There are plenty of great things that come from Derby Experiences being Official Partners with Churchill Downs, but one of our favorite things is that we’re able to offer Official Ticket Packages that include tickets to both the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks!
For those who follow thoroughbred racing closely, you probably already know what the Kentucky Oaks is, but for those of you that are recently joining this passionate horse racing community, you might not. Don’t fret! We’re about to help you distinguish the difference and teach you why you want to be at Churchill Downs for both races!
So what’s the difference?
It’s fairly simple actually. In the Kentucky Derby, any type of thoroughbred can race, whether colt, gelding or filly. However, only fillies can race in the Kentucky Oaks.
The field for the Kentucky Derby is primarily comprised of colts and geldings, but a filly can race in the 1 ¼ mile “Run for the Roses” if she qualifies on the point system just as her male counterparts. Just the same, since the Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the Triple Crown, a filly can also be nominated for this honor! Besides qualifying, the only requirement for the Kentucky Derby is that the thoroughbreds are all three-year-olds.
In contrast, the Kentucky Oaks is only for the fillies. Nicknamed “The Race for the Lilies,” the grandstands are filled with spectators covered in pink attire and the winner of the 1 1/8 mile race is presented with a garland of lilies. Like the Kentucky Derby, the fillies must be three-year-olds and must qualify for the Oaks through the points system.
The Oaks is held annually at Churchill Downs on the day preceding the Kentucky Derby, so when you’re heading to Churchill to see the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports,” it only makes sense to pack your pink and attend the Kentucky Oaks as well!
Wondering what this points system is for thoroughbreds to qualify for the 2014 Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby? Take a look at how the points system works>>>
As for what’s left on the Road to the Derby and the Road to the Oaks, the Prep Season is gone and we’ve entered the Championship Series! Take a look at the races that are left on the schedule:
Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series
Road to the Kentucky Oaks Championship Series
Take me to Churchill Downs!
Now that you know why these races are so important to horse racing fans, it’s time to plan your trip to Churchill Downs to watch the 2014 Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby live! With Official Ticket Packages to attend the Kentucky Oaks only day, or both race days, exclusive in-track hospitality and VIP access and amenities, you can’t match this Kentucky Derby experience anywhere else!
Get more information on how you can a weekend to remember in Louisville for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby this year!
After the Kentucky Derby, tabloid magazines and social media platforms are flooded with images of all the Hollywood stars that visited Churchill Downs. Headlines of celebrities walking the carpet and attending parties and functions are all we see. Through these images we get to see what it would be like to attend one of the biggest sporting events of the year as a VIP, while remaining unable to fathom celebrity status.
Well, this year, you’re going to meet celebrities at the 140th Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby! How? You’ll be at the right place at the right time with your own VIP status to grant you access!
So, take a look at these three ways to meet celebrities at the 2014 Kentucky Derby!
1. Spend Oaks and Derby Days in the Sunny’s Halo Lounge Rooftop Party Deck
Imagine this. You’re preparing to watch the 2014 Kentucky Derby with an elevated view of the starting line and final stretch from the brand new grandstand. You’ve just enjoyed the complimentary gourmet fare and premium open bar inside the Sunny’s Halo Lounge Rooftop Party Deck, all the while mingling with model and actress Nichole Galicia (starred in Django Unchained), Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Mackenzie Weeks, Jackie Bob, Lauren Williams and Mia Greenhouse, and our celebrity jockey!
Sounds like a picture perfect Kentucky Derby Day, right? Well, with Derby Experiences Official Grandstand Blue Party Packages that’s exactly what your experience will be like!
Because Official Ticket Packages are direct from Churchill Downs, you’ll also receive all of the exclusive amenities that come from booking with an official partner, such as tickets to both Oaks and Derby race days, access to the Sunny’s Halo Lounge on both days, and optional accommodations and transportation!
Not to mention, with this ticket package, you’ll also receive an invitation to the first annual Fillies & Lilies Party!
