2022 Kentucky Derby: Traditions, food, drinks and other iconic customs for Derby Day

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The Kentucky Derby is one of the most iconic sporting events in the world. But it’s not just the race that has everyone planning their trips to Churchill Downs. It’s the traditions and pageantry that have captivated millions across the globe.

Catch these traditions live at the 2022 Kentucky Derby, which will air on Saturday, May 7 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Coverage is also available to stream live on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

Related: How to watch the 2022 Kentucky Derby

Hats

The Kentucky Derby is known for its colorful and flashy hats and fascinators. Make your own at home using an old hat or headband and whatever materials around the house inspire you, like NBC Sports’ DIY Paper Flower Fascinator.

If you’re pressed for time or creativity (hey, no judgement), there are also many options available online or in stores. The Spring 2022 line from Kentucky Derby 148 Featured Milliner Christine A. Moore Millinery includes an array of hats and fascinators in neutrals, reds, pinks and cool tones.

          Related: Kentucky Derby fashion: Hats, outfit ideas,What to know about the Kentucky Derby

Mint juleps

If you’re feeling posh and maybe a bit more adventurous, why not try replicating this year’s $1,000 Kentucky Derby Mint Julep, which is a nod to the connections between Kentucky and France (for example, both have towns named “Versailles,” but with completely different pronunciations).

The recipe, of course, contains mint and Kentucky bourbon, but also includes pomegranate, orange, lemon and a dash of honey from Versailles, France, if you happen to have some.

If you’re more into fruit, why not try a cherry-infused variation of the Mint Julep, a blackberry take on the cocktail, or a recipe that incorporates strawberry.

          Related: Kentucky Derby 2022 drinks: Recipes, ingredients for traditional Mint Juleps, bourbon cocktails

The Garland of Roses

After the race, the champion horse is given the iconic garland of roses in the winner’s circle, hence why the race is nicknamed “the Run for the Roses.”

In 1883, New York socialite E. Berry Wall presented roses to the women at a party. Inspired by this gesture, Churchill Downs founder and president Meriwether Lewis Clark announced that roses were the official flower of the Kentucky Derby. In 1896, the tradition of draping a blanket of 554 red roses on the Kentucky Derby winner began.

kentucky derby traditions
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Hot browns and other Kentucky Derby foods

When it comes to Kentucky Derby cuisine, it doesn’t get much better than the Kentucky Hot Brown. The hot brown is a product of the historic Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville. In the 1920s, Chef Fred Schmidt was looking for a late-night delicacy for partying night owls and found it in this open-faced turkey sandwich topped with bacon and Mornay sauce.

You also can’t talk about Kentucky food without talking about its world-famous fried chicken. Thanks to Colonel Sanders and his roadside restaurant in Corbin, Ky., Fried chicken may be the most widespread, globally known export out of the Bluegrass State.

          Related: Kentucky Derby food 2022: Recipes for traditional desserts, snacks, pie

The winner’s circle

From 1875-1929, the Kentucky Derby winner would stand in a circled area on the racetrack drawn in chalk dust. It began to be known as the “winner’s circle.” From 1930-1937, organizers moved the trophy presentation from the track to an area adjoining the clubhouse. An electric odds board and presentation stands were added in 1938 and every winning Kentucky Derby horse since then has been led to the winner’s circle.

The winner’s circle is usually only reserved for winners of the Derby, but it has hosted a limited amount of weddings and even has ashes of prominent horse racing and breeding industry workers spread on the ground.

“My Old Kentucky Home”

After the Call to Post is the playing of the state song, “My Old Kentucky Home.” The tradition dates back to the 1920s and the University of Louisville marching band has been part of the performance almost every year.

The song, written by Stephen Foster in the 1850s, depicts slavery in the pre-Civil War South, and there have been renewed calls to re-examine the song’s place – on Derby Day and in American society at large – in recent years.

“Churchill Downs gives careful consideration to our traditions each year,” Churchill Downs vice president of communications Tonya Abeln said earlier this month. “For this year’s Kentucky Derby, we are welcoming the University of Louisville marching band and the accompanying U of L choir to perform the state song of Kentucky.”

Embrace the most important Kentucky Derby tradition and watch the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Full coverage is also available on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

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Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.