What Time Does the Kentucky Derby Start?

What Time Does the Kentucky Derby Start

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most prestigious and iconic horse racing events in the world. Held annually at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the prestigious Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. It’s a spectacle that attracts horse racing enthusiasts, celebrities, and casual fans alike, all eager to witness the thrilling race and soak in the unique atmosphere of this historic event.

The History and Significance of the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby has a rich history that dates back to 1875, making it the longest continuously held horse race in the United States. Over the decades, the Derby has become ingrained in American culture, known for its pageantry, fashion, and traditions. It’s a celebration of the sport of horse racing, as well as a reflection of the unique Southern charm and hospitality that permeates the event.

Understanding the Schedule of the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is part of a multi-day event known as the Kentucky Derby Festival, which includes a variety of activities and events leading up to the main race. The actual Kentucky Derby race is typically held on the first Saturday in May, though the specific date can vary from year to year.

What Time Does the Kentucky Derby Start?

The start time of the Kentucky Derby can vary slightly from year to year, but it generally takes place in the late afternoon, around 6:30 PM Eastern Time (ET). This allows for the race to be broadcast during prime time for viewers across the United States. The exact post time for the Kentucky Derby is typically announced a few weeks before the event, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest information.

Factors that Can Affect the Start Time of the Kentucky Derby

While the Kentucky Derby typically starts around 6:30 PM ET, there are a few factors that can influence the exact start time:

  1. Weather Conditions: In the event of inclement weather, such as heavy rain or thunderstorms, the start time may be delayed to ensure the safety of the horses, jockeys, and spectators.
  2. Broadcast Scheduling: The Kentucky Derby is a highly anticipated event, and television networks often adjust their programming to accommodate the race. The start time may be influenced by the needs of the broadcasters and the overall schedule of the day’s events.
  3. Undercard Races: The Kentucky Derby is part of a larger race card, with several other races taking place throughout the day. The timing of these undercard races can also impact the start time of the main event.

How to Watch the Kentucky Derby

There are several ways for fans to watch the Kentucky Derby, both in person and from the comfort of their own homes:

  1. Attend the Event: For the ultimate Kentucky Derby experience, many people choose to attend the race in person at Churchill Downs. Tickets for the event can be purchased well in advance and often sell out quickly.
  2. Television Broadcast: The Kentucky Derby is broadcast nationally on NBC, with coverage typically starting several hours before the actual race. This allows viewers to enjoy the buildup and pageantry of the event.
  3. Live Streaming: For those unable to attend the race or watch on television, the Kentucky Derby is also available for live streaming on various digital platforms, including the NBC Sports app and website.

The Traditions and Attractions of the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is known for its rich traditions and unique attractions that contribute to the event’s enduring appeal. From the iconic mint juleps and elaborate hats to the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home” and the traditional singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the Derby is a celebration of Southern culture and the sport of horse racing.

Tips for Attending the Kentucky Derby in Person

For those fortunate enough to attend the Kentucky Derby in person, there are a few tips to help ensure a memorable experience:

  1. Dress the Part: The Kentucky Derby is known for its fashionable attire, so be sure to dress up in your best derby-inspired outfit, complete with a stylish hat or fascinator.
  2. Arrive Early: With large crowds and limited parking, it’s important to arrive at Churchill Downs well before the start of the race to ensure you can find your seat and soak in the pre-race atmosphere.
  3. Enjoy the Festivities: In addition to the main race, the Kentucky Derby Festival offers a variety of other events and activities, from concerts and parades to fireworks displays and culinary experiences.

Other Important Information for Spectators

When attending the Kentucky Derby, there are a few other important details to keep in mind:

  • Ticket Prices: Ticket prices for the Kentucky Derby can vary significantly, ranging from general admission to exclusive hospitality packages.
  • Parking and Transportation: With the large crowds, parking can be a challenge, so consider alternative transportation options like shuttles or ridesharing services.
  • Prohibited Items: To ensure the safety of all attendees, certain items are prohibited from being brought into Churchill Downs, such as outside food and beverages, large bags, and weapons.


The Kentucky Derby is a truly unique and iconic sporting event that captures the imagination of people around the world. Whether you plan to watch the race in person or from the comfort of your own home, understanding the start time and the various factors that can influence it is crucial to fully enjoying this thrilling spectacle. By embracing the traditions, attractions, and tips for attending, you can create a memorable experience and be a part of the rich history of the Kentucky Derby.

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