2. Get Access to the Fillies & Lilies Party
Like previously mentioned, you can get access to Derby Experiences Fillies & Lilies Party with an Official Grandstand Blue Party Package, or if you already have ticket packages to the Oaks and Derby, you can get access a la carte!
So what celeb sightings are expected at the Fillies & Lilies Party? Well, let’s start with the featured entertainment. Wynonna Judd and The Big Noise will be performing LIVE! You don’t want to miss the chance to hear this five-time Grammy winner perform in her home state and the “Run for the Roses!”
Throughout the party, you’ll enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvres, a bourbon lounge and an open bar while you dance the night away! Magician Matthew Furman will also be in attendance to shock you with his mind illusions and tricks.
What other celebrities will be at the party? Nichole Galicia and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders! It’s not everyday that you can say you attended one of the biggest parties of the year with the stars!
3. Experience the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby in the Affirmed Lounge
The Rooftop Party Lounge not your forte? Don’t worry, that’s not the only place there are guaranteed Hollywood stars at the Kentucky Derby!
You can attend with the Derby with Grandstand Orange Official Ticket Packages with access inside the Affirmed Lounge! Here, you’ll have the opportunity to meet a celebrity jockey and listen to American Idol® winner, Elise Testone, perform live!
Think about it! You’ll enjoy great views of the track from your seat in the stands, and you’ll prepare for the running of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby by enjoying complimentary beer and wine, an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch and live wagering tellers! All the while enjoying Testone’s performance!
Orange Grandstand Taste of Derby Package
Want Affirmed Lounge access and want to meet even more celebrities? You can select the Orange Grandstand Package to include the Taste of Derby party on Thursday! You’ll spend the evening tasting delectable dishes from popular horse racing destinations across the country created by Masterful Chefs!
Plus, the entire time you’ll be mingling with Hollywood stars and horse racing celebrities! Think it can’t get any better? Think twice!
Partial proceeds from the Taste of Derby go to benefit hunger relief organizations, so you’ll be benefiting a great cause!
Make Me a VIP at the 2014 Kentucky Derby!
We thought you’d never ask! If you’re going to check the Kentucky Derby off your bucket list, it’s best to “go big or go home!” Plus, once you attend the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby with the celebrities, as a celebrity, you’ll never want to be an ordinary fan in the stands!
May 2 will be here before you know it, so visit our website or call 1-888-384-7088 to start your VIP Kentucky Derby experience today!
There are a lot of great things that come from attending the 2014 Kentucky Derby with Official Ticket Packages from Derby Experiences, and one of those perks is concierge services! Simply put, these are things that you can add onto your package to take it to the next level.
Take a look at the concierge options that are available to you through Derby Experiences and learn how you can take advantage!
Transportation and Parking
Traffic in Louisville during Kentucky Derby weekend is hectic! To put into perspective, Churchill Downs is filled with over 150,000 people on Derby day! That’s a lot of added people in and around the city and on the roads heading to Churchill Downs on race days.
Through Derby Experiences, your transportation can be provided for! That eliminates the hassle of you and your group maneuvering through the congested streets fighting traffic and then having to find a parking space. You can simply be picked up and dropped off, allowing you to enjoy the ride and let us focus on the road!
Still want to drive? We can still help you simplify the process. Guests have to pay to park at Churchill Downs, which means you must wait in a line of cars to pay the fee and then go park. Derby Experiences can get you valet parking so that you can drive up, file out and pick your car up later! Or you could can pre-purchase your parking pass (not available anywhere else!) and skip the line to pay!
Kentucky Derby Parties
The Kentucky Derby is known for its extravagant parties, and this year, Derby Experiences is hosting is first annual Fillies & Lilies Party!
Five-time Grammy award winner Wynonna Judd and The Big Noise will be performing live inside the Kentucky Derby Museum right after the Kentucky Oaks! You’ll have access to enjoy the performance while eating delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinking from a premium open bar, all the while having access to a bourbon lounge! Amidst the dancing, Magician Matthew Furman will thrill guests with his assortment of magic tricks and mind illusions! It’s an experience you don’t want to miss!
