Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 1:40 am | Fair 47º


Judy Crowell: The Kentucky Derby — Horses, Hats and Juleps

Louisville has much to offer year-round, but the month-long Run for the Roses is a memorable experience all its own

The Kentucky Derby is touted as being the most exciting two minutes in sports. True, but the Run for the Roses experience goes on for a month. Mint juleps, hot-air balloon races, lawn parties, steamboat races, Kentucky Oaks (the Friday before the “big one” races), riverside concerts, celebrity sightings, private galas and hats. Lots and lots of hats.

Louisville, during the other 11 months, has much to offer. Louisville Waterfront Park reconnects the city to the history of the Ohio River. The Main Street corridor boasts lovely 19th-century cast-iron facades, and contemporary galleries along Market Street showcase an outstanding arts community.

The Seelbach Hilton Hotel, opened in 1905, oozes “golden era” charm and has hosted countless celebrities, including nine U.S. presidents, Al Capone and F. Scott Fitzgerald during his Kentucky bourbon-swilling, expensive cigar-smoking days.

The Grand Ballroom was the inspiration for Daisy and Tom Buchanan’s wedding in The Great Gatsby. For Southern comfort and fine dining, you’ll want to try Jack Fry’s, Porcini, Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse where O.J. Simpson and his entourage were refused service, and Vincenzo’s for marvelous Italian.

I’m not a fashion editor, but I must tell you about my hat. You absolutely have to have a hat for the Kentucky Derby. The bigger, the more lavish, the better. Mine was brown horsehair (appropriate) with brown-tipped white feathers around the wide portrait brim. Suffice it to say, I’ll never wear it again, unless I travel to London for the Ascot races.

I’m also not a food editor, but I feel compelled to share this coveted recipe for mint juleps:

2 tablespoons super-fine sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
24 mint leaves, plus 4 for garnish
2 cups finely crushed ice
1 cup Kentucky bourbon
Combine sugar, lemon juice and mint leaves in a pitcher. Crush with a wooden spoon. Add ice and bourbon. Mix well. Pour into frosted silver cups and garnish with mint.

Legend has it that, on a hot day in 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, accompanied by his chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, arrived at West Point to give the commencement address. Mint juleps were being served. When asked by a waiter if he wanted a second mint julep, MacArthur wisely declined, saying, “No, thank you. I think I’ll stop now while I still know who is president.”

Looming over the whitewashed grandstand, infield and racetrack are the iconic twin spires of Churchill Downs, officially opened in 1875. Betting booths and computers are everywhere, and there’s even a “Millionaire’s Row” floor for those who want to lose big. With so much to take in at the tracks, it’s easy to miss some of the sights inside.

Racing cartoonist Pierre Bellocq, more popularly known as “Peb,” spent a year creating a 36-foot-wide tribute to every jockey who has won the Run for the Roses. Don’t miss this radiant, loving portrayal of racing’s best. Eddie Arcaro, nicknamed “Banana Nose,” won for the first time in 1938. He is tied with the most Kentucky Derby wins at five and is the only jockey to have won the U.S. Triple Crown twice.

Another massive tribute to the derby is Craig Colquhoun’s masterpiece, a 36-foot-long glass rendition of Churchill Downs on race day. It had been a dream of his for years to create this exquisite glass tour de force. Inspired by Princess Diana to “follow his dream,” he completed this not-to-be-missed extravaganza in a little more than a year.

I’ve spent many a first Saturday in May watching the Kentucky Derby on television, and every time the crowd is quieted as the glorious thoroughbreds are marched before the grandstands, as the University of Louisville Marching Band marches forward and more than 10,000 spectators begin singing Stephen Foster’s nostalgic “My Old Kentucky Home” — every single time, a tear or two slides down my cheek.

I’ll tell you — being there in person, standing and watching from the grandstand railing, gazing on the magnificent 3-year-old horses parading below and joining in singing with the exhilarated, fancifully bonneted throngs, it is definitely a two-hankie moment.

Noozhawk contributing writer Judy Crowell is an author, freelance travel writer and part-time Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >