discovered and melted into shot. It was disinterred when the race resumed in 1866.

Four million dollars is a lot of money — you could buy four million-dollar yachts with that. But is the Woodlawn Vase really the most expensive trophy in American sports?

The FIFA World Cup Trophy, created in 1974, is said to be worth as much as $20 million — its outer layer is 18-carat gold and it weighs 13 pounds. But Dunbar is skeptical of the $20 million estimate.

"While it weighs more than 13 pounds of 18K gold, which today is about $270,000, it is difficult, given the market and past sale of the FA Cup, to see it valued more than several million dollars."

Regardless, FIFA isn’t strictly an American sport, so its golden trophy can’t steal the Woodlawn’s thunder anyway.

Other American sports trophies have rough estimated values hovering in the tens of thousands, but none are reported to be worth as much as a million dollars.

"The folks at Wimbledon Lawn and Tennis Club, the USGA (U.S. Golf Association) and the R&A (The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews) might also claim that their trophies, for the tournaments that they represent, are in that range," Dunbar says. "However, the Preakness trophy does have greater artistic value and therefore may win by a nose."

Maj. Michael Singletary, the vice president of security operations for the Maryland Jockey Club at Pimlico Park, confirmed that the vase is insured for $4 million. Singletary is in charge of overseeing the careful transport of the vase five miles from its permanent home, the Baltimore Museum of Art, to the racetrack on the week of the Preakness.

Two armed police officers pick up the vase, he said. “They have to wear white gloves to handle it — no one is allowed to touch the vase.”

As the vase is moved around the park for various pre-race events throughout the week, the two armed and gloved officers carry it and stand guard over it.

Even the owners of the winning horses aren’t allowed to touch it. Because the vase is so valuable, winners have not been able to take the prize home since 1953. They each receive replicas, which stand 14 inches tall and are worth around $30,000. Jockeys and trainers get replicas as well — though theirs stand 12 inches tall. 

While Singletary did concede that the vase is insured for $4 million, his initial and persistent response regarding the value of the Woodlawn Vase was that it’s “priceless.”

Photo Credit: The Baltimore Museum of Art/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Get Ready for the Preakness 2017]]> Sat, 13 May 2017 13:28:35 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/preakness-race2.jpg
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Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Yea or Neigh? Guess the Real Racehorse Name]]> Sat, 06 May 2017 12:11:55 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Zandar.JPG

Picking a winning name for a racehorse takes creativity, style and an ability to navigate the various rules and standards tied to Thoroughbred registration. See if you can guess which of the following monikers belong to actual registered racehorses, and which are real people or fictional characters. 

Photo Credit: Mike Piazza/Zilla Racing Tables
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<![CDATA[Victory and Defeat: Triple Crown Attempts]]> Tue, 02 May 2017 12:37:23 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/450243204.jpg See all the emotional reaction from past Triple Crown attempts, both the wins and the losses.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[What Makes a Triple Crown-Winning Horse?]]> Sat, 06 May 2017 12:18:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-480966886.jpg

This story was originally published in 2016. Watch the 2017 Kentucky Derby live Saturday at 6:20 p.m. ET.

"The 37-year wait is over! American Pharaoh is finally the one! American Pharoah has won the Triple Crown!"

Those words from famed horse racing announcer Larry Collmus at last year's Belmont Stakes marked the end of a nearly four-decade drought, and thrust horse racing into the national spotlight. [[306599991, C]]

American Pharaoh's gallop into the history books has left many wondering if there could be another Triple Crown winner this year. It's certainly possible, but experts say it will take a horse with the right combination of pedigree, training and versatility - and a little luck wouldn't hurt.

The Triple Crown of horse racing — winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes — is the pinnacle for 3-year-old thoroughbreds.

A mere 12 colts have achieved the feat since Sir Barton swept the series in 1919, and only once in all of American racing history has the trifecta occurred in consecutive years.

Of course, there have been some near-misses.

Between 1979 — after Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978 — and 2015, 13 horses managed to clinch the Derby and Preakness races, only to be stopped on their quest at the Belmont Stakes.

At 1 and 1/2 miles (12 furlong), the third jewel of the Triple Crown is the longest race track in the United States. Richard Migliore, a former jockey and racing analyst for the New York Racing Association, notes race horses that compete at Belmont “probably have never, and will never, run that distance again."

"Thoroughbreds today are bred for speed, not stamina, so they are too fatigued to keep up the pace required to win the Belmont," Migliore said, adding that many of the contenders at Belmont don't compete in the previous two races and are well-rested.

