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Louisville's Churchill Downs Is Open for More Than Just the Kentucky Derby


Known as "the most exciting two minutes in sports," the Kentucky Derby has been a major international event for almost 150 years. While the media covering the Kentucky Derby races may be primarily focused on the track, there is actually a lot going on within the kitchens and bars of Churchill Downs racetrack. As the track’s executive chef, David Danielson regularly changes the menu at on-site destinations including Millionaire Row, Skye Terrace, the Stakes Room, and the Roses Lounge, while also overseeing fare at The Courtyard at Downs After Dark.

Prior to joining the culinary team of Churchill Downs in 2011, Danielson had trained at France's École Hotelier de Tain l’Hermitage and worked at top restaurants in New York and Chicago. However, Churchill Downs was not his first sports-related gig, as the chef also served guests at the PGA Championship events and the U.S. Open tournament. Davidson found a perfect home at Levy Restaurants, which oversees food operations for the Louisville staple. The group also blends fine dining in at venues Los Angeles' Staples Center, Brooklyn's Barclays Center, and Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena.

I spoke with Danielson for The Daily Meal. Within our Q&A, the co-author of the forthcoming Bourbon Country cookbook – written with Tim Laird, America’s CEO, chief entertaining officer – also opened up about what brought him to Kentucky and which other local spots he recommends to visitors. Thanks go to Sara Brown Meehan, Old Forester and the Brown-Forman team for the introduction to the acclaimed chef.

The Daily Meal: How did you wind up in Louisville at Churchill Downs? Had you been to Kentucky before taking this job?
Chef David Danielson: I was living in Chicago and had recently sold my catering business. I was looking to get back into running large events and the Kentucky Derby had always been on my bucket list of events to work. I had some colleagues working for Levy Restaurants, so I reached out to them about moving to Kentucky and the rest is history!

A lot of cities have identifiable cuisine based on specific dishes that they are known for. Does Louisville have its own cuisine or signature dishes?
Louisville has several dishes that are unique to the city – The Hot Brown, Henry Bain’s sauce, Bourbon Nut Pie, and sorghum are a few that most locals identify with. However, what people don’t really know is the large amount of agricultural product being grown or produced in the area, as well as some amazing cheesemakers and country ham producers.

What is your favorite item on the Churchill Downs menu?
That’s like choosing your favorite child. I don’t know that I have a favorite dish as much as I love the fact we change the Derby menu completely from year to year. This gives us the ability to create a new experience for our guests for each Derby, as well as the opportunity to work with local farmers and artisans to showcase the great products coming from the area.

Churchill Downs is not the first sports venue which you had lent your culinary expertise to. What was your first sports-related job within the food world?
Over the course of my career, I found a niche in special events. As the chef at Rockefeller Center in New York City, I fed guests at the PGA and US Open. During this time, I started taking the fine-dining food mentality and began exploring how to expand that out to a large format, serving lots of people and really trying to make fresh and bold interesting food for large groups.

As the executive chef at Churchill Downs, I focus on incorporating the authentic flavors of the South while remaining progressive and inventive. I draw tons of inspiration from contemporary culinary trends, global cuisines and seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients. I work to surprise race fans with meals that acknowledge the past and the traditions of the Derby, but point very strongly to the future of cuisine.

Prior to becoming a chef, had you worked as a server? Or did you start off by studying within a culinary program?
Actually, when I was younger I did work as a server – first in a hotel, then as a back waiter in a French restaurant. I also owned a Chicago-style hot dog stand.

I studied at the Dumas Pere School of French cooking and later continued at the renowned hotel school Ecole Hotelier Tain l’Hermitage in France, honing my culinary skills at several Michelin-starred restaurants. Upon returning to the U.S., I worked as the executive chef at New York’s United Nations Plaza Hotel and at Chicago favorites as the Ritz Carlton and Charlie Trotter’s. I also served as personal chef to the British Consulate General.

When it comes to adding new items to the menu there, where do your ideas usually come from? Do you subscribe to a lot of magazines or read a lot of cookbooks?
I change the menu every year and host tastings all throughout the year. Each year, the ingredients for all the menus are handpicked from local farmers and international partners to achieve a distinctive blend that elevates Southern flavors to new heights. Overall, I spend a lot of time on developing recipes that I think will have appeal for race fans. I believe it’s of the utmost important that the food is fresh and people walk away and feel like they’re getting the best quality.

Beyond being on the grounds at Churchill Downs, at-home Derby parties also continue to grow in popularity. We’re always looking for dishes that you can assemble ahead of time and throw in the oven. When you’re having a party, you don’t want to be working. You want dishes that you can head up, pull it out, throw it out and enjoy your party!

When not busy with food, how do you like to spend your free time?
I try to spend time with my wife and kids – we love to travel! Sailing is another one of my loves. I also enjoy reading cookbooks and visiting bourbon distilleries.

Other than the offerings at Churchill Downs, is there a restaurant or two in Louisville that you can recommend?
When I go out for a special meal or I am asked by out of town visitors where they must eat, Harvest is my first choice. Not only do they have amazing cuisine sourced from local farmers and artisan purveys, but they also have an excellent bourbon selection!

My other go-to is a place called Red Hog, which is a butcher shop by day and a restaurant at night. They truly do a great job – it’s casual, delicious food with a menu that is always changing depending on what animals they are working with in the butcher shop.

