What Time Is the Kentucky Derby

kentucky derby

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most prestigious and celebrated horse racing events in the world. It is the first leg of the prestigious Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, which also includes the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. The Kentucky Derby is held annually on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, and it has a rich history dating back to 1875.

The event attracts horse racing enthusiasts, celebrities, and spectators from around the globe, who come to witness the thrilling race and experience the unique traditions and atmosphere of the Kentucky Derby. Whether you’re a seasoned horse racing fan or simply looking to immerse yourself in an iconic American tradition, the Kentucky Derby is an event that should be on your bucket list.

History of the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby has a long and storied history, dating back to the late 19th century. The first Kentucky Derby was held on May 17, 1875, and it was the brainchild of Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., the grandson of explorer William Clark. Clark had traveled to Europe and was inspired by the prestigious horse races he witnessed, such as the Epsom Derby in England.

Upon his return to the United States, Clark founded the Louisville Jockey Club and secured the funding to build Churchill Downs, which would become the permanent home of the Kentucky Derby. The first race featured a field of 13 horses and was won by a horse named Aristides, ridden by Oliver Lewis.

Over the years, the Kentucky Derby has grown in both size and prestige, attracting the best horses, jockeys, and trainers in the world. It has become a cultural icon, with its iconic hats, mint juleps, and the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” becoming integral parts of the event.

Importance of the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is more than just a horse race; it is a cultural event that has become deeply woven into the fabric of American history and tradition. The race is considered the “Run for the Roses” due to the garland of roses that is draped over the winning horse, and it has become a symbol of the American spirit and the pursuit of excellence.

The Kentucky Derby is also an important event for the horse racing industry, as it serves as a showcase for the top Thoroughbred horses and their connections. A win at the Kentucky Derby can significantly boost the value of a horse and its breeding potential, making it a highly coveted prize for owners, trainers, and jockeys.

Furthermore, the Kentucky Derby has a significant economic impact on the city of Louisville and the surrounding region. The event attracts thousands of visitors each year, who contribute to the local economy through hotel stays, dining, and other spending. The Kentucky Derby is also a major source of revenue for the horse racing industry, with millions of dollars wagered on the race each year.

Date and Time of the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is always held on the first Saturday in May, making it a highly anticipated event on the annual sports calendar. In 2023, the Kentucky Derby will take place on Saturday, May 6th.

The exact post time for the Kentucky Derby varies from year to year, but it is typically scheduled to start around 6:30 PM Eastern Time (ET). However, the exact post time can be influenced by a variety of factors, such as the length of the undercard races and any potential weather delays.

It’s important to note that the Kentucky Derby is a highly televised event, with coverage typically beginning several hours before the main race. NBC Sports has the exclusive broadcast rights to the Kentucky Derby and provides extensive pre-race and post-race coverage, as well as live streaming options for viewers.

How to Watch the Kentucky Derby

There are several ways to watch the Kentucky Derby, depending on your location and viewing preferences:

  1. Television: The Kentucky Derby is broadcast live on NBC Sports, with coverage typically beginning around 2:30 PM ET on the day of the race. The main race is usually scheduled to start around 6:30 PM ET.
  2. Streaming: NBC Sports also offers live streaming of the Kentucky Derby through its NBCSports.com website and the NBC Sports app. This allows viewers to watch the race on their computers, tablets, or mobile devices.
  3. Radio: For those who prefer to listen to the race, the Kentucky Derby is also broadcast live on radio stations across the country, including the official Kentucky Derby radio network.
  4. In-Person: Of course, the ultimate way to experience the Kentucky Derby is to attend the event in person at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Tickets for the Kentucky Derby are highly sought after and can be quite expensive, so it’s important to plan well in advance if you want to attend the race.

Popular Traditions Associated with the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is a event steeped in tradition, and there are several iconic customs and practices that have become synonymous with the race:

  1. Wearing Elaborate Hats: One of the most recognizable traditions of the Kentucky Derby is the wearing of elaborate, extravagant hats by attendees, especially women. These hats can range from simple and elegant to truly over-the-top and whimsical.
  2. Drinking Mint Juleps: The mint julep, a classic cocktail made with bourbon, mint, and crushed ice, is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Mint juleps are served throughout the event and are a must-try for many attendees.
  3. Singing “My Old Kentucky Home”: As the horses make their way to the starting gate, the crowd at Churchill Downs traditionally sings the state song of Kentucky, “My Old Kentucky Home,” which has become an integral part of the Derby experience.
  4. Watching the Garland of Roses Ceremony: After the race, the winning horse is draped with a garland of over 400 red roses, which has become one of the most iconic images of the Kentucky Derby.
  5. Attending the Kentucky Oaks: The day before the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks is held, which is a prestigious race for female Thoroughbreds. Many attendees will attend both the Oaks and the Derby as part of their experience.

Famous Horses and Jockeys in the History of the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby has been the stage for many legendary horses and jockeys throughout its history. Some of the most famous include:

SecretariatRon Turcotte1973
Seattle SlewJean Cruguet1977
AffirmedSteve Cauthen1978
American PharoahVictor Espinoza2015
JustifyMike Smith2018

These horses and jockeys have cemented their places in the annals of Kentucky Derby history, with their performances and achievements becoming the stuff of legend.

Betting on the Kentucky Derby

Betting on the Kentucky Derby is a popular pastime for many fans of the event. There are a variety of ways to bet on the race, including:

  1. Win, Place, and Show Bets: These are the most common types of bets, where you can wager on a horse to win, place (finish in the top two), or show (finish in the top three).
  2. Exacta, Trifecta, and Superfecta Bets: These more complex bets involve correctly predicting the exact order of the top finishers, with the potential for larger payouts but also higher risk.
  3. Exotic Bets: These include bets like the Pick 6, where you must correctly predict the winners of six consecutive races, or the Daily Double, where you must correctly predict the winners of two consecutive races.

Regardless of the type of bet you choose, it’s important to do your research and understand the odds and potential payouts before placing your wager. The Kentucky Derby is one of the most heavily bet on events in the world, so making informed decisions can be the key to success.

Attending the Kentucky Derby in Person

Attending the Kentucky Derby in person is a bucket-list experience for many horse racing fans. The event is held at the historic Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, and the atmosphere is electric.

If you’re planning to attend the Kentucky Derby, it’s important to plan well in advance, as tickets can be quite expensive and in high demand. There are a variety of ticket options available, ranging from general admission to exclusive hospitality packages.

Once you’ve secured your tickets, you’ll want to prepare for the event by packing the appropriate attire, including a stylish hat or fascinator for women and a suit or sport coat for men. You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the layout of the racetrack and the various amenities and attractions available, such as the Paddock area, where you can get up close to the horses before the race.

Attending the Kentucky Derby in person is a truly unforgettable experience, and it’s one that you’ll cherish for years to come.


The Kentucky Derby is a truly iconic American event that has captured the hearts and imaginations of people around the world. From its rich history and cultural traditions to the thrilling action on the racetrack, the Kentucky Derby is a must-see event for any horse racing fan or lover of Americana.

Whether you choose to watch the race from the comfort of your own home or make the journey to Churchill Downs to experience it in person, the Kentucky Derby is sure to leave a lasting impression. So mark your calendars, don your finest hat, and get ready to witness the “Run for the Roses” – the most exciting two minutes in sports.

To learn more about the Kentucky Derby and how to plan your trip to this iconic event, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide on the Kentucky Derby. From tips on securing tickets and accommodations to insights on the best ways to experience the race and its traditions, our guide has everything you need to make the most of your Kentucky Derby adventure.

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