Over the years, many have called on a change in the racing schedule, while others, including the owner of California Chrome, said the pool for the three races should be limited to the horses that enter the Kentucky Derby.

"Because it had been so long since Affirmed won the Triple Crown, most people thought that this was getting close to impossible to do, it was too much to ask a horse to do," said NBC horse racing reporter Kenny Rice.

The Triple Crown schedule is grueling. It is difficult for a horse shipped around the country to endure the rigor of the journey after a strenuous race and not become ornery.

But then came American Pharoah. As Collmus so aptly put it in the final yards of the Belmont on June 6, he was "finally the one" – the one who could indeed win three races, at three tracks, in three different states, at three different distances, in the span of five weeks.

"That's why it separates the great ones. I think that's why I like the Triple Crown as is, because when you win it, you're a great horse," Rice says. "You may have a little bit of racing luck along the way, but it's not a fluke. That's why I think all the horses that have won the triple crown are special horses."

There are many factors, tangible and intangible, that combine in the making of a great racehorse, and experts have varying opinions on what those attributes are.

Some point to pedigree. Many champion horses carry elite genes.

American Pharaoh, for example, carries the bloodlines of three Triple Crown champions: Count Fleet, War Admiral and Secretariat. On the other hand, Affirmed came from modest genes that didn't trace back to a Triple Crown winner. Its sire didn't produce anything of exceptional merit after Affirmed, and his 1978 Triple Crown rival Alydar was considered a superior breeding source, according to BloodHorse's Avalyn Hunter.

"When Affirmed went to stud in 1980, he was competing with fellow Triple Crown winners Secretariat and Seattle Slew, but many horsemen considered his rival Alydar much likelier to make a top sire given his deep female family," Hunter said.

Others attribute a race horse's success to premiere training. Owners seek elite stakes-winning trainers to get their 2-year-old thoroughbreds in peak 3-year-old Derby shape.

Much like March Madness, each stop on the road to the Kentucky Derby will determine who will earn enough points and prove worthy of a spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs. Purse leaders like trainers Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, Kiaran McLaughlin, Doug O'Neill and Bob Baffert have a track record of starting horses at the Derby.

But whether it's genes, quality training, mental constitution or just pure luck, one characteristic they all seem to agree upon is versatility.

"All the triple crown winners standout because they rose above any obstacles, avoided anything in their way — in this case other horses — and that's what we saw last year. That's how good American Pharaoh was. He could run at the front, he could run near the front. He had different gears that, when he needed to shift, he could. I think that's what the next horse that wins the Triple Crown is going to have to do."

There are no certainties in horse racing, but Migliore believes at least one horse competing in the 142nd Kentucky Derby is showing that ability.

"Nyquist has shown he is not a one dimensional horse. As a 2-year-old and in his Derby prep races, he's been forced ridiculously wide and has demonstrated that he can shift and win," Migliore said.

The champion thoroughbred will enter the starting gate at Churchill on May 7 as a favorite with an undefeated record. Rice says Nyquist's Florida Derby victory over rival Mohaymen was "the most impressive of the Triple Crown prep races."

Another front-runner, ranking second on the Associated Press' Run for the Roses Top 10 list, is Gun Runner. The colt, trained by Steve Asmussem, is an odds favorite having established a points lead over the field.

Santa Anita Derby winner Exxagerator is also a top contender. Exaggerator was one of the most accomplished 2-year-olds in 2015 and a close runner-up to champion Nyquist in the San Vicente S. at Santa Anita in his seasonal debut. He won the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby race by a widening 6 1/4 lengths, placing himself squarely in the middle of the Kentucky Derby picture. 

The final lineup of the 20 Kenutcky Derby contenders has yet to be announced and only time will tell if a Triple Crown winner is among them. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Thoroughbred, Friesian, Appaloosa: Know Your Horse Breeds]]> Tue, 02 May 2017 12:39:44 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/horse-breeds.jpg

Thoroughbreds are considered the fastest horses in the world and dominate the horse racing industry, while Arabian horses are known to be intelligent and excel in endurance riding. Take a look at some of the horse breeds used in racing, dressage and general riding. 

American Quarter Horse

The American Quarter Horse is one of the most popular horse breeds today. It is the first all-American breed, used in rodeos, horse shows, general riding, work activities and urban mounted police units. The breed’s even temperament makes it an ideal horse for new riders.


An extremely athletic and energetic horse that is considered the fastest horse in the world. They dominate the horse racing industry. They are also a popular breed for horse jumping, dressage and cross-country. These horses can be a lot to handle because they have so much energy. Therefore, they are not recommended for beginners.