Finally, Chef, any last words for the kids?
If you ever have a chance in life to come see the spectacle that is the Kentucky Derby, do it! There is truly nothing like it. In addition, keep challenging yourself and keep growing!


How to Enjoy the Kentucky Derby from Afar

Nearly ten thousand people came out to Louisville’s Churchill Downs racetrack on the first Saturday of May in 1875 to watch Aristides win the first Kentucky Derby. The largest Derby crowd ever gathered in 2015, when more than 170,000 fans packed the track to witness American Pharoah capture the first leg of what would become the first successful Triple Crown bid since Affirmed in 1978. And this year, of course, marks another historic first: the first Kentucky Derby that will run without fans in attendance.

But the race will go on (albeit on the first Saturday in September), a winner will be draped with a blanket of roses, and the unbroken tradition of America’s oldest continually held major sporting event will endure. And there’s no reason not to enjoy it, with these tips for how to master a socially distanced Derby Day at home.

Place Your Bets Online

Let’s be honest: Horse racing is more interesting when there’s money on the line. Even a couple of bucks on a long shot will have you cheering on your pick like a personal visit to the winner’s circle is at stake. Online wagering has grown in availability, ease, and popularity, and now there exist numerous options, not only to bet on the big event, but on all of the week’s races leading up to the 146th running of the Derby on Saturday, September 5.

TwinSpires is the official online wagering portal of Churchill Downs, but there are others. I used Keeneland Select, which also offers Derby betting, for my first foray into online wagering when Lexington’s Keeneland racecourse held a truncated meet (also without fans in attendance) earlier this summer. I set up a profile, loaded some funds into the account, and was off to the races.

I told myself I would only bet on the major stakes races, but I quickly turned into something of an armchair handicapper as I cross-referenced expert picks and studied each horse’s confirmation as they saddled up in the paddock and paraded onto the track. In the end, I netted a whopping $10 over four days of racing. But considering what I’d typically spend on drinks and ill-advised, spur-of-the-moment bets at the track, it’s a win.

Mix Up a Historic Drink

Fun fact: So many glasses “went missing” from the clubhouse following the 1938 Kentucky Derby that the following year the track offered the first official souvenir mint julep glass for sale, and the julep has been associated with the Derby ever since.

Given the late date of this year’s race, Tim Knittel—recently appointed the first Official Bourbon Steward of Churchill Downs—suggests mixing things up with another historic drink with racing roots. The Jockey Club, which formed in New York City in 1894 and maintains a breed registry for Thoroughbred horses, also gave rise to two eponymous cocktails: one made with gin, and another with bourbon. Naturally we’ll go with the bourbon version, which tastes like a slightly sweeter Manhattan.

To make the drink, fill a shaker with ice and add two ounces of bourbon, one ounce of sweet vermouth, and a quarter ounce of Maraschino liqueur (simple syrup will also work), along with two or three dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir until chilled, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

Dig into Derby Dishes

Despite your pandemic resolutions, Derby Day is not the time to skimp on calories. From bourbon-spiked chocolate pecan pie and bourbon balls to Hot Browns and beaten biscuits with country ham, many classic Southern dishes have come to be associated with the Derby. You’ll find most of them in Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook, as well as this collection of fifteen winning Kentucky Derby recipes, which includes beer cheeses and Benedictine spreads.

Wear the Hat Anyway

One of the most memorable Derby parties my wife and I threw occurred when we were living in Chicago, far from our Kentucky home. It was the first Derby experience for many of our Midwestern friends, who arrived wearing cowboy hats, baseball caps, and all manner of chapeaus. We sipped mint juleps, ate burgoo, put together a Derby draw pool, and the last guests left long after the big race.

While the pandemic may have limited our ability to safely gather in large groups, it can’t squash that feeling of camaraderie. So set up the big TV outside, break out the good stuff, set out a spread of food, and invite a few friends over or just gather with family. Because even though the stands will be empty, when strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” play over the loudspeakers at Churchill Downs, we’ll all be singing along.


How to Enjoy the Kentucky Derby from Afar

Nearly ten thousand people came out to Louisville’s Churchill Downs racetrack on the first Saturday of May in 1875 to watch Aristides win the first Kentucky Derby. The largest Derby crowd ever gathered in 2015, when more than 170,000 fans packed the track to witness American Pharoah capture the first leg of what would become the first successful Triple Crown bid since Affirmed in 1978. And this year, of course, marks another historic first: the first Kentucky Derby that will run without fans in attendance.

But the race will go on (albeit on the first Saturday in September), a winner will be draped with a blanket of roses, and the unbroken tradition of America’s oldest continually held major sporting event will endure. And there’s no reason not to enjoy it, with these tips for how to master a socially distanced Derby Day at home.

Place Your Bets Online

Let’s be honest: Horse racing is more interesting when there’s money on the line. Even a couple of bucks on a long shot will have you cheering on your pick like a personal visit to the winner’s circle is at stake. Online wagering has grown in availability, ease, and popularity, and now there exist numerous options, not only to bet on the big event, but on all of the week’s races leading up to the 146th running of the Derby on Saturday, September 5.

TwinSpires is the official online wagering portal of Churchill Downs, but there are others. I used Keeneland Select, which also offers Derby betting, for my first foray into online wagering when Lexington’s Keeneland racecourse held a truncated meet (also without fans in attendance) earlier this summer. I set up a profile, loaded some funds into the account, and was off to the races.

