The Kentucky Derby is as deep-rooted in American culture as the thorns on the roses that are the official flowers of the Kentucky Derby. These elegant, red blooms are such a part of the Kentucky Derby that the race is also called “The Run for the Roses.” After a long run, many traditions baffle spectators. So how did the Kentucky Derby roses cement their place in the history and tradition of the Kentucky Derby?
History of Kentucky Derby Roses
Putting the herstory in history
As with other live horse racing traditions, like big hats, it all started with women’s fashion. The wealthy women who attended the race were adorned with red roses. Prior to this tradition, the first winner awarded with roses was given a pink and white garland. It wasn’t until 1904 when the founder of the historic race, Meriwether Lewis Clark, named the red rose the official flower of the Kentucky Derby.
The first blanket of roses
The first extravagant blanket of roses was given to the winner in 1932, Burgoo King. Exactly 400 hand-picked roses were sewn to a green satin backing. A crown was placed, covered in, you guessed it, more roses. Some may recall from history class that this was during the time of the Great Depression. Come poverty or bad weather, the Kentucky Derby has never, ever been canceled. Neither have any of the glamorous traditions that are expected to be present during the race.
Kroger Company named the official proprietor
The Kroger Company became the official proprietor of the Kentucky Derby rose in 1987. In order to put these beautiful pieces together, Kroger Company hand-picks the best of the best Freedom roses. When it comes to sifting through over 7,000 roses, the phrase “beauty is pain” rings true. Those who love the Kentucky Derby have taken to creating and hanging a Kentucky Derby horseshoe wreath, made of roses, on their door.
Frozen in time
Winners used to be given a silk replica of roses to assure they could keep their memory frozen in time. These days, the roses are preserved through freeze-drying so they can be kept on display forever.
Feel the Spirit of Tradition at Ellis Park Racing
Live horse racing is an American tradition. Visit Ellis Park to see live horse racing and find out for yourself what all the fuss is about. Mark Opening Day, July 2, on your summer calendar and get ready for a memory that will last a lifetime.