Pinto is not a breed, rather it refers to specific coloring. Pintos can be found in four different breeds: Stock (Quarter Horse conformation), Hunter (warm blood conformation), Pleasure (Arabian or Morgan conformation), and Saddle (Saddlebred or Hackney conformation). There are two types of coats on Pintos, tobiano (white horse with large patches of color) and overo (colored horse with uneven white marks). These horses vary in size and temperament based on the type of pinto.


A large horse with a gentle disposition. They have great versatility and are easy to train. Therefore, they are popular carriage and dressage horses, and appear in circus shows and other performance events, and in the film and entertainment industry.

Cleveland Bay

A docile, multi-talented horse commonly used in dressage, general riding, hunting and work activities. They are rather large horses averaging about 1,450 pounds, which makes them great work and hunting horses. Also known as the “Bay” horse.

Arabian Horse

Small and with delicate features, Arabians are one of the oldest horse breeds. They excel in all sports despite their lack of size, 800-1000 pounds, but dominate in endurance riding. Arabian horses are quite intelligent and affectionate toward their owners and are considered good horses for beginners.


Native American horses, they are one of the most popular horse breeds in the United States. This horse is known for its spotted coat, which can appear in five different patterns: blanket, snowflake, leopard, marble and frost. They are the only horses with vertically striped hooves.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com]]>
<![CDATA['Tonight Show': Puppies Predict the 2017 Kentucky Derby]]> Sat, 06 May 2017 02:18:16 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/Screen+Shot+2017-05-06+at+1.30.45+AM.png

Jimmy welcomes back his panel of puppies to predict the results of the 143rd Kentucky Derby.

<![CDATA[Jockey Makes Derby Comeback After Spill That Fractured Spine]]> Fri, 05 May 2017 12:13:31 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/Screen+Shot+2017-05-04+at+7.58.15+PM.png

After a 16-month recovery from injuries that could easily kill a person, jockey Rajiv Maragh has made a remarkable comeback and will race on the back of Irish War Cry at the 143th Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Maragh fractured his spine, broke his ribs and had a collapsed lung when Yourcreditisgood landed on him during a 2015 race at Belmont Park.

Photo Credit: NBC Sports]]>
<![CDATA[Comeback: Jockey Heads to Kentucky Derby After Gruesome Fall]]> Fri, 05 May 2017 10:43:33 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP_17121640425388.jpg

When Rajiv Maragh mounts Irish War Cry at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, he will cap a comeback from a spill that left him with broken ribs, a broken back and a collapsed lung, injuries that kept him out of racing for 16 months.

Maragh was riding Yourcreditisgood at Belmont Park on July 2015 when another horse veered in his path. The two horses' heels clipped and Yourcreditisgood fell on top of Maragh.

“I knew I was pretty badly injured. When I fell, the horse fell on top of my back,” said Maragh, 31. “I was in a lot of pain, I couldn’t breathe. Afterwards, I found out it was because I had a collapsed lung. I felt like I was fighting for my life.”

Maragh gained prominence when he swept four Breeders’ Cup races from 2011-2013, but his 13-year racing career has been marred by severe injuries. Before the 2015 accident, he fractured his spine twice, broke his arm, fractured his pelvis and collarbone and had a severe concussion that resulted in a 2-week memory loss.

“It was a rollercoaster, the last few years. I feel like I got everything out of the way,” Maragh said of his injuries.

Falling off a horse that’s running at 40 mph is a gamble jockeys take every race. Perched on top of a large, heavy and fast-moving animal, jockeys are completely exposed, with very little equipment to cushion a collision or a fall. Jockeys' Guild, the union that represents the riders, has been working to make the sport safer by collecting information about injuries and spearheading a concussion management protocol.

In 2012, the Jockey’s Guild launched a Jockey Injury Database aimed at collecting where, when and how injuries occurred; what type of equipment riders were wearing; and the nature and severity of the injuries.

The data will be analyzed for trends and used to help choose rider safety equipment and racetrack surface types and address other safety concerns. There is no cost to tracks to participate in the project and the data entry is not mandatory. Not all tracks are on board, so the guild still does the bulk of data collection.

“Any time there’s a horse that doesn’t finish, we get an alert, we look at the race chart and contact the rider and see what happened,” said Jeff Johnston, the guild's regional manager. “I think all racetracks appreciate we’re doing this. We’re still progressing, but it certainly has been a lot more work on us and we hope to get more industry support.”

