LOUISVILLE — Saturday’s 145th Kentucky Derby may be the big event of the week, but there are a lot of things to do in Louisville leading up to the race.
Churchill Downs, which kicked off its 38-day Spring Meet on Saturday, will offer special events to accompany live racing Tuesday through Thursday, ahead of Friday's Kentucky Oaks and Saturday's Run for the Roses.
If you are an early riser you can enjoy Dawn at the Downs from 6:30-8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You can get an up-close look at the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby contenders as they take to the track for their daily exercise while enjoying a breakfast buffet accompanied by racing commentary from Churchill Downs’ racing analysts. Prices range from $41 to $48.
The afternoons at Churchill Downs are filled with live racing and special events.
Tuesday boasts a new Derby week event called "Champions Day," in which fans will have an opportunity to get autographs from Triple Crown trainer Bob Baffert, jockeys Mike Smith and Steve Cauthen as well as WinStar Farm President and CEO Elliot Walden. General admission is $12.
Thursday is the popular "Thurby." This year's "Thurby Goes Gonzo" honors Louisville native and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson as well as illustrator Ralph Steadman. Limited edition "Thurby Goes Gonzo" posters will be available for purchase and signing by Steadman. There will also be live music in the Paddock Plaza from DJ Matt Anthony and the Casey Powell Band as well as live art from Grant Goodwin. General admission is $22.
The Churchill Downs Foundation will host three 50/50 raffles — one each on "Thurby," Oaks and Derby — with a guaranteed minimum pot of $50,000 each. One winner will be drawn each day to take half the pot with the other half going to the Churchill Downs Foundation, which benefits its charitable industry initiatives. Tickets can be purchased at www.DerbyGives.com.
If Churchill Downs is not part of your Derby week plans, the Kentucky Derby Festival offers daily activities — most of which offer free admission with a 2019 Pegasus Pin. Of course the Great Steamboat Race is Wednesday and the Pegasus Parade is Thursday, but there are more events throughout the week.
Tonight's Kentucky Derby Festival Bed Races at Broadbent Arena pair teamwork and ingenuity. About 40 teams made up of employees from area businesses build a bed on four wheels and race each other for glory. The parade of beds begins at 6 p.m. and the first race starts at 7 p.m. WAVE-TV will host and air the event live.
The Pegasus Parade Preview Party is 5-9 p.m. Tuesday inside South Wing C at the Kentucky Exposition Center. It allows a close-up look at all the floats, inflatables and people that make up Thursday’s Pegasus Parade. The Derby Festival Queen and her court will also be available for pictures.
National music artists will perform at the Great Lawn as part of the Kentucky Derby Festival Waterfront Jam. Among some of the acts performing is ‘80s R&B group Cameo (Tuesday); alternative rock bands the Kongos with special guest C2 and the Brothers Reed (Wednesday) and the Struts featuring Mo Lowda and The Humble (Thursday). Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville and Chow Wagon is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily through Friday.