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It's Derby Y'All

When I moved to Louisville I didn’t get the Derby, and where were all these people going who took half the week off? I thought it was one day. Boy was I wrong! I made the very naïve mistake of thinking I would never get in to Derby, but here I am six years later and I am hooked. I may now be one of those people wanting to take half the week off but hey once you get Derby week fever there is no turning back.

In honor of my favorite week, in my adopted city, here are a few tips learned along the way by a girl who didn’t grow up here, but has grown to LOVE Derby week!

Fascinator or Hat?

From my point of view I always go fascinator. I don’t particularly love hats, they just aren’t really my style. Now did I ever think I would say a fascinator was my style? No, but listen I LOVE a good theme and hats and fascinators go with the theme. Here is the other reason I like fascinators…they are easily changed to match your outfit. I have two fascinators, a cream one and a black one. For the most part those two colors will match just about anything I wear. To make it even more personalized I buy a clip on flower ($5-$8) in the same color or accent color of the dress I am wearing and VOILA it is like a whole new fascinator. Whether hat or fascinator I always recommend buying a basic color (or 2) and something that can have accessories easily added and removed so that it can make an appearance for more than one year.

Where to buy: I have personally purchased my fascinators on Etsy. If you live in Louisville you can always shop local (a great idea!) but I have found better deals on cute, understated fascinators on Etsy. (I am still supporting small businesses so don’t be too judgmental!)

Thurby and Oaks?

Listen, Derby is amazing. I went one time. The weather was perfect, the company was exceptional and it was an all-around picturesque day, BUT IT IS EXPENSIVE. I spent $24 on the small bottle of champagne (you know the ¼ bottles they sell at events) and we haven’t even discussed the price of tickets. It is just not something that we can do every year. What I have learned is the other big days at the track are just as fun and typically cheaper.

Thursday before Derby = Thurby. Thurby has really picked up in the past few years, especially for the locals. It is a full day at the track and it can go two ways, you can dress to the nines like Derby or you can dress down and since it is Thurby no one cares either way.

Friday before Derby = Oaks. This used to be considered the ‘locals day’ but once us out-of-towners got a taste of it they wanted in on the fun too. Unfortunately this has driven pricing up. Oaks is the opening show to Derby, so the dress code is definitely more on point with the Derby vibe. There is a pink theme to the day but not a requirement for your outfit, so make of that what you want.

(You can do any of these days in the infield, which is cheaper, but I have never done it.)

Betting: A few very basic bets to make on race days

Win: This bet is just a straight amount of money for who you think is going to win the race. Easy, breezy, and the simplest way to do it, also the easiest way to lose. You can be like me and just always bet on the horse with the greatest odds. If by some chance they win the payout is higher BUT also know there is a good chance you will lose the money, which is of course why the odds are so high…

Win, Place, Show: Win = 1st, Place = 2nd, Show 3rd

This is a good beginning bet because you can bet on one horse but this puts them in different positions hoping they come in either win, place, or show. This also means you don’t have to be too savvy about the horses. Something to know: Let’s say you place $1 bet to Win, Place, Show aka ‘Across the Board’, that bet will cost you $3. You are putting the $1 down on every position you are betting on.

Exacta Bet:

An exacta bet is when you pick two horses and place them in 1st and 2nd. The horses must come in at those positions in order to win BUT if you do win the payout is higher. Something to know: Let’s say you place a $1 bet on the exacta box, the actual price is $2 because you are betting on two horses.

The Perfect Mint Julep

Can’t be at the Derby? No big deal because you can still party! Derby parties still include PLENTY of cute outfits, fascinators, bow ties, hats and heels (or more comfortable shoes). One of the most important traditions for your house party: The Mint Julep, which of course is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. My husband, Ray, makes the best one in town, no joke, it is LEGIT. He takes his drink making very seriously so if he is going to do it, it will be done right. After an immense amount of begging he agreed to share the recipe. You are welcome!

Mint Julep Recipe


2-3 mint leaves

2 oz of simple syrup

Homemade Simple Syrup (the base of any good Mint Julep)

3 c. water

2 c. sugar

Bring to a boil, let sugar dissolve,

then add 3-4 sprigs of fresh mint

(Ray grows the mint at our house)

Let rest 15-20 minutes or until cool

3-4 oz of bourbon (Ray recommends Old Forrester 100 proof)


-Muddle together the simple syrup and mint leaves in a high ball glass

-Add 3-4 oz of bourbon

-Fill glass with crushed ice to top it off

(may need to add a splash of simple syrup or bourbon to top off drink)

-Add mint sprig to garnish

-Serve with a straw

-Bottoms up or suck it down…whatever makes you happy

Happy Derby y’all!