2011 Kentucky Derby: Behind the Scenes at Churchill Downs
Until you've experienced a Derby live at Churchill Downs, there's no way of truly summarizing the wild weekend. The people are prettier, the food is better, the sun is warmer, the drinks are cooler and the track takes your breath away.
Ram Trucks provided Bleacher Report with the opportunity to take in the Kentucky Derby in one of a kind fashion—exclusive access to Millionaire's Row, the Red Carpet, prime grandstand viewing and just about about anything a patron of the Kentucky Derby could ask for.
This behind-the-scenes photo gallery will give you inside access to Churchill Downs.You won't be able to sip the frosty Mint Juleps or flirt with southern bells, but the images will hopefully inspire you to one day make the pilgrimage to Louisville, Kentucky to experience the most exciting two minutes in sports.
Enjoy this behind the scenes look at the Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs!
Nothing screams Churchill Downs quite like the excitement of watching a race from the grandstand. Betters flash their tickets and hoot and holler from start to finish. As the horses make their way around the final turn and down the final stretch, the crowd noise erupts into a frenzy of wishful thinking and last-second support.
Animal Kingdom Wins
When all was said and done, Animal Kingdom was the surprising winner in a race that was about as even as we've seen in a decade.
His owner, Barry Irwin, held up the famous solid gold Derby trophy for everybody to see.
The Mint Julep
What exactly is a Mint Julep, you might ask. Well, here's the recipe:
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- Sprigs of fresh mint
- Crushed ice
- Early Times Kentucky Whisky
- Silver Julep Cups
One of these bad boys will set you back $10 at the Derby.
It's a scientific fact that people are happier at Churchill Downs (not a scientific fact). Forecast for Derby weekend is always the same: Pearly whites with a 100 percent chance of massive hats.
The Red Carpet was filled with celebrities on Derby day. Here's a shot of Louisville Men's Basketball coach Rick Pitino in his patented white sport coat. Coach Pitino is one of the biggest celebrities due on the red carpet, because of the state of Kentucky's obsession with basketball.
Pink Day at the Oaks
The annual Kentucky Oaks Pink Out has transformed the way attendees dress the day before the Derby. Pink is everywhere and it's all to benefit breast cancer awareness. And you know what they say: Real men wear pink (I was unaware of the tradition and was not a real man).
Churchill Downs looks like a Vegas hotel from the outside. The massive structure dwarfs the hundreds of thousands of patrons that visit each May for Derby weekend. You'll spend a solid 45 minutes walking around the Downs each day so pack some comfy shoes—there are only two exits for the fans to negotiate.
The rich and famous overlook the Derby from the fourth and sixth floors at Churchill Downs. The hats are more extravagant, the bets are larger and the Juleps are stiffer. There's nothing like kicking back on Millionaire's balcony after cashing in on a winning ticket.
Blonde hair, a beautiful smile, an extravagant hat and a bright dress—Southern Belles at the Derby have it all.
Men dig the power, women dig the flowers...Ram Trucks, a match made in heaven. Ram was the Official Truck of the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby, a spectacular event which saw longshot Animal Kingdom take home the title.
Wagering on the races at the Kentucky Derby is a tradition like no other. Lines are 25-plus people deep just to place a bet. Once you hit the cashier counter it's all business: How much and which horse.
Gambling on each race (even if it's a $.50 bet) helps make the day exciting from start to finish.
Even when it doesn't rain, the folks in the infield always find a way to get muddy anyway. But this year they took advantage of some occasional sprinkles to get a slip and slide going.
Who says horse racing is stuffy?
5:00 A.M. the Morning Before
If you you're looking for a unique experience, 5 A.M. on the backside at Churchill Downs is the place to be the day before the Derby. All of the top horses hit the track under the lights for a final test-run while their owners and trainers anxiously watch.
Taking in the galloping horses at Churchill Downs with a only a handful of the biggest names in the industry is a moment you'll never forget.
This isn't that out of the ordinary on Derby day.
Between races there's often plenty of downtime. The track, however, never stops buzzing. You'll hear vendors yelling out, "Mint Juleps for sale" and plenty of betting banter as fans gear up for the next race.
The Kentucky Derby is a race for everyone young and old.
This may have been the cutest fan at Churchill Downs. Who wants to bet she grows up to love horses?
Thankfully, the dude made a much-needed appearance. The fashion at the Derby is incredibly diverse. You'll see men dressed in anything from three-piece suits to jean shorts and football jerseys.
The balcony off of the Director's Room provides one of the most breathtaking views at Churchill Downs. Thousands of fans congregate to socialize and watch the jockeys lead their horses to the track.
Fashion Trumps All
You won't find a better dressed sporting event. The Kentucky Derby feels more like a spring gala in the Hamptons than horse race in Louisville.
Couting Down the 5 Best Hats at the Kentucky Derby: No. 5
It's always a good look when the dress perfectly complements the cap.
Couting Down the 5 Best Hats at the Kentucky Derby: No. 4
All blue everything gave this cap the nod for the No. 4 pick. Bigger really is better when it comes to Derby hats.
Counting Down the 5 Best Hats the Kentucky Derby: No. 3
April showers bring May flowers.
Counting Down the Best Hats at the Kentucky Derby: No. 2
Bright colors and exotic feathers are commonplace at the Derby. Peacock feathers earned this woman the No. 2 slot.
Counting Down the 5 Best Hats at the Kentucky Derby: No. 1
Who says blondes have all of the fun?
See You Next Year Y'all
It was my first weekend at the Derby, but I can assure you it won't be my last. The wild weekend was one that I'll never forget. I urge not just race fans, but any and all sports fans to make the trip out to Louisville—the Derby is an experience you'll remember forever.
Ram Trucks played a crucial role in making my Derby weekend one for the ages.