I told myself I would only bet on the major stakes races, but I quickly turned into something of an armchair handicapper as I cross-referenced expert picks and studied each horse’s confirmation as they saddled up in the paddock and paraded onto the track. In the end, I netted a whopping $10 over four days of racing. But considering what I’d typically spend on drinks and ill-advised, spur-of-the-moment bets at the track, it’s a win.

Mix Up a Historic Drink

Fun fact: So many glasses “went missing” from the clubhouse following the 1938 Kentucky Derby that the following year the track offered the first official souvenir mint julep glass for sale, and the julep has been associated with the Derby ever since.

Given the late date of this year’s race, Tim Knittel—recently appointed the first Official Bourbon Steward of Churchill Downs—suggests mixing things up with another historic drink with racing roots. The Jockey Club, which formed in New York City in 1894 and maintains a breed registry for Thoroughbred horses, also gave rise to two eponymous cocktails: one made with gin, and another with bourbon. Naturally we’ll go with the bourbon version, which tastes like a slightly sweeter Manhattan.

To make the drink, fill a shaker with ice and add two ounces of bourbon, one ounce of sweet vermouth, and a quarter ounce of Maraschino liqueur (simple syrup will also work), along with two or three dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir until chilled, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

Dig into Derby Dishes

Despite your pandemic resolutions, Derby Day is not the time to skimp on calories. From bourbon-spiked chocolate pecan pie and bourbon balls to Hot Browns and beaten biscuits with country ham, many classic Southern dishes have come to be associated with the Derby. You’ll find most of them in Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook, as well as this collection of fifteen winning Kentucky Derby recipes, which includes beer cheeses and Benedictine spreads.

Wear the Hat Anyway

One of the most memorable Derby parties my wife and I threw occurred when we were living in Chicago, far from our Kentucky home. It was the first Derby experience for many of our Midwestern friends, who arrived wearing cowboy hats, baseball caps, and all manner of chapeaus. We sipped mint juleps, ate burgoo, put together a Derby draw pool, and the last guests left long after the big race.

While the pandemic may have limited our ability to safely gather in large groups, it can’t squash that feeling of camaraderie. So set up the big TV outside, break out the good stuff, set out a spread of food, and invite a few friends over or just gather with family. Because even though the stands will be empty, when strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” play over the loudspeakers at Churchill Downs, we’ll all be singing along.


How to Enjoy the Kentucky Derby from Afar

Nearly ten thousand people came out to Louisville’s Churchill Downs racetrack on the first Saturday of May in 1875 to watch Aristides win the first Kentucky Derby. The largest Derby crowd ever gathered in 2015, when more than 170,000 fans packed the track to witness American Pharoah capture the first leg of what would become the first successful Triple Crown bid since Affirmed in 1978. And this year, of course, marks another historic first: the first Kentucky Derby that will run without fans in attendance.

But the race will go on (albeit on the first Saturday in September), a winner will be draped with a blanket of roses, and the unbroken tradition of America’s oldest continually held major sporting event will endure. And there’s no reason not to enjoy it, with these tips for how to master a socially distanced Derby Day at home.

Place Your Bets Online

Let’s be honest: Horse racing is more interesting when there’s money on the line. Even a couple of bucks on a long shot will have you cheering on your pick like a personal visit to the winner’s circle is at stake. Online wagering has grown in availability, ease, and popularity, and now there exist numerous options, not only to bet on the big event, but on all of the week’s races leading up to the 146th running of the Derby on Saturday, September 5.

TwinSpires is the official online wagering portal of Churchill Downs, but there are others. I used Keeneland Select, which also offers Derby betting, for my first foray into online wagering when Lexington’s Keeneland racecourse held a truncated meet (also without fans in attendance) earlier this summer. I set up a profile, loaded some funds into the account, and was off to the races.

I told myself I would only bet on the major stakes races, but I quickly turned into something of an armchair handicapper as I cross-referenced expert picks and studied each horse’s confirmation as they saddled up in the paddock and paraded onto the track. In the end, I netted a whopping $10 over four days of racing. But considering what I’d typically spend on drinks and ill-advised, spur-of-the-moment bets at the track, it’s a win.

Mix Up a Historic Drink

Fun fact: So many glasses “went missing” from the clubhouse following the 1938 Kentucky Derby that the following year the track offered the first official souvenir mint julep glass for sale, and the julep has been associated with the Derby ever since.

Given the late date of this year’s race, Tim Knittel—recently appointed the first Official Bourbon Steward of Churchill Downs—suggests mixing things up with another historic drink with racing roots. The Jockey Club, which formed in New York City in 1894 and maintains a breed registry for Thoroughbred horses, also gave rise to two eponymous cocktails: one made with gin, and another with bourbon. Naturally we’ll go with the bourbon version, which tastes like a slightly sweeter Manhattan.

To make the drink, fill a shaker with ice and add two ounces of bourbon, one ounce of sweet vermouth, and a quarter ounce of Maraschino liqueur (simple syrup will also work), along with two or three dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir until chilled, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

Dig into Derby Dishes

Despite your pandemic resolutions, Derby Day is not the time to skimp on calories. From bourbon-spiked chocolate pecan pie and bourbon balls to Hot Browns and beaten biscuits with country ham, many classic Southern dishes have come to be associated with the Derby. You’ll find most of them in Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook, as well as this collection of fifteen winning Kentucky Derby recipes, which includes beer cheeses and Benedictine spreads.