Not to mention, there are other elaborate Derby parties such as The Taste of Derby on Thursday, The Julep and The Barnstable Brown Gala on Friday, and The Winner’s Party on Saturday immediately following the Kentucky Derby!
Don’t let your Kentucky Derby experience end right after the race. Keep it going at night by attending some of the most extravagant parties as a VIP, with VIPs!
Whether you are seeking tours inside Churchill Downs or outside in the city, you have to take advantage of the variety of tours on hand! Take a look at some of the tours we can set you up with:
• Backstretch Tour at Dawn at Churchill Downs
You’ll have the opportunity to go in VIP areas of the track where you can get up close and personal with the horses, their owners, trainers and jockeys. You’ll also be able to see the horses complete their morning training on the track and visit the press room to gain tips from owners and trainers. Your morning will conclude with breakfast in the trackside kitchen where the first grandstand stood years ago.
• Bourbon Distillery Tour
Kentucky is known for its bourbon! Its legendary distilleries have crafted some of the world’s finest with secret recipes and a time-honored process. You’ll have the opportunity to tour the facility and taste its amber goodness.
• Private Horse Farm Tour
Wondering what it is like to live in Kentucky and live on a working horse farm? You’ll be taken behind the scenes into the lifestyle and tour the beautiful grounds of the Keeneland race course. You’ll see the life a thoroughbred leads after their racing career is complete and see the training process as you walk through modern barns and paddocks.
• The Best of Kentucky
Can’t decide on a tour? You’d be surprised how often that happens! The Best of Kentucky combines the realm of horse racing and the craft of bourbon to show the things that Kentucky is known for! Tour a private horse farm and a bourbon distillery and learn about both processes at the same time!
Besides just raceday only packages, all Official Ticket Packages offer the opportunity for guests to opt in for luxurious accommodations in Louisville. With so many fans traveling to the city for the Kentucky Derby, hotels reserve very quickly, but Derby Experiences can secure your room!
And if you have already opted in for accommodations through Derby Experiences and want to stay an extra night or two, we can arrange that in your stay as well. This service eliminates your planning process, allowing you to relax and enjoy the Kentucky Derby experience.
Dining in Louisville
Louisville streets are flocked with exceptional restaurants with a variety of cuisines in different price ranges! No matter what your pallet is in the mood for, Derby Experiences is here to offer a variety of options and help you make arrangements for large groups!
Take Advantage of 2014 Kentucky Derby Concierge Services Through Derby Experiences
As you’ve seen, Derby Experiences offers some unique and one-of-a-kind concierge services that can take your 2014 Kentucky Derby experience to the next level! Visit our website or call 1-888-383-7088 for more information and let us help you take some of the planning process off your hands!
Churchill Downs and it’s iconic twin spires is most commonly known as being the home for the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby, but it’s history is much richer than just that. Founder Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. opened the gates in 1875 to serve as a home for the Louisville Jockey Club, and the track grew into a site to showcase the Kentucky breeding industry. In other words, say hello to the first Kentucky Derby.
Churchill Downs was essentially created by Clark selling membership subscriptions for $100 a piece to provide for the 80 acres the racetrack laid across. All Churchill housed at the time was a clubhouse, a grandstand, a porter’s lodge and six stables and three races – the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks and the Clark Handicap – all major stakes races.
As the popularity of the Jockey Club grew and Churchill Downs gained more momentum, the track acquired more land and became more developed. By 1986, Churchill was a designated National Historic Landmark.
Today, the grounds stretch across 147 acres and the grandstands can seat 50,000 spectators. However, on Derby day Churchill Downs is known to hosts crowds of over 150,000 people. The dirt oval racetrack that is used for the “Run for the Roses” is one mile long, with a turf track located just inside at 7/8 of a mile.
This turf track allowed Churchill Downs to host the “richest two days in sports,” the Breeders’ Cup, on eight occasions.