In the U.S., there is no single governing body that oversees racing, and that’s been an obstacle to achieving progress in the area of jockey safety, experts say. It’s especially evident in how jockeys' concussions are handled, they said.

Concussions typically cause a headache, mental fuzziness, memory loss, some confusion, lightheadedness and balance problems. Many symptoms are short lived, but often a rider may not know they had a concussion and they get back on a horse to run another race.

“From my experience having a concussion, you don’t really know you have a concussion — when you have a concussion, you think you’re in a fine shape,” Maragh said. “Even football players or anyone at the moment think they’re fine; they don’t know what happened.

"If you feel like you’re fine and you’re a jockey you’re going to ride a race," he continued. "One way you’re going to make money is ride a race, you’re not going to stop."

Unlike the major U.S. sports leagues or international horse racing authorities in the U.K. or Ireland, U.S. racing has yet to implement a standard for diagnosing and managing concussions in jockeys.

According to the Jockey Injury Database, 14 percent of injuries in riders from 2012 to 2017 were concussions. The database, however, isn’t comprehensive and there is also no way to know how many retired jockeys could be suffering the effects of repeated concussions.

But with a recent spotlight on sports-related concussions and the deaths of high-profile athletes who developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease caused by repeated head trauma, the guild recognized that the concussion management plan has been missing from horse racing.

In June 2016, the guild started a three-year pilot study designed to evolve into the first comprehensive concussion management protocol for jockeys in the U.S. The union worked in partnership with the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences, thoroughbred tracks in Kentucky, National Thoroughbred Racing Association and other organizations.

As part of the study, a specially trained health care provider assesses a jockey’s physical and cognitive function using the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool test. The baseline score from the test — which looks at coordination and memory and orientation — can then be used to compare against a jockey's responses after a fall to determine whether he sustained a concussion.

“You can’t fix it and you can’t prevent [concussions], but what you can do is to try to manage it better,” said Carl Mattacola, associate dean of academic and faculty affairs at the College of Health Sciences at the University of Kentucky who oversees the pilot study at all of Kentucky’s thoroughbred racetracks, including Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Turfway Park and Kentucky Downs. “What we’re trying to do is provide health care that is at a similar level as the other professional sports.”

A jockey who races with a concussion risks multiplying its severity and its long-term consequences. Riding with a concussion also endangers the other jockeys in the race and the horses because the rider's decision-making and reaction time can be compromised.

When Maragh had a severe concussion about a decade ago while racing at Belmont Park in New York, he lost consciousness for about five minutes after he fell and a horse stepped on his head. He woke up in excruciating pain when paramedics were loading him into an ambulance.

“At first, I thought my legs were broken; both legs felt like the femur had snapped. I was telling the paramedic, my legs are snapped in two, they are hanging off,” Maragh said. “That was the message from the brain, they felt like they were snapped in two. I passed out and when I got to the hospital, I woke up with the worst headache, I was telling them to check my brain, do a CT scan. There was a hoof print on my skull on the scan.”

Maragh spent several days in the hospital and his then-girlfriend came from Florida to take care of him.

“I had bad headaches for two weeks. Two weeks went by and I only remember two hours of the two weeks after I left the hospital,” Maragh said. “Im sure I had to get cleared to ride again after but I don’t remember anything."

Maragh said it was his only diagnosed concussion during his professional career. His first concussion happened when he was 12 years old in his native Jamaica.

That's when he snuck into a racetrack where his dad was a jockey and pretended he was an apprentice rider, wearing his dad’s gear. But when he got on the track, the horse threw him off and Maragh hit his head. When he got home he began vomiting and passing out. He spent two days in the hospital and had amnesia.

Since 2004, all jockeys riding on British Horse Racing Authority tracks have been required to undergo baseline neuropsychological testing annually in order to be licensed. While the concussion protocol is not mandatory for jockeys in the U.S., tracks like Keeneland are moving to change that.

Dr. Barry Schumer, Keeneland’s medical director, has been advocating for a standarized approach to jockeys' medical care. Starting in October, he said, all jockeys have to have their baseline concussion testing performed before they compete at the track. He hopes that move, as well as sharing information from the concussion pilot study at industry meetings and conferences, will get other tracks to follow along.

Schumer said smaller racetracks may be more reluctant to get on board because of costs associated with having a medical professional conduct the baseline for concussions. Other tracks simply want to do things their way, he said. He’s hopeful, however, that more tracks and more jockeys continue to recognize the danger of untreated concussions.

