Traveler & Travel Advisor Reviews: 4.9 out of 5 stars  

The Kentucky Derby is one of the world’s premier horse races and each year thousands of fans descend upon Louisville to experience this incredible weekend of sport, tradition, and entertainment. We have been traveling to the Kentucky Derby for many years and we’ve learned a thing or two along the way. To help our guests plan their ultimate Kentucky Derby trip, we have created a Kentucky Derby 2024 Guide that contains everything you need to know about the upcoming event. If you’re attending the Kentucky Derby for the first time, check out the tips and information below to help you get the most out of your experience.

What is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is an annual horse race that takes place on the first Saturday in May. The Kentucky Derby is a Grade I Stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds and is known as one of the most prestigious horse races in the world.

When is the Kentucky Derby?

The next Kentucky Derby is scheduled for May 4, 2024. This popular race has been held annually, without interruption, since 1875.

What time is the Kentucky Derby?

The schedule for the 2024 Kentucky Derby has not yet been finalized. The Kentucky Derby post time is typically between 6:30 and 7:00 pm EST. However, there is plenty to see before the main event. Gates usually open at 9:00 am with other races begin mid-morning.

Where is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby takes place at Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Who is in the Kentucky Derby field?

The field for the 2024 Kentucky Derby has not yet been determined. A total of 20 horses are expected to compete in the race.

How do horses qualify for the Kentucky Derby?

The field is selected via a series of races, known as the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Points are awarded to the top four horses in each race; the top 20 in the standings at the end of the series earn their spot in the Derby.

How long is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby race distance is 1¼ miles or 10 furlongs. In terms of time, the race usually lasts around two minutes, hence the nickname “the most exciting two minutes in sports.”

How fast do the horses run in the Kentucky Derby?

The speed of the Kentucky Derby horses is typically around 37 mph. The world record for top speed by a thoroughbred is 43.97 mph, though this was not clocked at the Kentucky Derby.

What is the prize for the Kentucky Derby winner?

At the 2023 Kentucky Derby, the total prize purse was $3 million, with an estimated $1.86 million of that going to winner. The winning jockey receives 10% of the winnings.

What is a Triple Crown Winner?

To achieve the triple crown, a horse must win the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and the Preakness Stakes in the same year. To date, only thirteen horses have managed to achieve the Triple Crown.
Triple Crown Winners include:

  • Justify (2018)
  • American Pharoah (2015)
  • Affirmed (1978)
  • Seattle Slew (1977)
  • Secretariat (1973)
  • Citation (1948)
  • Assault (1946)
  • Count Fleet (1943)
  • Whirlaway (1941)
  • War Admiral (1937)
  • Omaha (1935)
  • Gallant Fox (1930)
  • Sir Barton (1919)

How many people watch the Kentucky Derby?

The 2023 Kentucky Derby was watched by 14.8 million people (averaged) on NBC and Peacock, as well as the 150,335 fans who were in attendance at Churchill Downs.

What is the weather like at the Kentucky Derby?

The weather in Louisville in May is typically warm with average highs in the 70s. May is also the city’s rainiest month so we recommend preparing for all conditions when packing for your Derby trip. To see the historical weather for the Kentucky Derby, dating back to 1875, click here.

What else is there to do in Louisville besides the Derby?

Louisville offers a number of attractions for visitors to explore while in town for the Derby. In addition to the Derby week festivities, the city offers a number of museums including the Louisville Slugger Museum and Muhammad Ali Center, some great restaurants, and plenty of tours to horse country and bourbon country. For more ideas, check out our Louisville Travel Guide, which is full of our favorite things about this exciting destination.

How many Kentucky Derbys have there been?

The 2024 Kentucky Derby will be the 150th running of the event.

When was the first Kentucky Derby?

The first Kentucky Derby took place May 17, 1875 at what is now known as Churchill Downs.

Who won the first Kentucky Derby?

The first winner of the Kentucky Derby was Aristides, who was ridden by Oliver Lewis.

Who won the last Kentucky Derby?

Mage came from behind to win the 2023 Kentucky Derby, which took place on May 6, 2023.

Kentucky Derby Winners since 2000:

  • 2023 – Mage
  • 2022 – Rich Strike
  • 2021 – Medina Spirit
  • 2020 – Authentic
  • 2019 – Country House
  • 2018 – Justify
  • 2017 – Always Dreaming
  • 2016 – Nyquist
  • 2015 – American Pharoah
  • 2014 – California Chrome
  • 2013 – Orb
  • 2012 – I’ll Have Another
  • 2011 – Animal Kingdom
  • 2010 – Super Saver
  • 2009 – Mine That Bird
  • 2008 – Big Brown
  • 2007 – Street Sense
  • 2006 – Barbaro
  • 2005 – Giacomo
  • 2004 – Smarty Jones
  • 2003 – Funny Cide
  • 2002 – War Emblem
  • 2001 – Monarchos
  • 2000 – Fusaichi Pegasus

What is the race schedule for the 2024 Kentucky Derby?