From 2001 to 2005, the track underwent a $121 million renovation of refurbishment and add-ons. Churchill Downs is also home to the Kentucky Derby Museum, where spectators and race fans alike can stroll through this history of America’s oldest sporting event.
Churchill has also been in construction this year to add a new grandstand and hospitality area that will be ready by Derby day. So if you haven’t made the trip to Louisville to visit Churchill Downs, the 2014 Kentucky Derby is the perfect time to do so!
See the Twin Spires on Derby Day!
The 140th Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby is just around the corner, and there is simply no better time to see Churchill Downs and all its splendor!
As the field of qualified three-year-olds race in the “most exciting two minutes in sports,” you’ll lose your breath in the excitement and movement of the stands, as each spectator is pulling for their horse to be crowned Churchill’s 2014 Kentucky Derby champion!
And there is no better way to experience the running of the Kentucky Derby than with Official Ticket Packages through Derby Experiences. With packages providing you with access to Churchill Downs on both Oaks and Derby days, you’ll see horse racing at its finest from some of the best seats in the stands!
Plus, because of our Official Partnership with Churchill Downs, you’ll have access to some of the most luxurious hospitality areas inside the track. With gourmet food, open bars and private wagering stations, you’ll experience the Kentucky Derby the way Churchill Downs meant for it to be watched!
Get more information on how you can attend the 2014 Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs today!
Before there was a giant video board, jumbo-tron or a myriad of tv screens peppered throughout the race track, there was the race announcer. Perched high above the finish line, the race announcer observes and comments on every aspect of the race with the skill and precision of an eagle scanning the earth for prey. Given the fact that horse racing views are judged in 1/8 mile (a furlong) versus 10-yard lines in football or three-point lines on a basketball court, the race announcer is the voice you rely upon to hear your horses’ name and understand where they are on the track within the body of a race.
Marty McGee, Kentucky’s correspondent for the Daily Racing Form has witnessed 40 consecutive Kentucky Derby’s and deciphered a lifetime of race calls. “You absolutely need a race announcer. It’s not just part of the tradition of racing, but they help you watch a race. The best ones do it in a way that is seamless. Much like a play-by-play announcer in other sports, the timber and tone of a race caller should not be distracting but rather should build in intensity and excitement. You can close your eyes and still know what’s happening and who wins! These guys were the original broadcasters – when there was no tv coverage – they painted pictures with their voices on the radio waves.”
Churchill Downs recently named Larry Collmus as its new track announcer, succeeding Mark Johnson, who departs after a five-year run. Collmus, one of the premier race callers in North America and the world of Thoroughbred racing, will be on the microphone as the seventh announcer at the historic home of the Kentucky Derby starting with the first race of the "Opening Night" program on Saturday, April 26 that launches the Kentucky Derby and Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) Week.
The 47-year-old Collmus, a veteran of nearly three decades of calling races in a career that started at the age of 18, will continue his duties as the race caller for NBC Sports on its telecasts of the Triple Crown - the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes - and the Breeders' Cup World Championships.
With his on-track and on-air call of the 140th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 3, Collmus will join a small and elite fraternity of track announcers for the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Churchill Downs racing that includes Johnson (2009-2013), Kruytbosch (1999-2009), Kurt Becker (1997-1998), Mike Battaglia (1978-1996), Chic Anderson (1961-1977) and Gene Schmidt, the first Churchill Downs announcer who called the Derby for on-track audiences from 1940-1960.
“A good race caller is like a precious jewel – with character, clarity and sparkle. The racing experience is absolutely enhanced,” said veteran thoroughbred racing journalist for Louisville’s Courier- Journal, Jennie Rees.
“So often, people observing the race have some kind of rooting interest either through ownership or more specifically through a wager. Even as a veteran race tracker, I can often miss the whole picture of what is happening live and it’s often only in reviewing a replay that I see the nuances. Calling a race is a very special talent – I’m not really sure how they do it. I’m not sure if it’s bionic peripheral vision, but they can anticipate an individual horse making its move within what looks like a stampede. I hear my horses’ name called and I start snapping my fingers!”