Wear the Hat Anyway

One of the most memorable Derby parties my wife and I threw occurred when we were living in Chicago, far from our Kentucky home. It was the first Derby experience for many of our Midwestern friends, who arrived wearing cowboy hats, baseball caps, and all manner of chapeaus. We sipped mint juleps, ate burgoo, put together a Derby draw pool, and the last guests left long after the big race.

While the pandemic may have limited our ability to safely gather in large groups, it can’t squash that feeling of camaraderie. So set up the big TV outside, break out the good stuff, set out a spread of food, and invite a few friends over or just gather with family. Because even though the stands will be empty, when strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” play over the loudspeakers at Churchill Downs, we’ll all be singing along.


How to Enjoy the Kentucky Derby from Afar

Nearly ten thousand people came out to Louisville’s Churchill Downs racetrack on the first Saturday of May in 1875 to watch Aristides win the first Kentucky Derby. The largest Derby crowd ever gathered in 2015, when more than 170,000 fans packed the track to witness American Pharoah capture the first leg of what would become the first successful Triple Crown bid since Affirmed in 1978. And this year, of course, marks another historic first: the first Kentucky Derby that will run without fans in attendance.

But the race will go on (albeit on the first Saturday in September), a winner will be draped with a blanket of roses, and the unbroken tradition of America’s oldest continually held major sporting event will endure. And there’s no reason not to enjoy it, with these tips for how to master a socially distanced Derby Day at home.

Place Your Bets Online

Let’s be honest: Horse racing is more interesting when there’s money on the line. Even a couple of bucks on a long shot will have you cheering on your pick like a personal visit to the winner’s circle is at stake. Online wagering has grown in availability, ease, and popularity, and now there exist numerous options, not only to bet on the big event, but on all of the week’s races leading up to the 146th running of the Derby on Saturday, September 5.

TwinSpires is the official online wagering portal of Churchill Downs, but there are others. I used Keeneland Select, which also offers Derby betting, for my first foray into online wagering when Lexington’s Keeneland racecourse held a truncated meet (also without fans in attendance) earlier this summer. I set up a profile, loaded some funds into the account, and was off to the races.

I told myself I would only bet on the major stakes races, but I quickly turned into something of an armchair handicapper as I cross-referenced expert picks and studied each horse’s confirmation as they saddled up in the paddock and paraded onto the track. In the end, I netted a whopping $10 over four days of racing. But considering what I’d typically spend on drinks and ill-advised, spur-of-the-moment bets at the track, it’s a win.

Mix Up a Historic Drink

Fun fact: So many glasses “went missing” from the clubhouse following the 1938 Kentucky Derby that the following year the track offered the first official souvenir mint julep glass for sale, and the julep has been associated with the Derby ever since.

Given the late date of this year’s race, Tim Knittel—recently appointed the first Official Bourbon Steward of Churchill Downs—suggests mixing things up with another historic drink with racing roots. The Jockey Club, which formed in New York City in 1894 and maintains a breed registry for Thoroughbred horses, also gave rise to two eponymous cocktails: one made with gin, and another with bourbon. Naturally we’ll go with the bourbon version, which tastes like a slightly sweeter Manhattan.

To make the drink, fill a shaker with ice and add two ounces of bourbon, one ounce of sweet vermouth, and a quarter ounce of Maraschino liqueur (simple syrup will also work), along with two or three dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir until chilled, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

Dig into Derby Dishes

Despite your pandemic resolutions, Derby Day is not the time to skimp on calories. From bourbon-spiked chocolate pecan pie and bourbon balls to Hot Browns and beaten biscuits with country ham, many classic Southern dishes have come to be associated with the Derby. You’ll find most of them in Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook, as well as this collection of fifteen winning Kentucky Derby recipes, which includes beer cheeses and Benedictine spreads.

Wear the Hat Anyway

One of the most memorable Derby parties my wife and I threw occurred when we were living in Chicago, far from our Kentucky home. It was the first Derby experience for many of our Midwestern friends, who arrived wearing cowboy hats, baseball caps, and all manner of chapeaus. We sipped mint juleps, ate burgoo, put together a Derby draw pool, and the last guests left long after the big race.

While the pandemic may have limited our ability to safely gather in large groups, it can’t squash that feeling of camaraderie. So set up the big TV outside, break out the good stuff, set out a spread of food, and invite a few friends over or just gather with family. Because even though the stands will be empty, when strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” play over the loudspeakers at Churchill Downs, we’ll all be singing along.


How to Enjoy the Kentucky Derby from Afar

Nearly ten thousand people came out to Louisville’s Churchill Downs racetrack on the first Saturday of May in 1875 to watch Aristides win the first Kentucky Derby. The largest Derby crowd ever gathered in 2015, when more than 170,000 fans packed the track to witness American Pharoah capture the first leg of what would become the first successful Triple Crown bid since Affirmed in 1978. And this year, of course, marks another historic first: the first Kentucky Derby that will run without fans in attendance.

But the race will go on (albeit on the first Saturday in September), a winner will be draped with a blanket of roses, and the unbroken tradition of America’s oldest continually held major sporting event will endure. And there’s no reason not to enjoy it, with these tips for how to master a socially distanced Derby Day at home.

Place Your Bets Online

Let’s be honest: Horse racing is more interesting when there’s money on the line. Even a couple of bucks on a long shot will have you cheering on your pick like a personal visit to the winner’s circle is at stake. Online wagering has grown in availability, ease, and popularity, and now there exist numerous options, not only to bet on the big event, but on all of the week’s races leading up to the 146th running of the Derby on Saturday, September 5.

