Kentucky Downs is celebrating the May 4 Kentucky Derby in style.
Guests are invited to dress up for the Largest Derby Party South of Louisville as Kentucky Downs commemorates the First Saturday in May. The popular Derby hat contest returns, with Tuwanda Coleman, producer-reporter with Talk of the Town on Nashville’s WTVF-TV NewsChannel 5, this year’s celebrity judge.
Admission and parking are always free at Kentucky Downs, with valet parking available for $5 (complimentary for Diamond and Platinum Players Club members). Premium seating in the Director’s Room is sold out for Derby Day, but there is unlimited general admission.
Guests can roam around the main building’s first and second floors, both featuring large bars, or enjoy the fresh air and a scenic view of Kentucky Downs turf course while on the outdoor terrace or in the adjacent open-air tent. The races will be shown on Kentucky Downs’ jumbo video board positioned for viewing inside and outside the tent, which will be equipped with a bar, a grill for hot dogs and hamburgers and easy access to betting windows.
Kentucky Downs' online ticket office remains open for the live race meet Aug. 31 and Sept. 5, 7, 8 and 12. Racing enthusiasts are encouraged to book their tickets now to avoid being shut out. Seating in some areas and on some days is expected to sell out by Belmont Stakes Day on June 8.
Tickets can be purchased online for the outdoor Turf Club Tent ($50) and Finish Line Pavilion ($35), as well as the air-conditioned Director’s Room ($50) on the second floor of the main building, at http://kentuckydowns.com/racing/live-racing/buy-tickets. The premium areas all include buffet, day’s racing program, video monitors and a cash bar and betting windows.
Derby hat contest -- and see Tuwanda’s special chapeau
The hat contest is open to men and women, with registration between 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Central and judging at 4 p.m. The winner will receive $250, with second place $100 and third place $50.
“Let me tell you, as a Kentucky girl, I am thrilled and honored to be this year’s celebrity judge at the Kentucky Downs hat contest,” said Coleman, who grew up in Cadiz, Ky., west of Hopkinsville. “I love hats, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the ladies and gentlemen will be wearing. Any opportunity to wear a beautiful hat, we Kentucky ladies will take it.
“The Derby is like the Super Bowl of Super Bowls for anybody who lives in Kentucky,” she said. “But the people in Nashville are just as excited in many ways about the Kentucky Derby as we are.”
Coleman plans to wear a special hat that she had given her mother for Christmas four years ago to wear on Easter.
“I never, ever saw my mom go to church without a hat,” she said. “When my mom passed four years ago, she never got a chance to wear the hat I got her for Easter. My sisters and brothers said, ‘You need to take that hat and wear it in honor of our mom.’ So that’s the hat I think I’m going to wear with my dress. I’ve never worn it. It still has the tag on it.”
‘Something for everyone’
Kentucky Downs now is open 24 hours on weekends for non-stop, action-packed fun that can accommodate any schedule.
Churchill Downs’ first of 14 races on the Kentucky Derby program begins at 9:30 a.m. Central, with racing around the country as well as international tracks also available for simulcast wagering on the second floor. There will be plenty of mutuel tellers and self-bet machines, with the races shown on more than 100 high-definition flat-screen monitors.
In addition to the Derby excitement, the 753 historical horse racing terminals spread throughout the first-floor gaming areas provide a potential opportunity to hit a life-changing jackpot.
Mint juleps in the official Derby 145 souvenir glass will be sold for $8. The festivities continue after the races with the popular Nashville rock-and-roll band AC Drive performing in the lounge from 8:30 p.m. until 1 a.m.
“The Largest Derby Party South of Louisville has something for everyone,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager. “If your Derby invitation or last-minute plans fall through, come join us. Come casual or dress to impress. We bring the Kentucky Derby to south-central and western Kentucky, Tennessee and Northern Alabama, and everyone is invited.
“We’re also a convenient place just to drop off bets, with free admission and lots of free parking. The party continues after the races, so come on back to cash your tickets. We’ll be open. And of course there’s no charge for having a great time.”
Don’t forget Kentucky Oaks Day!
In addition to advance wagering on the Derby card throughout the May 3 Kentucky Oaks program, Kentucky Downs again is conducting a $2,000 championship for its Road to the Roses handicapping tournament series. The top 15 handicappers each week in the free Friday tournament earned qualifying points throughout the nine-week run-up to the Kentucky Oaks, with the top 25 point-earners making the Oaks Day final. Qualifying began March 1, with standings available at https://kentuckydowns.com/racing/simulcasting.
Kentucky Downs also will conduct its regular free handicapping contest on Oaks Day, with $250 in cash prizes, for those who don’t qualify for the Road to the Roses championship.
About Kentucky Downs
Located near the Kentucky and Tennessee border, just off Interstate 65 and approximately 35 miles from Nashville, Tenn., Kentucky Downs features more than 750 Historical Horse Racing machines and conducts live turf racing each September on America’s only “European-style” race course while offering among the highest purses in the world. Kentucky Downs is a pioneer in modern Historic Horse Racing, the electronic form of pari-mutuel betting on horses gaining nationwide recognition as one of the great financial success stories in the sport’s history. The year-round entertainment center also offers simulcast wagering seven days a week on tracks throughout America and the world, as well as charitable gaming, dining and other events. Racing has been conducted at the facility since 1990, when it was called Dueling Grounds.
Address: 5629 Nashville Road, P.O. Box 405, Franklin, KY 42135
2019 dates: Aug. 31 and Sept. 5, 7, 8 and 12