[Event Guide] Kentucky Oaks & Derby – What’s the difference?

Going to the Kentucky Derby was on my bucket list for a while and I had the chance to do it 2 years ago. I’ve just always wanted to wear one of those big hats! I will admit I didn’t know much about horse racing, but this event was a blast. We got to go to both the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby, but very much different experiences! Before going, I did research to get tickets, and let me tell you, tickets to the Derby are not easy to come by! It is the biggest horse racing event of the year, and there are celebrities and important people all over. So, I started researching and found out more about the Kentucky Oaks. This event is the day before the derby and it is attended by more of the locals. Kentucky Oaks was the Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbred fillies (young female horses) versus the Kentucky Derby which was a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds. It was such a great idea because we still got the feeling and atmosphere of the Derby, but we got more affordable seats.kentucky derby oaks 2011



Yes, I got to wear a nice big hat that actually took me forever to find. Who would’ve thought that finding a hat would be so difficult in LA! I ended up finding my purple hat at a Vintage store on Melrose Ave., and I did a bit of decorating of it myself. The event supports Horses and Hope, a breast cancer outreach organization in Kentucky, so the theme was PINK. Since I hadn’t prepared enough in advance, my outfit wasn’t pink, but I got a nice pink flower to decorate my hat!

  • Official drink: Oaks Lily (1 oz. GREY GOOSE® Vodka, 1 oz. Sweet and Sour Mix, 3 oz. Cranberry Juice, Splash of Triple Sec)
  • Official flower: Lillies

On this day, I placed a couple bets and actually won a few. It’s so much fun! One of the horses was named Victoria’s Wildcat, so of course I chose her to win…and guess what…she won the Eight Belles Stakes race and I won a bit of money. I bet on several other races throughout the game as well!



























This day was really fun too, just a very different atmosphere! The infield is a whole other world! This is the field that is in the middle of the race track where mostly younger people come to have an all-out party. Lots of drinks and drunken revelry! No fancy hats here! Good thing there was still somewhere to place our bets and while we didn’t have seats, we were able to go around Churchill Downs and see the jockeys coming out on their horses.

  • Official drink: Mint Julep (8 mint leaves plus 1 sprig, 3/4 ounce simple syrup, 2 ounces Woodward Reserve bourbon, Crushed ice, Spoonful of Sailor Jerry’s spiced rum)
  • Official flower: Roses

Placed a few bets this day and I think I may have won a bit. 🙂









What a fun time! Definitely got the quintessential Derby experience! That’s my recap for you if you’re considering a trip over there. Once a year, first weekend in May – put it on your list! Also, we didn’t do it far enough in advance, but you can definitely put in your name in the lottery and get the tickets for the Derby if you’re so lucky. The way we did it (seated tickets to the Oaks, Infield tickets to Derby) ended up being really great, too though, so don’t fret if you don’t get the tickets through lottery!

Horse betting: Never done it before? No worries, I had never done it before either! When you get the program, you’ll see that there are about 12 different races throughout the day, the last one being the most important one. You can place bets at the counters or at the machines – you just pick which horses you want to win and place your bet. You can do all kinds of combinations like picking 3 horses for top 3 spots, 1 horse to win it all out, and all kinds of other combinations. The probabilities determine how much you win. How do you know which horse to pick? Well you could read about each of the horses and their odds in the program, but me, I just picked the coolest names. 😛 But don’t take my word for it…

I’m really glad I headed over to Kentucky to see this event and to do some exploring around Kentucky. Highly recommend!


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