TwinSpires is the official online wagering portal of Churchill Downs, but there are others. I used Keeneland Select, which also offers Derby betting, for my first foray into online wagering when Lexington’s Keeneland racecourse held a truncated meet (also without fans in attendance) earlier this summer. I set up a profile, loaded some funds into the account, and was off to the races.

I told myself I would only bet on the major stakes races, but I quickly turned into something of an armchair handicapper as I cross-referenced expert picks and studied each horse’s confirmation as they saddled up in the paddock and paraded onto the track. In the end, I netted a whopping $10 over four days of racing. But considering what I’d typically spend on drinks and ill-advised, spur-of-the-moment bets at the track, it’s a win.

Mix Up a Historic Drink

Fun fact: So many glasses “went missing” from the clubhouse following the 1938 Kentucky Derby that the following year the track offered the first official souvenir mint julep glass for sale, and the julep has been associated with the Derby ever since.

Given the late date of this year’s race, Tim Knittel—recently appointed the first Official Bourbon Steward of Churchill Downs—suggests mixing things up with another historic drink with racing roots. The Jockey Club, which formed in New York City in 1894 and maintains a breed registry for Thoroughbred horses, also gave rise to two eponymous cocktails: one made with gin, and another with bourbon. Naturally we’ll go with the bourbon version, which tastes like a slightly sweeter Manhattan.

To make the drink, fill a shaker with ice and add two ounces of bourbon, one ounce of sweet vermouth, and a quarter ounce of Maraschino liqueur (simple syrup will also work), along with two or three dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir until chilled, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

Dig into Derby Dishes

Despite your pandemic resolutions, Derby Day is not the time to skimp on calories. From bourbon-spiked chocolate pecan pie and bourbon balls to Hot Browns and beaten biscuits with country ham, many classic Southern dishes have come to be associated with the Derby. You’ll find most of them in Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook, as well as this collection of fifteen winning Kentucky Derby recipes, which includes beer cheeses and Benedictine spreads.

Wear the Hat Anyway

One of the most memorable Derby parties my wife and I threw occurred when we were living in Chicago, far from our Kentucky home. It was the first Derby experience for many of our Midwestern friends, who arrived wearing cowboy hats, baseball caps, and all manner of chapeaus. We sipped mint juleps, ate burgoo, put together a Derby draw pool, and the last guests left long after the big race.

While the pandemic may have limited our ability to safely gather in large groups, it can’t squash that feeling of camaraderie. So set up the big TV outside, break out the good stuff, set out a spread of food, and invite a few friends over or just gather with family. Because even though the stands will be empty, when strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” play over the loudspeakers at Churchill Downs, we’ll all be singing along.


How to Enjoy the Kentucky Derby from Afar

Nearly ten thousand people came out to Louisville’s Churchill Downs racetrack on the first Saturday of May in 1875 to watch Aristides win the first Kentucky Derby. The largest Derby crowd ever gathered in 2015, when more than 170,000 fans packed the track to witness American Pharoah capture the first leg of what would become the first successful Triple Crown bid since Affirmed in 1978. And this year, of course, marks another historic first: the first Kentucky Derby that will run without fans in attendance.

But the race will go on (albeit on the first Saturday in September), a winner will be draped with a blanket of roses, and the unbroken tradition of America’s oldest continually held major sporting event will endure. And there’s no reason not to enjoy it, with these tips for how to master a socially distanced Derby Day at home.

Place Your Bets Online

Let’s be honest: Horse racing is more interesting when there’s money on the line. Even a couple of bucks on a long shot will have you cheering on your pick like a personal visit to the winner’s circle is at stake. Online wagering has grown in availability, ease, and popularity, and now there exist numerous options, not only to bet on the big event, but on all of the week’s races leading up to the 146th running of the Derby on Saturday, September 5.

TwinSpires is the official online wagering portal of Churchill Downs, but there are others. I used Keeneland Select, which also offers Derby betting, for my first foray into online wagering when Lexington’s Keeneland racecourse held a truncated meet (also without fans in attendance) earlier this summer. I set up a profile, loaded some funds into the account, and was off to the races.

I told myself I would only bet on the major stakes races, but I quickly turned into something of an armchair handicapper as I cross-referenced expert picks and studied each horse’s confirmation as they saddled up in the paddock and paraded onto the track. In the end, I netted a whopping $10 over four days of racing. But considering what I’d typically spend on drinks and ill-advised, spur-of-the-moment bets at the track, it’s a win.

Mix Up a Historic Drink

Fun fact: So many glasses “went missing” from the clubhouse following the 1938 Kentucky Derby that the following year the track offered the first official souvenir mint julep glass for sale, and the julep has been associated with the Derby ever since.

Given the late date of this year’s race, Tim Knittel—recently appointed the first Official Bourbon Steward of Churchill Downs—suggests mixing things up with another historic drink with racing roots. The Jockey Club, which formed in New York City in 1894 and maintains a breed registry for Thoroughbred horses, also gave rise to two eponymous cocktails: one made with gin, and another with bourbon. Naturally we’ll go with the bourbon version, which tastes like a slightly sweeter Manhattan.

