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Kentucky Derby 2011: Facts, Traditions, and Tips


Also known as the Run for the Roses and the Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports, the Kentucky Derby 2011 is coming up on May 7th. The longest continuous annual event in sports is held each year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. This year's Derby is the 137th Run for the Roses, so named for the blanket of roses draped over the winning horse. If this is your first time attending the Kentucky Derby, or you're just going to a Derby party with friends, there are some important traditions you should know before you go.

At Churchill Downs, Derby Day is as much about fashion as it is about thoroughbred racing. It's arguably the most fashionable event in sports. Unless your tickets are in the casual infield section, dressing down is a major no-no. Think springtime at the country club. Men wear seersuckers or light-colored sport coats, usually with a snazzy hat. Ladies wear chic pastel dresses or suits, but the real focus of a woman's ensemble at the Kentucky Derby is her hat. Derby Day is not a time for stylish subtlety – be bold with your hat selection. Wear something large and colorful and you'll fit right in. Check out this photo gallery if you need some fashion inspiration for the Kentucky Derby 2011.

The Kentucky Derby itself is just a one-and-one-quarter mile horse race, over in about two minutes' time, but it's part of some much larger traditions. It's the first leg of the annual United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, and it determines which horse will have a chance at winning the first Triple Crown since 1978. The Triple Crown Races are the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes, and these races are only open to three-year-old horses, so each horse only has one shot at racing's most coveted prize. The early favorite in the Kentucky Derby 2011 is Uncle Mo. You can read about all 13 entrants here.

The Derby is the biggest race of the day (and of the year) at Churchill Downs, but there will be races and betting all day long. Come in the morning and sip traditional mint juleps all day while you watch the races. Many of the very best seats are already sold out for the Kentucky Derby 2011, but there are still plenty of tickets available in the grandstand and the infield. Tickets in the grandstand offer great views, easy access to the betting windows, and fabulous style all around you. The infield is another story. If you care about seeing the race or not getting beer spilled on your outfit, don't get infield tickets. But if you just want a party atmosphere, these cheap seats are perfect (but they're not seats; you'll be standing, and don't expect to see the horses).

In addition to mint juleps, a thick, meaty stew called burgoo is a Kentucky Derby tradition. Whether you're in Louisville or hosting a party at home, these are essential elements.

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