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Why We Love The Kentucky Derby (and How to Celebrate it in NYC)

Every year, more than 150,000 spectators from across the world don their most eye-catching hats and fascinators to cheer on thoroughbred racehorses at the Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky.

It’s a brief, week-long sporting event that begins with an opening night ceremony and a series of public workouts, musical performances, and a high-stakes fillies race for the ladies of the track.

And even for people who generally shrug off sports, the Derby has evolved into an event that’s frankly as much about fashion as it is about the Triple Crown.

It’s just one of the many reasons we’re in love with the Kentucky Derby.

Because It’s Fashionable
As much spectacle as it is sport, the Kentucky Derby is a veritable parade of fanciful fascinators and wide-brimmed sun hats. To really fit in, attendees sport preppy pastel dresses and suits with fun floral textile

According to the official Kentucky Derby website, Vineyard Vines is an easy go-to for a race day ensemble. And while the iconic, elaborate headwear is something of a ladies look, men can accessorize with a playful, printed bowtie or a timeless fedora.

Because the Stakes are High
This year, the Kentucky Derby purse is $2 million. Considering that the event is known as the most exciting two minutes in sports, that works out to $1 million for every very exciting, very fast minute. And even spectators can walk away with a significant sum of money.

Placing wagers on racehorses is a huge part of the Kentucky Derby experience (this year, experts are eyeing Mendelssohn, Justify, and Audible). Get in on the action by giving your bet to the mutuel teller at Churchill Downs, or by betting from home at TwinSpires.

Because It’s a Part of American History
The first Kentucky Derby was held in 1875, making it the longest continually-running sporting event in the nation’s history. The fleeting race has attracted such notable names as Jimmy Carter, Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Harry S. Truman, among others.

Because It’s an Excuse to Party
If you can’t make it to Louisville this year, grab a ticket for the Kentucky Derby Party at the Refinery Hotel instead. The hotel, set in a former 20th-century millinery, is tipping a hat to the Derby’s quixotic fashions and sporting spirit with a full-venue celebration on Race Day, Saturday, May 5.

From 3:30 to 7:30 p.m., guests can dress as if they’re in the Churchill Downs grandstand and celebrate both the equestrian event as well as the hotel’s five-year anniversary.

Join the waitlist for last-minute tickets and experience the massive bash, which takes over three hotel venues — the Hatbox, Refinery Rooftop, and Winnie’s Jazz Bar — and features a premium open bar with specialty cocktails (mint juleps will, of course, be served).

There may not be any racehorses in attendance, but guests can look forward to entertainment from live Djs, a photo booth, and a Best Dressed contest. Passed hors d’oeuvres, including fresh oysters and Kentucky hot brown sandwiches will also be served. We hope to see you there!

The Refinery Kentucky Derby Party is just one of the many city events going on in May. See them all here!

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