To make the drink, fill a shaker with ice and add two ounces of bourbon, one ounce of sweet vermouth, and a quarter ounce of Maraschino liqueur (simple syrup will also work), along with two or three dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir until chilled, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

Dig into Derby Dishes

Despite your pandemic resolutions, Derby Day is not the time to skimp on calories. From bourbon-spiked chocolate pecan pie and bourbon balls to Hot Browns and beaten biscuits with country ham, many classic Southern dishes have come to be associated with the Derby. You’ll find most of them in Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook, as well as this collection of fifteen winning Kentucky Derby recipes, which includes beer cheeses and Benedictine spreads.

Wear the Hat Anyway

One of the most memorable Derby parties my wife and I threw occurred when we were living in Chicago, far from our Kentucky home. It was the first Derby experience for many of our Midwestern friends, who arrived wearing cowboy hats, baseball caps, and all manner of chapeaus. We sipped mint juleps, ate burgoo, put together a Derby draw pool, and the last guests left long after the big race.

While the pandemic may have limited our ability to safely gather in large groups, it can’t squash that feeling of camaraderie. So set up the big TV outside, break out the good stuff, set out a spread of food, and invite a few friends over or just gather with family. Because even though the stands will be empty, when strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” play over the loudspeakers at Churchill Downs, we’ll all be singing along.


How to Enjoy the Kentucky Derby from Afar

Nearly ten thousand people came out to Louisville’s Churchill Downs racetrack on the first Saturday of May in 1875 to watch Aristides win the first Kentucky Derby. The largest Derby crowd ever gathered in 2015, when more than 170,000 fans packed the track to witness American Pharoah capture the first leg of what would become the first successful Triple Crown bid since Affirmed in 1978. And this year, of course, marks another historic first: the first Kentucky Derby that will run without fans in attendance.

But the race will go on (albeit on the first Saturday in September), a winner will be draped with a blanket of roses, and the unbroken tradition of America’s oldest continually held major sporting event will endure. And there’s no reason not to enjoy it, with these tips for how to master a socially distanced Derby Day at home.

Place Your Bets Online

Let’s be honest: Horse racing is more interesting when there’s money on the line. Even a couple of bucks on a long shot will have you cheering on your pick like a personal visit to the winner’s circle is at stake. Online wagering has grown in availability, ease, and popularity, and now there exist numerous options, not only to bet on the big event, but on all of the week’s races leading up to the 146th running of the Derby on Saturday, September 5.

TwinSpires is the official online wagering portal of Churchill Downs, but there are others. I used Keeneland Select, which also offers Derby betting, for my first foray into online wagering when Lexington’s Keeneland racecourse held a truncated meet (also without fans in attendance) earlier this summer. I set up a profile, loaded some funds into the account, and was off to the races.

I told myself I would only bet on the major stakes races, but I quickly turned into something of an armchair handicapper as I cross-referenced expert picks and studied each horse’s confirmation as they saddled up in the paddock and paraded onto the track. In the end, I netted a whopping $10 over four days of racing. But considering what I’d typically spend on drinks and ill-advised, spur-of-the-moment bets at the track, it’s a win.

Mix Up a Historic Drink

Fun fact: So many glasses “went missing” from the clubhouse following the 1938 Kentucky Derby that the following year the track offered the first official souvenir mint julep glass for sale, and the julep has been associated with the Derby ever since.

Given the late date of this year’s race, Tim Knittel—recently appointed the first Official Bourbon Steward of Churchill Downs—suggests mixing things up with another historic drink with racing roots. The Jockey Club, which formed in New York City in 1894 and maintains a breed registry for Thoroughbred horses, also gave rise to two eponymous cocktails: one made with gin, and another with bourbon. Naturally we’ll go with the bourbon version, which tastes like a slightly sweeter Manhattan.

To make the drink, fill a shaker with ice and add two ounces of bourbon, one ounce of sweet vermouth, and a quarter ounce of Maraschino liqueur (simple syrup will also work), along with two or three dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir until chilled, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

Dig into Derby Dishes

Despite your pandemic resolutions, Derby Day is not the time to skimp on calories. From bourbon-spiked chocolate pecan pie and bourbon balls to Hot Browns and beaten biscuits with country ham, many classic Southern dishes have come to be associated with the Derby. You’ll find most of them in Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook, as well as this collection of fifteen winning Kentucky Derby recipes, which includes beer cheeses and Benedictine spreads.

Wear the Hat Anyway

One of the most memorable Derby parties my wife and I threw occurred when we were living in Chicago, far from our Kentucky home. It was the first Derby experience for many of our Midwestern friends, who arrived wearing cowboy hats, baseball caps, and all manner of chapeaus. We sipped mint juleps, ate burgoo, put together a Derby draw pool, and the last guests left long after the big race.

While the pandemic may have limited our ability to safely gather in large groups, it can’t squash that feeling of camaraderie. So set up the big TV outside, break out the good stuff, set out a spread of food, and invite a few friends over or just gather with family. Because even though the stands will be empty, when strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” play over the loudspeakers at Churchill Downs, we’ll all be singing along.


How to Enjoy the Kentucky Derby from Afar

Nearly ten thousand people came out to Louisville’s Churchill Downs racetrack on the first Saturday of May in 1875 to watch Aristides win the first Kentucky Derby. The largest Derby crowd ever gathered in 2015, when more than 170,000 fans packed the track to witness American Pharoah capture the first leg of what would become the first successful Triple Crown bid since Affirmed in 1978. And this year, of course, marks another historic first: the first Kentucky Derby that will run without fans in attendance.

