The 2017 Kentucky Derby race, like every year, is only two minutes — and what happens after the race is sometimes unexpected. From big gold rings to having the best of the weird Kentucky Derby hats put permanently on display, there are odd things about this paramount horse race that fans may not know.
If you think that the party is over for Louisville when the Kentucky Derby winners are finished celebrating, that is hardly the case. Since most of Louisville is too busy working to celebrate with tourists for the Kentucky Derby, their celebrations come the day after.
Within a mile of Churchill Downs, the Monnik Beer Co. is having a Kentucky Derby “comedown” party on Sunday, May 7. Advertising on Facebook, Monnik says their post-Derby party is here to “bring you back down to earth” after the “roses have been won, your winning ticket cashed in, and post-Derby mimosas have been imbibed.”
Also within a couple of miles of Churchill Downs, Haymarket Whiskey Bar in Downtown Louisville is having their weekly Sunday Service DJ night on May 7. Instead of focusing on tourists visiting for the 2017 Kentucky Derby, Haymarket focuses on “serving the servers” (free pizza and pinball) and they promise to be “yacht rock free.”
Post-Kentucky Derby parties aside, what people might not know about are the weird things that happen with the Kentucky Derby horses, the fans, and their owners after they win the big race.
For instance, most people love NYC Fashion Week, but might not immediately imagine an event where it would be appropriate to wear something wild straight from the runway.
Alternatively, it is clear from years of social media posts that the Kentucky Derby creates the occasion for anyone that finally wants to wear that one weird outfit that was designed by an artist.
For this reason, Kentucky Derby fashion is a bigger deal than most outsiders realize, and few horse racing fans might be aware that the coolest Kentucky Derby outfits get put on display at Churchill Downs.
When talking about the designer outfits and fashion involved with the Esquire Kentucky Derby party at his Downtown Louisville 21c Hotel, co-owner Steve Wilson told Courier-Journal about what happens to his own clothes after Derby Day passes.
As it appears, Steve Wilson’s stylish hats and outfits from Kentucky Derby celebrations of the past are put on display throughout the year at the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs. The fashion display called “It’s My Derby” is open to visitors throughout the year.
Unlike other clothing displays in a museum, Steve Wilson explains that Kentucky Derby fashion is truly unique because he feels it is a time where he can step out of his “comfort zone” and “have more permission to push the envelope” with the styles he chooses.
In addition to having clothes put on display from the most fashionably dressed Kentucky Derby attendants, there are also a few surprising things going on behind-the-scenes.
Many horse racing fans are curious about the Kentucky Derby prize money, how much each winner gets, and how the money is divided up between owners, trainers, and the jockey. Although it says on the website that the Kentucky Derby 2017 had a $2 million prize, that is hardly what the first-place winner got in cold hard cash.
Instead, according to a CNN report from the 2016 Kentucky Derby, $1.6 million will go to the first place winner and the rest of the $760,000 will be divided up between second and fifth place.
One weird bit of trivia most fans might not know is that the horse owners must pay to get in the Kentucky Derby. It costs $25,000 to put in the horse’s application for the Kentucky Derby and then another $25,000 when the horse runs through the gate on race day.
Sadly, jockeys only get about $350 for their work as a jockey in the Kentucky Derby after they pay their agent and valet. If their horse wins the Kentucky Derby, they get 10 percent of the prize money and five percent for third or second-place.
One other piece of weird trivia is that the Kentucky Derby prize money is called the “purse,” and it is not the only thing the winner gets.
While the primary focus of the Kentucky Derby is getting your horse a chance to charge the highest stud fees for the rest of its life, there are glamorous prizes awarded later in the year, as well.
A good example is the huge 14K gold ring that the Kentucky Derby winning team gets each year. Made by the high school graduation class ring company Herff Jones for the past 10 years, each owner, jockey, and trainer that took part in winning the Kentucky Derby gets a big ring to commemorate their win. The rings are customized with the jockey’s silk colors and has the horse’s name engraved on the ring.
When Art Sherman got his Kentucky Derby ring in 2014 for his win with California Chrome, he posted a picture of the finished Herff Jones ring on Twitter.
For now, the owners, horses, trainers, and jockeys are still focused on the other Triple Crown races like the Preakness held on May 20 and the Belmont Stakes held on June 10.
Since Always Dreaming is the winner of the first of the Triple Crown races, all eyes will be on Always Dreaming to win the other two races of the Triple Crown.
Always Dreaming might end up being another Triple Crown winner like American Pharoah, but he could also go on to another career. For example, Horse Network reported in late 2016 that hundreds of thoroughbreds like the ones that compete in the Kentucky Derby went on to have a second career in equestrian dressage competitions.
In October 2016, more than 300 former thoroughbred racehorses showed off at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington after being re-trained for nine months. The national symposium is a joint effort of the Retired Racehorse Project and Thoroughbred Charities of America.
Kentucky Derby owners, trainers, and jockeys are also known to use their fame to be particularly charitable in unexpected ways.
CBS Sports reported in June 2015 that, after American Pharoah won the final leg of the Triple Crown after a weird 37-year drought, his jockey, Victor Espinoza, and his trainer, Bob Baffert, used their international spotlight to state they were donating their 2015 Belmont Stakes winnings to charity.
Jockey Victor Espinoza donated to an undisclosed California cancer treatment center. Famed Kentucky Derby trainer, Bob Baffert, donated $50,000 each to the California Retirement Management Account, the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, and a retired horse facility called the Old Friends Farm.
About the importance of giving money to charities that care for older horses, Bob Baffert stated the following after winning the 2015 Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown.
“I want to share this, I want to make sure that those horses that we really love… we have to take care of them… Win, lose, or draw, I was going to do it.”
For anyone that is looking for Always Dreaming memorabilia or collectibles, stay tuned to the various charities that feature Kentucky Derby winners. According to Paulick Report, it is common for Kentucky Derby winners to donate jockey silks, bridles, and other personal items that were part of winning the race.
In November 2016, an auction to benefit Thoroughbred Charities of America featured Kentucky Derby 2014 winner, California Chrome. The jockey silks fetched $13,000 during a live auction and California Chrome’s Kentucky Derby bridle raised over $3,000 for the TCA charity.
[Featured Image by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]