When Does the Kentucky Derby Begin?

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most famous horse races in the world. Every year, between mid-April and mid-May, the city of Louisville, Kentucky, fills up with derby fans who come to see which horses will be running in the big race in another month’s time. The Kentucky Derby is officially the world’s greatest ‘open’ or ‘unlimited’ race held annually in Kentucky. It’s a three-year-old stake race that lasts for a little over a mile. The course record of the race is now held by Hoof Over Heaven (2017 race) at a brisk 1:50.13. This year’s Derby is scheduled to be held on May 5th, 2019.

While there’s plenty to see and do in Louisville during the off-season, it’s best to start your visit around mid-March, as temperatures in the area are already rising. If you’re visiting during the off-season, you might want to consider traveling to a different part of the country or another state to avoid the rush-hour crowds. There’s also always the option of skipping the race entirely and heading to the after-party instead. We’re certain that there are many other places around the world that are just as exciting, vibrant, and awe-inspiring as the “Home of the Derby.” Let’s take a quick look at when does the Kentucky Derby Begin and what to expect.

The Preparation

The race begins in mid-April every year, with the preparations beginning a few months earlier. The first step is for the owners and trainers of the entrants to select a starting time for the race. The preferred time is usually early in the afternoon so that the horses are already warmed up by the time the race starts. After the starting time is decided, the second step is for the jockey club to assign a series of riders to each horse to ensure that the race goes smoothly. If more than one horse is entered in the derby, the jockey club will choose riders that can handle the different speeds efficiently. If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Million Dollar Baby,” you might remember the scene where Baby Doll trains for the derby. In the film, she is accompanied by a gruff-but-kindly stablemaster who assigns her various exercises to strengthen her for the big race. That’s kind of how the preparation for the Kentucky Derby works too.

The Race

The third step is for the owner and trainers of the entrants to bring their horses to the track for pre-race care. This is especially important for the Derby, as it lasts for a little over a mile and a half and is very hard on the horses. In the Derby, only certain breeds are allowed to enter. Those who meet the specific physical requirements must qualify to run in the big race. The rest of the year, Derby-entrants only appear in parades and at other festive occasions. They are kept in stables all year round so that they do not have to be warmed up before the race by exercise. The horses are given a good night’s sleep and nourishment so that they are at their peak performance for the big race.


The fourth step is for the jockey club to organize the cleanup after the race. They have volunteers who come in and help ensure that everything is tidied up properly. Sometimes, there are still debris lying around from the race the day before. It’s also important to note that the winning owner or manager is entitled to a complimentary drink at the winner’s party. The fifth step is for the owners and trainers to celebrate with friends and family around an outdoor bonfire or inside a restaurant. The sixth and final step is for the owners to examine the horses’ hooves, examine their nostrils, and look into their eyes to assess their condition. If an owner is unsatisfied with the way his horse performed, he may have the option of entering him in another derby or selling him at a significant discount to a breeder or trader. That’s the end of the official race day. But for many, many years, the actual “after” part of the race day was just as exciting as the “before’ part.

This is a brief overview of the Kentucky Derby. If you’d like, you can click here to visit the Kentucky Derby website for more information. There’s a lot more to see and do in Louisville during the off-season too. It’s a great city with lots of food, architecture, history, and culture. You might also want to visit one of the city’s attractions, such as the Louisville Slugger Museum and Labrum Football Hall of Fame. You can also take a stroll through one of the many parks available for everyone to enjoy. Bring a pair of walking shoes and you’ll be able to enjoy a wonderful view of Louisville from atop of a hill. You might consider taking the train into town so that you can get a closer look at the local architecture and scenery as you travel.