But the race will go on (albeit on the first Saturday in September), a winner will be draped with a blanket of roses, and the unbroken tradition of America’s oldest continually held major sporting event will endure. And there’s no reason not to enjoy it, with these tips for how to master a socially distanced Derby Day at home.

Place Your Bets Online

Let’s be honest: Horse racing is more interesting when there’s money on the line. Even a couple of bucks on a long shot will have you cheering on your pick like a personal visit to the winner’s circle is at stake. Online wagering has grown in availability, ease, and popularity, and now there exist numerous options, not only to bet on the big event, but on all of the week’s races leading up to the 146th running of the Derby on Saturday, September 5.

TwinSpires is the official online wagering portal of Churchill Downs, but there are others. I used Keeneland Select, which also offers Derby betting, for my first foray into online wagering when Lexington’s Keeneland racecourse held a truncated meet (also without fans in attendance) earlier this summer. I set up a profile, loaded some funds into the account, and was off to the races.

I told myself I would only bet on the major stakes races, but I quickly turned into something of an armchair handicapper as I cross-referenced expert picks and studied each horse’s confirmation as they saddled up in the paddock and paraded onto the track. In the end, I netted a whopping $10 over four days of racing. But considering what I’d typically spend on drinks and ill-advised, spur-of-the-moment bets at the track, it’s a win.

Mix Up a Historic Drink

Fun fact: So many glasses “went missing” from the clubhouse following the 1938 Kentucky Derby that the following year the track offered the first official souvenir mint julep glass for sale, and the julep has been associated with the Derby ever since.

Given the late date of this year’s race, Tim Knittel—recently appointed the first Official Bourbon Steward of Churchill Downs—suggests mixing things up with another historic drink with racing roots. The Jockey Club, which formed in New York City in 1894 and maintains a breed registry for Thoroughbred horses, also gave rise to two eponymous cocktails: one made with gin, and another with bourbon. Naturally we’ll go with the bourbon version, which tastes like a slightly sweeter Manhattan.

To make the drink, fill a shaker with ice and add two ounces of bourbon, one ounce of sweet vermouth, and a quarter ounce of Maraschino liqueur (simple syrup will also work), along with two or three dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir until chilled, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

Dig into Derby Dishes

Despite your pandemic resolutions, Derby Day is not the time to skimp on calories. From bourbon-spiked chocolate pecan pie and bourbon balls to Hot Browns and beaten biscuits with country ham, many classic Southern dishes have come to be associated with the Derby. You’ll find most of them in Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook, as well as this collection of fifteen winning Kentucky Derby recipes, which includes beer cheeses and Benedictine spreads.

Wear the Hat Anyway

One of the most memorable Derby parties my wife and I threw occurred when we were living in Chicago, far from our Kentucky home. It was the first Derby experience for many of our Midwestern friends, who arrived wearing cowboy hats, baseball caps, and all manner of chapeaus. We sipped mint juleps, ate burgoo, put together a Derby draw pool, and the last guests left long after the big race.

While the pandemic may have limited our ability to safely gather in large groups, it can’t squash that feeling of camaraderie. So set up the big TV outside, break out the good stuff, set out a spread of food, and invite a few friends over or just gather with family. Because even though the stands will be empty, when strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” play over the loudspeakers at Churchill Downs, we’ll all be singing along.


How to Enjoy the Kentucky Derby from Afar

Nearly ten thousand people came out to Louisville’s Churchill Downs racetrack on the first Saturday of May in 1875 to watch Aristides win the first Kentucky Derby. The largest Derby crowd ever gathered in 2015, when more than 170,000 fans packed the track to witness American Pharoah capture the first leg of what would become the first successful Triple Crown bid since Affirmed in 1978. And this year, of course, marks another historic first: the first Kentucky Derby that will run without fans in attendance.

But the race will go on (albeit on the first Saturday in September), a winner will be draped with a blanket of roses, and the unbroken tradition of America’s oldest continually held major sporting event will endure. And there’s no reason not to enjoy it, with these tips for how to master a socially distanced Derby Day at home.

Place Your Bets Online

Let’s be honest: Horse racing is more interesting when there’s money on the line. Even a couple of bucks on a long shot will have you cheering on your pick like a personal visit to the winner’s circle is at stake. Online wagering has grown in availability, ease, and popularity, and now there exist numerous options, not only to bet on the big event, but on all of the week’s races leading up to the 146th running of the Derby on Saturday, September 5.

TwinSpires is the official online wagering portal of Churchill Downs, but there are others. I used Keeneland Select, which also offers Derby betting, for my first foray into online wagering when Lexington’s Keeneland racecourse held a truncated meet (also without fans in attendance) earlier this summer. I set up a profile, loaded some funds into the account, and was off to the races.

I told myself I would only bet on the major stakes races, but I quickly turned into something of an armchair handicapper as I cross-referenced expert picks and studied each horse’s confirmation as they saddled up in the paddock and paraded onto the track. In the end, I netted a whopping $10 over four days of racing. But considering what I’d typically spend on drinks and ill-advised, spur-of-the-moment bets at the track, it’s a win.

Mix Up a Historic Drink

Fun fact: So many glasses “went missing” from the clubhouse following the 1938 Kentucky Derby that the following year the track offered the first official souvenir mint julep glass for sale, and the julep has been associated with the Derby ever since.

