As Kentucky’s largest city, Louisville is known for being the Gateway to the South. But it’s also famous for being home to the “most exciting two minutes in sports,” the Kentucky Derby—the widely watched first race of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.
This year’s Kentucky Derby is fast approaching. The Kentucky Derby horse race has been run at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday of May every year since 1875. This museum at Churchill Downs highlights the history of the Kentucky Derby.
To help get Louisville into the spirit of this year’s race, the Kentucky Derby Museum is offering lots of activities and exhibits for visitors.
Located at Gate 1 of Churchill Downs, this museum pays homage to the world’s most famous horse-race as well as the thoroughbred horses that run it. The exhibits are interesting and well designed, with opportunities for interactive experiences including riding a horse in a race, betting on a race/watching it and seeing your payoff, and listening to jockeys, owners, trainers. Kids will definitely want to try Riders Up, where they can mount a simulated horse and try to maintain a jockey’s stance for two minutes (the time it takes jockeys to run the Derby). It’s not as easy as it looks! They can even sit on a saddle in a real starting gate, step inside a soundproof booth and attempt to call a race, and watch footage of Derby races from as early as 1918.
Don’t miss the 360-degree, high-definition, multimedia documentary about the Derby, thundering hooves and all, called “The Greatest Race.” (It’s updated each June to show the latest Derby.) It is phenomenal! You really feel the excitement of the Derby and what it means for the horses, trainers, owners and spectators.
The museum has the different jockey outfits. There’s even an exhibit of the best entries in the museum’s annual Derby hat contest. Admission to the museum includes a 30 minute guided tour of Churchill Downs (including the barn, where you’ll see a few retired race horses.) Come early if you want to see the horses exercising.
The Derby is an historic event and, in Kentucky, they celebrate the beauty, grace, and endurance of the thoroughbred horse by having parties during the week leading up to and the day of the race.
To help you get into the spirit of this year’s race, I am sharing a souvenir from my visit. I love collecting recipes from places I’ve been. These Kentucky Derby Bourbon Brownies always remind me of Louisville.
Kentucky Derby Bourbon Brownies
½ cup butter
two 1-ounce squares unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
2/3 cup self-rising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
cooking oil spray
2 to 3 ounces bourbon whisky, depending on the strength of whisky flavor desired
Bourbon Butter Cream Frosting
½ cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioner’s sugar (also called powdered sugar or icing sugar)
1 to 1 ½ ounces Bourbon whisky
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
Melt ½ cup butter along with 2 squares of unsweetened chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Set aside and cool to room temperature. When the butter/chocolate mixture has cooled sufficiently, stir in 1 well-beaten egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2/3 cup self-rising flour and 1 cup sugar. Stir in chocolate mixture and 1 cup of pecans. Mix all together and pour into an 8 inch by 8 inch baking pan (or dish) that has been sprayed with cooking oil spray. Bake at 350 degrees (F) 20 to 25 minutes. Brownies will be done when a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean. Remove baked brownies from the oven. While brownies are still hot, prick with a fork and brush on 2 to 3 ounces bourbon whisky. Set brownies aside to cool.
For the next layer, make Bourbon Buttercream Frosting. Use an electric mixer to beat together ½ cup butter and 2 cups confectioner’s sugar. Add about 1 to 1 ½ ounces bourbon whisky, stirring well to combine. Spread Bourbon Buttercream Frosting on cooled brownies.
The final layer of Bourbon Brownies is a chocolate topping. For this topping, melt 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons butter. Cool until spreadable. Important: After the brownies have been frosted with Bourbon Buttercream Frosting, you should put them in the freezer for an hour or so. This will allow you to spread the cooled chocolate topping over the Bourbon Buttercream Frosting without mixing the two toppings together. After the chocolate topping has been spread over the Bourbon Brownies, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, cut into squares and place on a nice serving plate. Place a leaf or two of fresh mint beside the brownie for added appeal.
Happy Derby Day and let’s party!