So what’s your favorite call of the Kentucky Derby?
One of my favorite’s occurred recently in the 2011 Kentucky Derby: Larry Colmus – “Animal Kingdom! ROARING down the center of the track…”
Loren Hebel-Osborne – QuintEvents, Derby Experiences
“Mike Battaglia’s call of the 1982 Derby of Gato Del Sol. At the 1/8 pole there were 10 horses fanned across the track and any of them could have won the race. Mike called every horse and zeroed in on Gato Del Sol just as he switched leads and took off!"
Marty McGee - Kentucky Correspondent, Daily Racing Form
"2006 Kentucky Derby: 'They are coming to the finish and it’s all Barbaro in a SUBLIME performance. He runs away from them all!' – Tom Durkin on NBC"
Darren Rogers - Senior Director, Communications & Media Services, Churchill Downs
"1998 Kentucky Derby: 'Here comes Real Quiet Fastest of them All!' – Dave Johnson on ABC. Of course, it might also be my favorite because I picked Real Quiet to win!”
Tom Pedulla, Correspondent, America’s Best Racing
"The one that still gets me, all these years later, is Dave Johnson on the ABC telecast of the 1980 Derby, when at mid-stretch he said, 'It's Genuine Risk, and she's genuine.'"
Jay Privman, National Correspondent, Daily Racing Form, and Racing Analyst, NBC Sports
"1996! Dave Johnson’s call for ABC (His and down the stretch they come was just before the eighth pole, actually): 'It’s unbridled’s song to lose. He’s in front. He’s in front by two. Here comes Cavonnier on the inside. And down the stretch they come! Unbridled’s Song. Cavonnier on the inside. In the middle of the track, Grindstone is closing stoutly. Cavonnier on the inside. Grindstone on the outside. McCarron and Bailey! Here’s the finish. Too tight to call! Was it Cavonnier on the inside? Was it Grindstone with Bailey on the outside? Noses apart for the mile and a quarter in the Kentucky Derby.'"
Jennie Rees, Racing Correspondent, Courier-Journal
Go to the 2014 Kentucky Derby!
Hear Collmus call the play-by-play while you watch the 2014 Kentucky Derby live! Official Ticket Packages direct from Churchill Downs grant you access to both Oaks and Derby days, exclusive in-track hospitality and VIP amenities!
Get more information on how you can attend the 2014 Kentucky Derby today!
The Kentucky Derby is one of the most exhilarating thoroughbred races to watch! Each year, we keep track of the Road to the Kentucky Derby, holding our breath to see which 3-year-olds will have the points to qualify, wondering which will change history with the potential of becoming a Triple Crown champion.
So to get you excited for the 2014 Kentucky Derby and a new potential Triple Crown champion, we’ve compiled a list of the best Kentucky Derby winners of all time! Take a look:
5. Seattle Slew
Seattle Slew was the Kentucky Derby champion in 1977, and was undefeated throughout his season. With a rough start from the gate at Churchill Downs, fans believed that the Derby might be his first loss, but Seattle Slew came back from behind to win with a time of 2:02.20. He continued on to win the Triple Crown and was the only thoroughbred to do so with an undefeated record.
Assault made his strike in 1946 when World War II was over and the nation was continuing to rebuild after the Great Depression. Assault gave the US something to cheer about in his dominating season, and won the Kentucky Derby with a time of 2:06.60. He then went on to win the Triple Crown.
3. War Admiral
War Admiral is commonly recognized for “The Race of the Century,” where he fell to Seabiscuit. Prior to this race, War Admiral wowed his fans by winning the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown in 1937. He won the Derby with the time of 2:03.20 by grabbing the lead from the start and holding on to it throughout the entire race.
Affirmed, the great-great-grandson of War Admiral, made his mark by dominating all of the races he was eligible to run. This 3-year-old year will go down in history as one of the greatest in the modern racing era. He faced his greatest rival, Alydar, in the Kentucky Derby and won in one of the most intense rivalries in racing. Affirmed won with a 2:01.20 time, and has been the only Triple Crown champion since 1978.