The schedule for the 2024 Kentucky Derby has not yet been finalized. When available, it can be viewed here.

What is the “official” Kentucky Derby Drink?

The Mint Julep has long been a Derby staple. Each year, Churchill Downs serves up close to 120,000 of the drinks during the Kentucky Derby weekend. The popular drink is made with bourbon, simple syrup and fresh mint leaves.

What should I wear to the Kentucky Derby? Is there a dress code?

One of the highlights of Derby week is the fashion. So what should you wear to the Kentucky Derby? There is no dress code but typically attendees dress up in elaborate spring outfits. For women, the focus is on the hats. You’ll see all kinds of extravagant headwear color-coordinated with colorful spring outfits. For men, the traditional seersucker suit is always popular, though in recent years pastel-toned suits and bold color palettes are prominent as well.

What celebrities are at the Kentucky Derby?

Kentucky Derby weekend is known to draw plenty of A-list celebrities every year. In 2023, celebrities in attendance Derby weekend included:

  • Patrick Mahomes
  • Travis Tritt
  • Smokey Robinson
  • Richie Sambora
  • Randy Travis
  • Macy Gray
  • Bobby Flay
  • Jack Harlow
  • Emmitt Smith
  • Chris Pine

What are the Twin Spires?

Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, has twin spires on its roof. They were added to the design by Joseph Dominic Baldez, who determined they would provide the structure with a “striking appearance.” Over the years they’ve become a symbol of the venue and the Derby itself.

What is the Garland of Roses?

Each year, the winner of the Kentucky Derby is presented with a garland of red roses as part of the victory ceremony. The garland contains over 400 red roses and was introduced at the 1932 race.

What is the song they sing before the Kentucky Derby?

“My Old Kentucky Home” is a long-standing Derby tradition. The song has been performed by the University of Louisville Marching Band (with the accompaniment of the 150,000+ fans in attendance) since 1936, as the horses travel to the starting gate.

Interesting Kentucky Derby Facts

The upcoming Kentucky Derby will be run on May 4, 2024. This prestigious event offers a fun atmosphere and draws thousands of visitors to Louisville every year. Here is a list of 20 fun and interesting Kentucky Derby facts to get you in the spirit for the big race.
1. The smallest field at the Kentucky Derby consisted of just 3 horses in 1892.
2. No female jockey has ever won the Derby. Shelly Riley was the closest with a second place finish in 1992.
3. The jockeys with the most Kentucky Derby wins are Bill Hartack and Eddie Arcaro, each with five wins.
4. The garland of roses that is presented to the winner consists of more than 400 roses and weighs 40 pounds.
5. In its history, the Kentucky Derby has never been postponed due to weather.
6. Though the current race distance is 1 ¼ miles, the race was originally slightly longer at 1 ½ miles.
7. The winner at the first Kentucky Derby in 1875 received $2,850. The purse for second place was $200.
8. The Kentucky Derby is the longest continuously run annual sporting event in the USA.
9. The person credited with starting the Kentucky Derby is Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., grandson of explorer William Clark.
10. The record for the fastest Kentucky Derby winner is held by Secretariat, who ran it in 1:59:40 at the 1973 race.
11. There have only been three fillies (female horses) to win the Kentucky Derby, the most recent in 1988.
12. The attendance record at the Kentucky Derby is 170,513 spectators in 2015.
13. The record for most money wagered at the Kentucky Derby is $188.7 million in 2023.
14. In order to make the 120,000 mint juleps that are served over Derby weekend, the staff at Churchill Downs uses a total of 10,000 bottles of Old Forester Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail mix, 1,000 pounds of fresh mint, and 60,000 pounds of ice.
15. The process of creating the Kentucky Derby trophy begins in the fall of the previous year in order to have it completed on time.
16. There is a Kentucky Derby Museum located at Churchill Downs, which welcomes over 230,000 visitors every year.
17. If you’re in town early for Derby, you can enjoy a number of events that comprise the Kentucky Derby Festival including a hot-air balloon event, a steamboat race, and a half and full marathon.
18. The host racetrack, which opened in 1875, wasn’t actually named Churchill Downs until 1883.
19. Nineteen Kentucky Derby winners have had names starting with the letter “S”.
20. The first time the Kentucky Derby was televised was in 1952.

If you’d like to experience the Kentucky Derby for yourself, talk to our luxury travel experts or request a Custom Trip Quote today.