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Kentucky Derby visitors guide

Sports fans from around the world flock to Louisville for the annual Kentucky Derby. Many know it as the "Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports," and the 120-second thoroughbred race truly has proven itself to be among the most exhilarating competitions in history. The event is held at the famous Churchill Downs racetrack on the first Saturday of each May. It's so beloved that the Kentucky city throws a huge festival to celebrate the derby - it features food and wine events, breathtaking fireworks displays and a plethora of other activities. With a Louisville car rental, you can partake in all the merrymaking that takes place across the metropolis. Prepare for your trip by learning more about the highlights:

The main event

The focal point is, of course, the race, which has been running every year since 1875, making it the longest-running competition in the U.S. It features three-year-old thoroughbreds racing on a 1.5-mile course (the 20 participating equines are chosen from a group of the 450 most talented in the world). The winner, who is draped with a blanket of roses after crossing the finish line, gets to move on to the Preakness Stakes, which can lead to the chance to compete in the Belmont Stakes to take home the rarest of all horse racing prizes - the Triple Crown. Visitors may want to leave their Kentucky Derby car rental at their hotels when attending the race and take a shuttle (parking is limited and a spot must be reserved in advance).

Other festivities

Another highly anticipated part of this annual event is the Kentucky Derby Festival, which is made up of a series of exciting activities spanning weeks before the big race. Among the most popular features is Thunder Over Louisville, a spectacular fireworks display that fills the sky with a colorful display that can be seen from all over the metropolis. There's also a street party at Waterfront Park to accompany the pyrotechnics - stroll the grounds to find food and drink booths, live music and carnival games. Those looking for a more comprehensive food and drink experience can head to the Kentucky Exposition Center during the Taste of Derby, which showcases wine, beer and culinary treats from destinations around the world that have made noteworthy contributions to the sport of horse​ racing.

There are also several large galas held throughout the city during the festival. Among the most popular is black-tie Barnstable Brown Party that lets you mingle with sports stars and Hollywood elite. Those seeking something little less ritzy can go to the Julep Ball, a party themed after the derby's signature drink, the Mint Julep, and a fundraiser for important causes such as cancer research. If you plan on drinking during the bash, be sure to leave your Kentucky car rental at the hotel or arrange for a designated driver take the wheel.

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