Time for number one on our list: the 1973 Kentucky Derby champion, Secretariat. His racing career got off to a slow start and picked up with the Kentucky Derby. Secretariat holds the fastest run ever for the Derby at Churchill Downs with a time of 1:59.40! He then went on to win the Triple Crown, creating unbeatable record times for both the Preakness Stakes (1:53) and the Belmont Stakes (2:24).
Sir Barton (1919)
Spectacular Bid (1979)
Attend the 140th Kentucky Derby and See History Made
The field for the 2014 Kentucky Derby hasn’t been decided with more Grade races on the schedule, but there are some promising contenders. Will we have a Secretariat record-breaking time? Or perhaps a new Triple Crown champion? Who knows! But you can be at Churchill Downs to find out!
With Derby Experiences Official Ticket Packages you’ll have the best seats at Churchill Downs to watch “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports!” Not to mention, you’ll receive access to a VIP in-track hospitality venue, exclusive amenities such as complimentary gourmet food and a premium open bar, and celebrity jockey appearances!
Additionally, you can opt in for transportation to and from Churchill Downs on Oaks and Derby days, and lodging at a luxurious Louisville hotel! This way, you don’t have to plan a thing and you can enjoy watching history be made!
Want to upgrade your experience? Check out Derby Experiences’ first annual Fillies & Lilies Party featuring Wynonna Judd and The Big Noise!
So what are you waiting for?! It’s time to plan your ultimate 2014 Kentucky Derby experience and secure your seat for the big race! Call 1-888-384-7088 or visit our website to book your trip to Churchill Downs today!
Valentine’s Day is almost here and it’s time to find that perfect gift to show just how much you care. Sure, you could go with roses or chocolates, but why spend money on flowers that only last a week when you could give the gift that keeps on giving? The gift of an experience!
I know what you’re thinking, “Now, where am I going to find some extraordinary experience to surprise my Valentine?!” Luckily, you won’t have to search past this page.
Give your Valentine the gift of a 2014 Kentucky Derby experience!
Check out these three reasons why an Official Ticket Package to attend the 140th Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby is the perfect Valentine’s Day gift:
1. Bragging Rights
Giving the gift of a 2014 Kentucky Derby experience not only guarantees bragging rights for you as the gift giver, but also to your Valentine, the gift receiver! Picture this, you’re hanging out with your friends, family or colleagues as they are all discussing what they gave their significant other for Valentine’s Day, or what they received. Flowers, chocolates, dinner and a movie… it’s the same every year!
Then, the question turns to you. And you wow them with your incredibly creative and thoughtful gift! The best part? You’ll be bragging and the 140th Kentucky Derby isn’t until May! Think of all the bragging you could do after you actually attend the first race in the Triple Crown!
2. VIP Treatment
The purpose of Valentine’s Day is to show how much you care, and treat your Valentine extra special. Not only will you be able to give that on Feb. 14, but you also get to enjoy that special treatment together on May 2-3 for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby!
With Official Ticket Packages, you’ll have access to VIP hospitality areas with complimentary gourmet food and premium open bars, exclusive amenities like VIP Fast Access passes, and depending on your package, access to areas that only celebrities and VIP’s can go!
Official Kentucky Derby Ticket Packages are the real deal making it the best Valentine’s Day gift to give or receive!
3. Fillies & Lilies Party featuring Wynonna Judd
The icing on the cake of making this the best Valentine’s Day you’ve ever had? Access to Derby Experiences first annual Fillies & Lilies Party featuring music and entertainment by Wynonna Judd and The Big Noise!
Held inside the Kentucky Derby Museum after the Kentucky Oaks, guests will enjoy live music and entertainment amongst famous exhibits honoring America’s oldest sport! Magician Matthew Furman will also be in attendance to amaze with his latest magic tricks and mind illusions.
You and your Valentine can dance the night away and enjoy a bourbon lounge, complimentary heavy hors d’oeuvres and a premium open bar!
Model and actress from “Django Unchained,” Nichole Galicia will also be in attendance!
So what are you waiting for?! Give your Valentine the gift they will never forget; the gift of a 2014 Kentucky Derby Experience! Get more information on how you can make this Valentine’s Day the best one yet!
The Kentucky Derby is one of the most exhilarating thoroughbred races to watch! With each furlong the horses pass, the intensity rises in Churchill Downs. Within the blink of an eye, the field narrows down as only the most powerful runners along the pole take the lead and battle down the homestretch.
There is nothing that compares to the roar of the crowd, the stands rise to their feet and knowing in a matter of seconds one horse could be the horse!
The 2014 Kentucky Derby will be here before you know it. With the race season in full force, the list of thoroughbreds who could earn a spot in the field is narrowing as the points are getting racked-up. If you haven’t been keeping an eye on the horses that could be potential Kentucky Derby contenders, now’s the time to start. It’s time to get invested.
Take a look at the standings on the Road to the Kentucky Derby as of 2/4:
For the Road to the Kentucky Derby Race Schedule>>>
Attend the 2014
You are being given the opportunity to attend the 140th running of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby! With Official Ticket Packages direct from Churchill Downs, you have guaranteed access on race days. Plus, you’ll be granted access to an exclusive in-track hospitality venue where you can escape the Kentucky elements and relax with your group.
Inside the VIP hospitality area, you’ll find complimentary gourmet food and beverages, private wagering stations, simulcast TV coverage of the track activities, so you don’t miss a beat while you’re not in the stands.
With so many different ticket package and hospitality options, there’s a perfect fit for any group. You can also opt in for optional transportation to and from the Churchill Downs and luxurious accommodations.
Get information on how you can attend the 2014 Kentucky Derby today!
It’s been 35 years since the last horse, Affirmed, swept the three-race series – the longest gap in time between crowning champions since the it’s first horse, Sir Barton in 1919. Is the accomplishment now just history and destined to remain in the past as a prize for an era that is long gone in racing?
Columnist and industry expert Steven Crist wrote “As an exercise in logic, the Triple Crown is almost ridiculous: Three races in five weeks for unseasoned 3-year-old horses over different tracks and at distances that have fallen from favor in American Racing. The Triple Crown is racing’s greatest challenge, and its very illogic and difficulty are what keep it so special.”
The Triple Crown and its allure endure. It endures without adopting changes to the series that might make it more attainable. It remains the ultimate achievement of a champion. The 11 horses who have won the title are racing icons– nearly mythological in both their quests and their captures of the Crown. As far as I’m concerned, that is how it should be.
I grew up with paintings of Whirlaway and Citation hanging in my bedroom. I remember watching Secretariat win the Belmont Stakes by 31 inconceivable lengths and, as a horse-crazy teenager, I swooned at photos of jockey turned idol, Steve Cauthen, on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I could have never dreamt that I would spend 15 years of life working for the Triple Crown and working behind the scenes in every aspect of six near misses during Visa’s sponsorship from 1995-2005, and then another attempt by Big Brown in 2008.
Probably the most amazing part of my experience was to witness how destiny chose its subjects to elevate into the Triple Crown limelight. Nearly all of the horses who narrowly missed winning were unexpected. I vividly remember the talk of Triple Crown titles for Fusaichi Pegasus, Point Given and Barbaro. None could fulfill what was believed to have been their calling.
I’m often asked which, of near miss attempts, was my favorite. While I could write a novel about each one, and have been told I should, I guess I’d have to agree that you never forget your first; and my first was Silver Charm in 1997. Even at the time it was happening, it felt like the stars were in alignment: Visa was a new sponsor for the industry and was investing marketing dollars to promote the sport and the Triple Crown. The NTRA was newly-formed and was also executing their first rounds of “Go Baby Go” National television, radio and print campaigns. We were celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown victory with a traveling exhibit and team Secretariat was on tour. Silver Charm’s owners Bob and Beverly Lewis, were beloved. Handsome and articulate jockey Gary Stevens was in the irons. Popular California trainer Bob Baffert, with his beautiful young family in tow, was gregarious and affable with constant quotable one-liners filling the newspapers and airways. And then, of course, was this beautiful gray colt with a Triple Crown sounding name, Silver Charm.