“Each jockey is an independent contractor… their job is as risky as in any sport, if not riskier,” Schumer said. “When they get injured, they can’t ride and when they can’t ride they can’t get paid. They are resistant to health mandates because they would rather get back on the horse with a headache than miss a paycheck. Part of this whole process is educating the riders about the importance of all this.”

Mattacola said he’s made presentations to jockeys about the concussion protocol, explaining that most high schools and colleges in Kentucky have medical staff that includes a physician and an athletic trainer who provide care if someone should get injured, including concussions, so that they don’t suffer long-term complications.

“We told jockeys, our role is not to hold you out, our role is to to protect you if we think there’s something serious going on,” Mattacola said. “The role of the physician or health care provider is to get you out there to race safely."

Racing this spring, with his sights fixed on the top prize at Churchill Downs, Maragh said he tries not to dwell on the 2015 spill that left him wearing a body brace and bedridden for weeks, or on the potential health effects down the line from his injuries or undiagnosed concussions he may have had.

"I choose to be a jockey and there's a always a risk of danger and injury and you can't let that blur your vision or riding," said Maragh, who has won more than 70 races since November. "If that's going to be the case, better off not riding. Anything that happens to me on the racetrack I take it as it comes. I'm just happy to be out there, I don't have any fear at all."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[The Top Horses Contending to Race the 2017 Kentucky Derby]]> Fri, 21 Apr 2017 12:15:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-648033112_master.jpg As the official start of the Triple Crown nears, here's a look at the top 10 highest ranked horses.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How to Throw a Kentucky Derby Party]]> Wed, 04 May 2016 10:22:08 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-471857186.jpg

Year after year, there is a flurry of excitement leading up to the Kentucky Derby, with an endless series of parties and celebrations. It is the one American race that inspires the spectacle and pageantry of a bygone era.

Derby Fashion 

In 1875, Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. fashioned the Derby after glamorous European horse races. These races required full morning dress for all who attended. The high society women of the day came to the Derby to debut new spring fashions – especially hats. These women were invited to the race as part of Clark’s strategy to brand the Derby as an upscale event. In the 1960’s television gave women a reason to go all out with their hats, which deepened the “see and be seen” culture.

Unlike the Royal Ascot races, which restrict the size and type of hat for adult women (fascinators are not allowed!), there are no hat restrictions for the Derby. Hats bring good luck to the race, so let your imagination run wild when choosing or creating your hat.

Men also put on their Sunday best for race day, wearing bright, sunny colors, and donning a bow tie and fedora, bowler, or a natty straw Homburg or boater.

Hosting a Kentucky Derby Party 

Invitations reveal the color scheme for your Derby Party, as well as what kind of party it is – a brunch, backyard get-together or formal event. Send your invitations well in advance to give you and your guests plenty of time to plan for race day.

Atmosphere lies at the heart of the Kentucky Derby. In 1904, the red rose became the Derby’s official flower. Any red rose will work, but for authenticity, use red Freedom Roses, known for their rich, bright color in your décor. If you need inspiration for your party’s color scheme, look to colorful jockey silks.

  • Freeze rosebuds inside ice cubes, and use them to fill the champagne bucket. When the Derby winner is announced, pop open the bottle to celebrate!
  • Decorate the bases of wine glasses with miniature hats for the ladies and bow ties for the gents.
  • Fold napkins in the shape of a bow tie, using bright colors that coordinate with your party scheme.
  • Dress up your drink stirrers with miniature hats and bows of ribbon.
  • Use a lavishly decked-out hat as a table centerpiece.


Photos — Rent a photo booth for your party, or create a picture perfect backdrop with playful props. Take photos of guests in their race day finery, adding trophies, riding crops, fascinators and clip-on bowties as photo booth accessories. Get some giggles out of your guests with a life-size horse and jockey cut-out for their faces. Make your party’s hashtag part of the display.

Crafts — Little Derby party guests and adults will have fun crafting hats out of paper plates, ribbons and flowers.


  • Corn Hole is an all-American way to bring guests outside for some competition. Customize your Corn Hole board for the Derby.
  • Put a twist on Pin the Tail on the Donkey with fun alternatives, like “Pin the Jockey on the Horse” or “Pin the Garland on the Horse.”
  • Play some rounds of Horseshoes to get in the Derby spirit!
  • Play some Derby trivia. 

Prizes — Trivia winners of all ages can receive a virgin “Mint Julep” – pour Junior Mints in a traditional silver mint julep cup, and top it with a sprig of mint.

Tradition  As the horses parade to the gate, sing along to “My Old Kentucky Home” with the band and audience on Television.

Lyrics below:

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.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>