Hey, y’all! Derby season is coming — and it’ll be here before we know it! The Kentucky Derby is widely-known as the “fastest two minutes in sports”, “greatest two minutes in sports”, and “most exciting two minutes in sports”. While all of these nicknames are true, I – a Louisvillian and life-long Kentuckian – argue that it’s the best two minutes of the year. I often, in fact, reference Derby to be my “favorite holiday”! In the spirit of the season, I am proud to present my 2021 Kentucky Derby Week Guide. Riders up!
About the Kentucky Derby
Held on the first Saturday of May, the Kentucky Derby is our country’s most storied thoroughbred race. The race has continually occurred since 1875 at Churchill Downs, which is located at 700 Central Avenue in South Louisville.
When Is The 2021 Kentucky Derby
The 2021 Run for the Roses is on Saturday, May 1st. Gates open at 9:30 am ET on Kentucky Derby day and Kentucky Oaks day. Gates open at 5:00 pm ET on opening night. If you plan to attend, please note that no re-entry is allowed.
Preparing For Derby Day
Derby Day is, at minimum, an embodied spirit. Most Derby-goers wear suits, dresses, and bright/colorful southern attire – and no Derby Dress ensemble is complete without a Derby hat or fascinator!
If you are attending in-person this year, don’t forget your mask. In the midst of COVID-19, all guests must wear a protective face covering that fully covers both their nose and mouth.
Helpful Links for the 2021 Kentucky Derby Week
- Order 2021 Kentucky Derby Tickets
- Exploring Louisville, KY
- Prohibited Items at the Racetrack
- Travel & Lodging
- What to Wear
- Gates & Post Times
- Maps & Directions
- Kentucky Derby Week 2021: What To Expect
2021 Kentucky Derby Week Guide
Saturday, April 24th, 2021: Opening Night
Churchill Downs and The Fund for the Arts are again partnering to kick off the spectacle of Derby Week in celebration of Louisville’s extraordinary arts community. On opening night, guests will enjoy a variety of musicians, dancers, live performances, visual artists, and – of course – thoroughbred races!
Opening Night is a “Dress to Impress” occasion. Ladies are encouraged to wear party and cocktail dresses and men are encouraged to wear sharp pants and a dress shirt; a tie is optional. The signature accessory for Opening Night is an evening headpiece, whether it’s a fascinator, feathers, a hat, a headband, or something else! Guests are further encouraged to wear orange in the spirit of creativity and encouragement.
Sunday-Monday, April 25th-26th, 2021: Dawn at the Downs
Dawn at the Downs is a popular tradition for both native Louisvillians and visitors. At this event, Kentucky Derby fans have the opportunity to see the contenders conduct their morning workouts in training for the big day – all while enjoying a delicious breakfast! The morning will be chock-full of excitement, including having the horses announced on the track, discussion of their past performances, and insight on both the Kentucky Derby & Oaks races.
Tuesday, April 27th, 2021: Champion’s Day
Champion’s Day is a celebration of racing history as Churchill Downs highlights Black Horsemen in Thoroughbred racing.
Thursday, April 29th, 2021: Thurby
Thurby is the return of thoroughbred racing under the Twin Spires during Kentucky Derby Week. The event is wildly popular with locals!
Friday, April 30th, 2021: Oaks
The Longines Kentucky Oaks is America’s premier and most lucrative race for 3-year old fillies (female horses) and is held each year on the day before the Kentucky Derby. The race is a $1.25 Million Grade 1 stakes race and the winning filly is awarded a garland of lilies, nicknamed “lilies for the fillies”. The Kentucky Oaks is the second highest attended race in the United States, only trailing the Triple Crown (the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes).
If you plan to attend the 2021 Kentucky Oaks, be sure to wear pink — it’s tradition in driving attention to the fight against breast and ovarian cancer. Oaks Day is always a special day at the track!
Saturday, May 1st, 2021: the Kentucky Derby
Go, baby, go!
Order Your 2021 Kentucky Derby Week Tickets
Purchase tickets for the 2021 Kentucky Derby Week – including Thurby, Oaks, and Derby – here!
Will I see y’all there? Happy Kentucky Derby 2021!
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
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