This highlight of the US racing calendar is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old thoroughbreds held in Churchill Downs, Louisville. The Derby is the culmination of the 14-day Kentucky Derby Festival.
The bluegrass fields of Kentucky have been a major centre of horse breeding since the late 18th century. The Derby took its inspiration from the Epsom Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris. It dates to 1875, when it was originally run over 1.5 miles. In 1896 the distance was reduced to 1.25 miles.
A number of traditions enhance the atmosphere of the Derby. It is customary to sip mint juleps (an iced drink consisting of bourbon, mint and sugar). A popular dish enjoyed by race-goers is burgoo, a stew of beef, chicken, pork and vegetables.
The infield, the spectators' area adjacent to the track, is filled with revellers more interested in partying than racing.
The expensive box seats, known as 'Millionaires' Row', are frequented by the rich and famous. In full Derby tradition, women dress up and wear elaborate hats.
Since 1904, the race's official flower has been the red rose. Each year the winning jockey is presented with a bouquet of 60 long-stemmed roses, wrapped in 10 yards of ribbon. The Kentucky Derby has therefore been dubbed the 'Run for the Roses'.