From Fashion to Furlongs | The Full 2024 Kentucky Derby Experience

kentucky derby race with money in the background

Is the Kentucky Derby the most elegant sporting event? To us, it is. We tried hard to think of another athletic competition that combines luxury, fashion, bespoke beverages, and a who’s who of the rich and famous, and nothing else comes to mind.

This event is where style, tradition, and sportsmanship prance side by side on the first Saturday in May. Dubbed “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports,” the Derby eclipses the boundaries of horse racing—it’s a chic cultural festival that draws fashionistas, socialites, and sports enthusiasts to descend on Churchill Downs.

To get the full 2024 Kentucky Derby experience, we need to unpack everything from the history of the hats to the thundering hooves of thoroughbreds on the furlong.

watercolor sun hat

Fashion at the Forefront

The Kentucky Derby isn’t just any old horse race; it doubles as a runway. As the horses are reigned and saddled up for their 120 seconds in the spotlight,  the attendees also strut their stuff.

The event is synonymous with sartorial elegance, featuring some of the most over the fascinators (hats that attach to the head, for the uninitiated) that compete with the blanket of roses draped over the winning horse.

As for apparel, for the ladies, the go-to style is flowy dresses adorned with floral patterns, lace, or bold colors paired with statement headwear that ranges from elegantly sculpted hats to the more wild and whimsical fascinators. And the men arrive in tailored suits or blazers in pastel hues, topped off with a fedora or a bow tie, making fashion a parallel competition to the main event.

Think the humans are the only ones who are dressed to the nines? Wrong! Prepping a horse for the Kentucky Derby isn’t just about physical training; it involves meticulous grooming to make sure they look their best on race day. The process is a combination of art and science—the horses don’t just have to perform well but they have to look good at the Derby.

Grooming for Performance and Aesthetics

Horses gearing up for the Derby undergo a comprehensive grooming routine that includes bathing, brushing, mane and tail care, and hoof maintenance. Bathing is done to keep the horse’s coat shiny and clean, using shampoos and conditioners that enhance the natural luster without drying out the skin or hair, and regular brushing removes dirt, dust, and loose hair, promoting healthy skin and a gorgeous, glossy coat.

horse on hind legs

Mane and Tail Care

The mane and tail receive special attention, being braided or styled to prevent tangling and to show off the horse’s features. This not only adds to the aesthetic appeal but also prevents any distractions that loose hair could cause during the race. The use of detanglers and conditioners keeps the mane and tail smooth, making them easier to manage and style—this is someone’s job!

horse standing still

Hoof Care

Hoof care is super important for a horse’s performance and health—farriers work meticulously to trim and shape the hooves so they’re balanced and fit properly with shoes designed for racing. The hooves might get a pedicure, polished or painted with a clear gloss to add to the overall presentation—it’s all in the details when preparing a horse for the Derby.

jockey riding horse

Final Touches

Before they trot out onto the track, horses will get their final touches, being wiped down with special grooming wipes to remove any remaining dust or dirt, and coat shine products are applied to add a gleam. Every step of this grooming process is not just so the horse can perform at its peak but also looks stunning for the thousands of spectators and cameras focused on them.

This level of care reflects the pride and dedication of the teams behind each Derby contender, and it shows. The gorgeous appearance of these horses on race day is a tribute to the hard work and expertise of their groomers, trainers, and caretakers, highlighting the beauty and grace synonymous with horse racing.

water color mint julep

Sipping on Tradition: The Mint Julep

You simply cannot ignore the significance of the event’s signature beverage—no Kentucky Derby experience is complete without the mint julep, an icy concoction of bourbon, mint, sugar, and water. Served in a fancy frosted silver cup, this deliciously decadent cocktail has been a Derby tradition for almost a century, embodying the spirit and hospitality of the South. Whether you’re at Churchill Downs or hosting a Derby party at home, sipping on a mint julep is a rite of passage for every attendee.

Placing Your Bets

Betting on the Kentucky Derby adds another exciting aspect of engagement to the big race day. From seasoned handicappers to casual spectators, the fun of trying to predict the winner, placing your bets, and potentially winning tacks on to the overall vibe. With horses like Honor Marie being touted by expert insiders like Jody Demling, analyzing odds, past performances, and expert tips can turn the betting experience into a strategic game of perception and intuition.

hand putting down poker chips icon

Betting Tips

  • Establish a Budget: Establish a budget before you begin. Betting on the Derby should be enjoyable, not expensive. Stay with what you can afford to lose.
  • Types of Bets: For beginners, placing a bet at a window with a teller at Churchill Downs could be easier than using self-service machines. Give explicit instructions for your horse’s program number, race number, stake amount, and type of wager. 
  • Online Betting: A lot of horse racing betting apps and websites allow Kentucky Derby wagers now that sports betting is legal.
  • Insider Advice: When choosing a horse, consider their winning margins, win % for the year, and recent success at the Derby’s distance on dirt. A horse’s program number might not always match its post position because of linked entries.
  • Across the Board: Should you bet on a long shot, you might want to think about placing an “across the board” wager, which pays out if your horse places in the top three. You have a safety net when placing high-odds bets with this technique.

watercolor roses

The Derby Traditions

In addition to the fashion and the betting there are a set of traditions that give the Kentucky Derby its distinctive southern charm. The singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” as the horses are paraded before the grandstands is a poignant moment that connects the crowd in awed anticipation. The vivid display of 426 red roses that will be draped over the winning horse, which is why the Derby is also known as the “Run for the Roses,” symbolizes the honor and the prestige of winning the Derby.

Whether you’re witnessing the spectacle from the stands of Churchill Downs or watching it elsewhere, making the most of Derby Day is about embodying the spirit of the event. Dress up in your finest, mix up a mint julep, and take part in the festivities. Hosting a Derby-themed party? Tell your guests to dress the part and organize a betting pool to ramp up the stakes—and the fun! No matter where you are, the Kentucky Derby is a chance to celebrate a century-old tradition and watch an exhilarating two minutes of horse racing.

And They’re Off!

As we wait for the gate button to be pushed and the bells to be rung, releasing the horses onto the track to run the Kentucky Derby, we know that it’s so much more than just a race; it’s a cultural event that celebrates the best of sport, style, and society. From the fashion flaunted on the sidelines to the fierce competition on the track, every part is a mix of tradition and excitement that defines the Derby experience. Cheers, and here’s to enjoying every furlong and every fab outfit of the 2024 Kentucky Derby.

Alyssa Waller Avatar
Alyssa Waller

Alyssa contributes sportsbook/online casino reviews, but she also stays on top of any industry news, precisely that of the sports betting market. She’s been an avid sports bettor for many years and has experienced success in growing her bankroll by striking when the iron was hot. In particular, she loves betting on football and basketball at the professional and college levels.