Given the late date of this year’s race, Tim Knittel—recently appointed the first Official Bourbon Steward of Churchill Downs—suggests mixing things up with another historic drink with racing roots. The Jockey Club, which formed in New York City in 1894 and maintains a breed registry for Thoroughbred horses, also gave rise to two eponymous cocktails: one made with gin, and another with bourbon. Naturally we’ll go with the bourbon version, which tastes like a slightly sweeter Manhattan.

To make the drink, fill a shaker with ice and add two ounces of bourbon, one ounce of sweet vermouth, and a quarter ounce of Maraschino liqueur (simple syrup will also work), along with two or three dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir until chilled, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

Dig into Derby Dishes

Despite your pandemic resolutions, Derby Day is not the time to skimp on calories. From bourbon-spiked chocolate pecan pie and bourbon balls to Hot Browns and beaten biscuits with country ham, many classic Southern dishes have come to be associated with the Derby. You’ll find most of them in Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook, as well as this collection of fifteen winning Kentucky Derby recipes, which includes beer cheeses and Benedictine spreads.

Wear the Hat Anyway

One of the most memorable Derby parties my wife and I threw occurred when we were living in Chicago, far from our Kentucky home. It was the first Derby experience for many of our Midwestern friends, who arrived wearing cowboy hats, baseball caps, and all manner of chapeaus. We sipped mint juleps, ate burgoo, put together a Derby draw pool, and the last guests left long after the big race.

While the pandemic may have limited our ability to safely gather in large groups, it can’t squash that feeling of camaraderie. So set up the big TV outside, break out the good stuff, set out a spread of food, and invite a few friends over or just gather with family. Because even though the stands will be empty, when strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” play over the loudspeakers at Churchill Downs, we’ll all be singing along.


How to Enjoy the Kentucky Derby from Afar

Nearly ten thousand people came out to Louisville’s Churchill Downs racetrack on the first Saturday of May in 1875 to watch Aristides win the first Kentucky Derby. The largest Derby crowd ever gathered in 2015, when more than 170,000 fans packed the track to witness American Pharoah capture the first leg of what would become the first successful Triple Crown bid since Affirmed in 1978. And this year, of course, marks another historic first: the first Kentucky Derby that will run without fans in attendance.

But the race will go on (albeit on the first Saturday in September), a winner will be draped with a blanket of roses, and the unbroken tradition of America’s oldest continually held major sporting event will endure. And there’s no reason not to enjoy it, with these tips for how to master a socially distanced Derby Day at home.

Place Your Bets Online

Let’s be honest: Horse racing is more interesting when there’s money on the line. Even a couple of bucks on a long shot will have you cheering on your pick like a personal visit to the winner’s circle is at stake. Online wagering has grown in availability, ease, and popularity, and now there exist numerous options, not only to bet on the big event, but on all of the week’s races leading up to the 146th running of the Derby on Saturday, September 5.

TwinSpires is the official online wagering portal of Churchill Downs, but there are others. I used Keeneland Select, which also offers Derby betting, for my first foray into online wagering when Lexington’s Keeneland racecourse held a truncated meet (also without fans in attendance) earlier this summer. I set up a profile, loaded some funds into the account, and was off to the races.

I told myself I would only bet on the major stakes races, but I quickly turned into something of an armchair handicapper as I cross-referenced expert picks and studied each horse’s confirmation as they saddled up in the paddock and paraded onto the track. In the end, I netted a whopping $10 over four days of racing. But considering what I’d typically spend on drinks and ill-advised, spur-of-the-moment bets at the track, it’s a win.

Mix Up a Historic Drink

Fun fact: So many glasses “went missing” from the clubhouse following the 1938 Kentucky Derby that the following year the track offered the first official souvenir mint julep glass for sale, and the julep has been associated with the Derby ever since.

Given the late date of this year’s race, Tim Knittel—recently appointed the first Official Bourbon Steward of Churchill Downs—suggests mixing things up with another historic drink with racing roots. The Jockey Club, which formed in New York City in 1894 and maintains a breed registry for Thoroughbred horses, also gave rise to two eponymous cocktails: one made with gin, and another with bourbon. Naturally we’ll go with the bourbon version, which tastes like a slightly sweeter Manhattan.

To make the drink, fill a shaker with ice and add two ounces of bourbon, one ounce of sweet vermouth, and a quarter ounce of Maraschino liqueur (simple syrup will also work), along with two or three dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir until chilled, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

Dig into Derby Dishes

Despite your pandemic resolutions, Derby Day is not the time to skimp on calories. From bourbon-spiked chocolate pecan pie and bourbon balls to Hot Browns and beaten biscuits with country ham, many classic Southern dishes have come to be associated with the Derby. You’ll find most of them in Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook, as well as this collection of fifteen winning Kentucky Derby recipes, which includes beer cheeses and Benedictine spreads.

Wear the Hat Anyway

One of the most memorable Derby parties my wife and I threw occurred when we were living in Chicago, far from our Kentucky home. It was the first Derby experience for many of our Midwestern friends, who arrived wearing cowboy hats, baseball caps, and all manner of chapeaus. We sipped mint juleps, ate burgoo, put together a Derby draw pool, and the last guests left long after the big race.

While the pandemic may have limited our ability to safely gather in large groups, it can’t squash that feeling of camaraderie. So set up the big TV outside, break out the good stuff, set out a spread of food, and invite a few friends over or just gather with family. Because even though the stands will be empty, when strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” play over the loudspeakers at Churchill Downs, we’ll all be singing along.


Watch the video: What to Wear to a Kentucky Derby Party (December 2021).