They might be just 3 years old, but the 20 horses expected to start this year's Kentucky Derby are some of the most talented athletes in the world.
Most of the thoroughbreds -- including the favorite to win this year's run for the roses, California Chrome -- have already arrived at Churchill Downs in Louisville, which will be their home for the next few days before they enter the starting gate for the "fastest two minutes in sports."
It all goes down this Saturday, May 3, at 6:24 p.m., when California Chrome, Big Bazinga, Wicked Strong (who's running for the One Fund Boston to support those affected by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings), Uncle Sigh (co-owned by Wounded Warrior Stables; his earnings support two veterans' charities), Vinceremos (who runs for the Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center here in Florida), and the rest of the field will run the race of their careers.
Tickets for the Kentucky Derby are still available, starting at $50 (but fat chance getting a hotel room). Your best bet (literally and figuratively): Stay in Miami, break out your Derby finery, and cheer your favorite horse to victory at one of these watch parties -- mint julep in hand, of course.
Chef Ralph Pagano's 14th-annual Kentucky Derby party is so big it spills out onto the beach. Beginning at 2 p.m., Sole on the Ocean Resort turns into a salute to the ponies with live betting, two bars, ten flat-screen TVs, Southern-inspired menu items, mint juleps, and live music by Code Red. You can also enter to win a trip to Sole's sister hotel in Montauk, New York. Plus, ladies in Derby hats drink free until 6 p.m.
Catch the Derby action on a 50-inch HD screen in Bouron Steak's lounge while you sip mint juleps ($10) and enjoy complimentary canapes by chef Gabe Fenton. The person wearing the best hat will win another (swanky) hat from a local boutique (because true Southern ladies and gentlemen can't get enough head gear) and all attendees will will be entered in a raffle to win a gift certificate, featuring a Bourbon Steak dinner for two with a bottle of wine, or a cookbook signed by Chef Michael Mina.
If you can't make it to Churchill Downs, you can still get a whiff of horsey aroma as you walk into III Forks Steakhouse at the Village of Gulfstream Park for their take on the iconic Derby Day cocktail, the Creole Mint Julep ($13). This spicy version is made with Maker's 46, housemade simple syrup, fresh mint leaf, creole seasonings and soda. Watch the race on six television screens.
The theme of the day is "run, baby, run" when Swine hosts the Derby. Wear your best Derby hat and "swagger" while watching the race and tweet to @SwineSouthern using hashtag #SwineDerby for a chance to win a free brunch.
Jamie DeRosa invites everyone to celebrate Derby Day with a Tongue & Cheek watch party. Sip on refreshing Mint Juleps and feast on Louisville's favorite chow -- hot browns and Derby pies. Prizes for the best hat. The party starts at 5 p.m., which coincides with Tongue & Cheek's happy hour.
Break out the crazy hats because Yardbird is giving out prizes for your finest chapeau. Watch the race while you sip on a Big-Ass Mint Julep ($15) or a Makers 46 on the rocks ($10).
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Watch Wicked Strong, Uncle Sigh, and California Chrome check out Churchill Downs here: