Rita Schimpff has done her homework and brings some fun facts about the Triple Crown to light in this piece. She even includes her own favorite Mint Julep recipe!
The first Saturday in May is always a harbinger of Spring for me – horse racing and the first leg of the triple crown – the Kentucky Derby.
The race at Churchill Downs is also known as the most exciting 2 minutes in sports, and lovingly referred to as “the run for the roses.”
In the winner’s circle, the winning horse of the Kentucky Derby is draped with a blanket of fresh red roses – 554 of them, in fact!
According to its website, in 1883 at a post-Derby party, New York socialite E. Berry Wall presented roses to each lady in attendance. This function caught the eye of one of the guests, Churchill Downs founder and President Col. M. Lewis Clark, and the gesture eventually led to the idea of the rose as the official flower.
The Derby was first run in 1875 and the 1st recorded use of the blanket of roses was in 1896.
The next two legs of the Triple Crown are the Preakness, run at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md., on May 16 (third Saturday in May), and the Belmont Stakes at Jerome Park, N.Y., on Sat., June 6.
Each race has its traditions of flowers, music, and signature cocktail … well, sort of.
The Preakness was first run in 1873 and has a winner’s blanket of fresh yellow flowers enhanced to represent the state’s flower, the Black-Eyed Susan, which is also the name of the race’s official cocktail. At post-time the crowd joins the United States Naval Academy Glee Club as they sing the state song, “Maryland, My Maryland”.
Even though the Belmont Stakes is the oldest (1867) of the 3 races, it is not as steeped in tradition as the other 2 are. It has had 3 official drinks and at least 3 songs. It even tried Jay-Z’s song, “Empire State of Mind,” in 2010 before going back to 2nd choice “New York, New York.” The tradition of approximately 700 white carnations on the winners green velvet horse blanket has been safe so far, and not only does the winning horse get “blanketed” with this floral extravagance, but also, the Secretariat statue located in Belmont’s paddock gets draped in a similar blanket of flowers.
But back to the first and possibly my favorite race, the Derby. The long standing official song of the Kentucky Derby has been “My Ole Kentucky Home” and should be enjoyed while sipping on a traditional Mint Julep, which has been the featured, traditional beverage of the Derby for almost a century.
Since the Derby has held on to tradition, I think you should have a julep recipe to enjoy!
Rita Schimpff is an artist and designer who grew up hunting, fishing and enjoying outdoor life in Oklahoma and Texas, thus developing an early love and respect for wildlife and their habitat. She has carried this love to her art and her long involvement with many local and national conservation associations. As a member of the first Junior League San Antonio Mitchell Lake Wetlands Project, she created its logo and illustrated Mitchell Lake Wildlife Refuge: an Illustrated History. A graduate of Texas Christian University with a BFA in Commercial Art and Textile Design, Rita retired after more than 30 years in an interior design field. She launched her Texas based company, Heritage Game Mounts. She creates elegant, Old-World-inspired panels to display domestic and exotic game. She pens a blog called “Bring The Wild Inside” at the site, and at The WON, that offers ways to bring beauty and balance to the shared hunter/non-hunter home. Rita and her husband, Skip, have made hunting and fishing a large priority with their children. Along with two Boykin Spaniels and numerous adopted rescues, all aspects of hunting are very much a family affair. All of Heritage Game Mounts’ products are American made. View all posts by Rita Schimpff
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