Friday's $1 million 2013 Kentucky Oaks serves as an exciting precursor to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, but the former race is viewed as a far more local affair than the worldwide reach that the first leg of the Triple Crown has.
Though Louisville residents and those in the surrounding area of states hold the Oaks as a special, less large-scale event, that doesn't mean it isn't popular.
Nearly everyone drops everything for Kentucky Oaks Day, which is considered by many school districts to be an administrative holiday (h/t KentuckyDerbyTours.com).
Crowds at the renowned grounds of Churchill Downs continually shatter records every year, and the Oaks was founded on May 19, 1875, by Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr.—the same day the higher-profile Derby was.
The Oaks is dubbed the "Lillies for the Fillies" because it involves three-year-old females, which provide horse racing fans with a slightly different dynamic.
Fashion and fanciness is always associated with the environment surrounding the action, and Switzerland-based luxury watch company Longines serves as the Kentucky Oaks' main sponsor.
Among the most notable activities going on in the track's massive infield is a fashion contest that showcases the venue's unique sense of style, with extravagant dresses and some of the most interesting hats you'll ever see anywhere.
It is an important part of the tradition at Churchill Downs, and promises to be an entertaining spectacle.
So even if women don't as frequently take an interest in the action on the track—or at the waging windows—the level of clothing sophistication is sure to stun. Whether it's in an aesthetically pleasing way or not would depend on one's taste in what to wear.
Women participating in the fashion show are wearing pink, and all spectators attending at any point on Friday are encouraged to do the same. The pink honors the Oaks' official flower, the stargazer lily.
However, the massive platform this 100,000-plus-attendee event has isn't solely used for flash and upper class—the Oaks is projecting an important universal message this year in particular.
The Survivors' Parade will transpire around the main track, just ahead of the beginning of the Oaks race. Its purpose is to honor cancer survivors, and it debuted in the 135th running (2008) with 135 survivors. Thus, 139 survivors will be involved this time around.
As for the race itself, it is a nine furlong trek that promises to be thrilling. Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has five horses in the Derby, and four in the Oaks—including 3-1 favorite Dreaming of Julia, who starts in post position No. 10 out of 11, according to Claire Novak of BloodHorse.com (h/t ESPN).
While Dreaming of Julia dominated her last race, local news WAVE3 news anchor John Boel cautions those jumping on the favorite's bandwagon:
But beyond what happens on the track, the Oaks serves as a wonderful spectacle that has a little bit more of a close-to-home feel.
In addition to the Oaks preserving the traditions that have been rooted between its own race and the Derby, it sets a mellow tone ahead of the ecstatic atmosphere surrounding the Run for the Roses.
Note: All information, unless otherwise indicated, was obtained from KentuckyDerby.com.