The Kentucky Derby Experience by Mike Penna

Saturday, May 4 will mark the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby. Racing fans from around the globe will make their way to Churchill Downs in Louisville to celebrate the race often referred to as “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” or “The Run for the Roses.”

While the mile and a quarter race will take center stage shortly before 7:00 p.m. eastern, the pageantry of Derby week includes a multitude of parties, festivals and the opportunity to show off your fashion skills with gentlemen often seen wearing colorful pinstriped suits and fedoras, while ladies don their finest dresses, fascinators and festive Derby hats.

Owning a Derby horse is one of the most challenging goals to achieve in all of sports. The race is restricted to horses three years of age which means you only get one shot at making history.  Add in the fact the field is limited to a maximum of just 20 starters which will come from a 2021 foal crop of 17,850 babies born that year, and the odds of finding your horse in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May is truly a dream come true.

For those fortunate few who will realize the dream of owning a Derby horse, the excitement builds steadily throughout the day as post time nears. Sipping a few mint juleps is a good way to calm your nerves until the time you and your horse are called to make the walkover from the barn area to the saddling paddock about 60 minutes before the race. It is in those unforgettable steps, with fans cheering your horses name that the reality of participating in the Kentucky Derby truly hits you.

Moments later, another wave of emotion as you watch your trainer tighten the saddle on your Derby horse. You take a few minutes to greet your jockey and wish them luck as the butterflies continue to churn inside of you before experiencing the emotions of watching your horse walk through the tunnel and onto the historic main track like a gladiator entering the arena. This is the same track where 149 previous Kentucky Derby winners have left their mark on an age-old sport, and you realize you could soon join them. More than 150,000 fans sing “My Old Kentucky Home” in unison. You fight back the tears, or just let them flow. The fulfillment of a lifelong dream could be just moments away.

For those not in your position, it’s time to lock in those final bets. Many have been studying the form of the Derby horses for several days, while others choose to go with their favorite name or the jockey wearing the prettiest silks.

There is no sure thing when it comes to picking the winner of the Kentucky Derby, but it is guaranteed that the thrill of sitting beneath the iconic Twin Spires on the first Saturday in May will be a moment you will remember for a lifetime.

Enhance your Derby week experience and learn about all of this year’s contenders by tuning in to our Derby Countdown Shows on the Horse Racing Radio Network, Tuesday, April 30 through Thursday, May 2 from 8:00-10:00 a.m. eastern on Sirius 162/XM 207. Each show is also streamed live and posted as a podcast on our HRRN website,