Louisville, Kentucky Day 2 - 07/07/2011

Published at 8:19 PM in ,

Ok, can I just say that Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum is quite possibly the best place we've visited on this trip?  It was amazing, and I'm not really even a 'horse' person.  I think it might be because the Kentucky Derby is such a part of American culture, and the history of the Derby and Churchill Downs is so interesting.  Horse racing is not a simple sport!  Who knew so much went into these horses and the races??  Horse people know, I guess.

The Kentucky Derby Museum is right outside of Churchill Downs.  I always imagined that Churchill Downs would be out in the country somewhere, but no, it is right in the city of Louisville.  The museum is quite affordable and includes a tour of the grounds of Churchill Downs.  They offer more in depth and behind the scenes tours, but this tour fit our needs (and budget!).

Just inside the museum is a starting gate to go through to the main exhibits.  The first exhibit included some of the outrageous hats worn to the Derby, as well as some of the outfits people have worn.  A dress worn by Anna Nicole Smith is on display, as well as Penny Chenery's, the owner of "Secretariat", dress that she wore to the 1973 Kentucky Derby.

Collection of Derby hats

There is a main theatre in the museum that plays a movie about the Derby.  The neat part is that it is an oval shaped room, and the screen goes around it a full 360 degrees.  You almost feel like you are in a race yourself!

There are a ton of exhibits in the museum, from the history of the race to the jockeys and owners.  There is information on the successful horse farms and how they are designed and run.  Another important part of the museum is the information on the Kentucky Oaks, which is run by fillies the day before the Derby.

A display of the "Lilies for the Fillies" for the Kentucky Oaks

The museum is VERY interactive.  From audio displays to trying your hand (or mouth, in this case) as a race announcer, there is something to keep everyone interested in the museum.  There is a three horse video game race, which Rachael won EVERY time!  Michael couldn't stand it that she beat him, but finally just had to admit that she was better at the game.  There was also a display that explained how betting on the races works.  You could also 'bet' on a few races, watch them, and see how you have done on your 'bets.'

Video game horse race

We eventually moved on to our grounds tour.  It began in the courtyard where every winner of the Derby has their name posted.  All of the Triple Crown winners have their names in gold.  We were very excited to look for Secretariat's name and take our picture underneath it.

We got to see the area where the horses are saddled and mounted, all of the betting windows, and into the stands.  We got to go right up to the edge of the track, where you could go onto it if you wanted.  The track is well maintained throughout the year, as horses train there even when it is not racing season.  The care of the track is a science in itself, making sure it is the right mixture of dirt, sand, water, and whatever else is there. (There was an exhibit on that, too.)

Right on the track!

Surprisingly, most races at Churchill Downs are extremely affordable, with ticket prices ranging from $3.00 to $33.00.  Of course tickets are much more than that in some seats for the Derby and Oaks, but it makes it possible for most people to enjoy the fun.

This year's winner's silks

Another neat feature to see in the museum and on the grounds are the winner's silks.  There are little jockey statues around holding various signs.  The shirts (or 'silks') of the jockeys are repainted every year to match the silks of the Derby winner.  This year Animal Kingdom was the Derby winner, and his jockey's silks are green and red.

There are lots of neat pictures to see in the Photo Gallery, so be sure to check it out.

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