The weeks in between Preakness and Belmont were magical. While I don’t think I slept more than two hours a night, everyone was working together and the pieces were all falling into place with ease. As the horses broke from the starting gate for the Belmont Stakes that Saturday in June, I was standing in the winner’s circle at the finish line with the Triple Crown trophy and a $5 million bonus check behind me at a presentation table. At the 16th pole, the title was just in reach. And then literally, before I could exhale another breath, it was over and Silver Charm had lost by less than stride. That’s what I call God’s time – it is less than a second – that moment that changes the destiny of the entire industry.
So will there ever be a 12th champion? As of yet, racing experts have not yet deemed a frontrunner for the Kentucky Derby, much less begun the musings of whether a horse in this year’s crop is Triple Crown worthy. And that’s just when I get the most optimistic. Life seems to love surprises, and I am forever hopeful that we will all get our new king when we are least expecting it. For more than three decades we have all been waiting for a new coronation. It’s time for destiny to cross this off a bucket list for many of us who want to see it happen in our lifetime, and to add fervor to a new generation of race fans who need the promise fulfilled that it can indeed be done.
Thoroughbred racing has long had the challenge of explaining many of its rules of racing. The recent change in the fee structure for the Kentucky Derby supplemental nominations is another positive step forward in simplifying the whole system; not just for horse owners but also for fans to understand. Most of the language for who qualifies, who gets preference and who owes what monies is often only understood by racing officials and industry veterans, or its details are buried within the legal minutia in the nomination forms.
In the most basic explanation, the Kentucky Derby is a stake race. A stake race means that the owner of the horse must pay a fee to run in the race. The owners then have a “stake” in the pot of money they compete for to win. Under the long tail theory of economics, more people putting monies into the pot through nomination fees results in a higher purse. Further, owners that pre-qualify their horses early pay a lower fee to nominate ($600 by January 25, 2014) than those who wait to nominate later ($6,000 by March 22, 2014). For all those wanting to run after March 22nd, the price to run goes up again to the $200,000 fee.
The key difference now in the new policy is that no matter when an owner decides to put his money in, that horse is no longer placed at the back of the line behind earlier registrars. If that horse is one of the top 20 point earners then that horse will earn a spot to break from the gate. The incentive to nominate early is paying less money and the “penalty” of waiting is paying more money.
While I believe that soliciting nominations for the Kentucky Derby, with its historic allure and a now $2 million purse, is a bit of an oxymoron as anyone who has a horse that is good enough will want to run their horse in the race. That said, the nominations process is important for helping to ensure the quality of the race is maintained in part by its purse structure, but also for some of the administration and facility resources needed to put on the show for on-site and TV fans.
Last year, Churchill Downs also implemented the new point system. Points were assigned to major prep races and awarded to horses based on their finishes with the hopes of simplifying a casual fans’ understanding of who the major contenders would be prior to the first Saturday in May. In my opinion, the point system was “change for change sake” as I always have to get out the matrix to cross reference the point valuation assigned to each race and which race is included or not included in the Series. I thought the previous system was easier as it was based on who won the most money in a graded stake. In retrospect though, one did have to understand what a graded stake was and why that was more important than a regular stake, so both methods would have had to make a casual race fan do some research too.
In either case, the system is based on performance. You have a good horse and win races, you will earn a spot in the Derby. It’s not a popularity contest and there are no selection committees deciding who can play.
As a horseman, and from the opinion of most trainers I know and have worked with over the years, the Kentucky Derby is self-eliminating and self-fulfilling. The chance of being one of those 20 spots is still the longest shot in racing, but when the opportunity arises, it won't be forgotten.