Louisville, KY - Horse Racing Capital of the World

Experience the Thrill of Kentucky Derby and The Oaks

Each May Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky hosts two of the most exciting horse racing events you will find in the United States, the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks. Each of these events has its own culture and traditions, that have evolved over time. Visitors from all corners of the US come together each year to take in the excitement and festivities of these world class events.

Churchill Downs is one of the top ranked hours racing tracks in the United States. Located right in south Louisville its accessibility is a testament to the long history and importance of horse racing in Kentucky. This course officially opened in 1875 and in the same year hosted the first Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs has also hosted other important horse racing events, and is an ever popular destination for residents and visitors alike in Louisville. This year, 2011, marks the 137th year of both the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby.

The Kentucky Oaks is held the Friday before the Kentucky Derby. This race is for three year old thoroughbred fillies. The horses and jockeys compete on a 1 1/8 mile course. Every year the winner of this race receives a $500,000 purse. The winner is also draped with a garland of lilies, which has given this race the name "Lillies for the Fillies."

Attendees of the Kentucky Oaks get the chance to participate in the many traditions of the event. The day of the Kentucky Oaks is now "Ladies First" day. It has earned this distinction because the race is limited to fillies, and the official flower is the lily, and because it is a day to celebrate the importance of women. Now, the official color is pink, to help highlight and raise money for causes important to women.

Visitors to Churchill Downs on the day of the Kentucky Oaks wear all sorts of pink to show their spirit. As the Kentucky Oaks is held the Friday before the Kentucky Derby it also falls during the Kentucky Derby Festival. This festival lasts for the two-weeks leading up to the one-of-a-king event. If you want to truly experience the spirit and culture of the Kentucky Derby, attending some of the events held during the festival is a must.

The Kentucky Derby takes place on the first Saturday of May. This is for three year old thoroughbred horses, both geldings and fillies. The horses race on a  1 1/4 miles course. The excitement, speed and duration of this race has earned it the title "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports." It is also sometimes referred to as "The Run for the Roses" because winners are draped in a blanket of roses after completing the race. The winner of the Kentucky Derby also has the chance to become a Triple Crown winner, as the Kentucky Derby is the first of the three races that make the Triple Crown. The other two Triple Crown races are the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.

All of the excitement and festivities of the Kentucky Derby make it one of the most attended stakes race in the United States. Attendees of this race can watch from the standing room only area, or can get tickets for the trackside dining, or can instead enjoy the fun party atmosphere at The Infield. Each year the Infield at the Kentucky Derby is packed full of people ready to have fun. Part of the Infield is dedicated for those revelers ready to have lots of raucous fun. For the families that want to enjoy the fun of the Infield the area near Turn 1 has a more sedated family setting.

Throughout the remainder of the year, visitors to Louisville can learn about the race, culture and history of the Kentucky Derby at the Kentucky Derby Museum. This museum is located on the front steps of Churchill Downs and is a great attraction throughout the year in Louisville. This museum preserves and shares all of the fun and excitement of the Kentucky Derby and its history throughout the year.