I had the opportunity to attend MPI Kentucky Bluegrass Chapter luncheon at Churchill Downs. We started off with a delicious buffet lunch in the newly remodeled Homestretch Club. There’s about a 99.99% chance this is the only time I will ever be in this room. This was a 45 million dollar renovation project that was just recently completed. It has the largest bar in the state of Kentucky, spanning 97 feet long.

During lunch several team members at Churchill Downs shared their experiences during previous year’s Derby weeks. Here are some of the things I found most interesting:

  • 152 temporary structures added to the property
  • 25,000 feet in fences added (almost 5 miles)
  • Structures, fences, etc can not be added until after 10am, when horse practice time is over
  • They receive roughly 1,100 deliveries in the 8 days leading up to Derby
  • Food Numbers
    • 350,000 people fed in 8 days
    • 10,000 lbs of smoked brisket ordered
    • 9,000 lbs of shrimp ordered
    • 1,000 lbs of cheese ordered
    • 1,000 lbs of mint (semi trucks full)
    • 300,000 Mint Juleps served
    • Salads are from farm in Kentucky
  • Churchill does work with Dare to Care, a Louisville food bank (and more) after Derby.

The Churchill team also taught us how to make the official Mint Julep. I never knew that there was an “official” Mint Julep bourbon, but it is Old Forester! They had a recipe out for us to follow and I see it is a bit different than Old Forester’s website that I linked. It was delicious and what I will be going by for all future Mint Juleps.

How to make a Mint Julep, go in this order:

    • 2 ounces simple syrup
    • Add mint, muddle said mint
    • Add 2 ounces Old Forester
    • Add crushed ice, followed by a mint for garnish
      • My tricks: add 2 more ounces of simple syrup on top and a splash of sprite – 10/10

This particular luncheon was a special one. Churchill offered attendees, who are primarily in the event industry, a behind the scenes hard had tour of the new Paddock being built. We were actually the first to tour it.

As a Kentuckian that loves horse racing, I love watching the horses on the track, but truthfully seeing the horses in the Paddock area is always special. It’s your first time seeing them before the race, you get one last chance to pick your favorite(s), make those last minute bets and just see what beautiful creatures they are. Below is a rendering of what The Paddock will look like when it is finished. There are several stories that offer a variety of options. The first one being a general admission standing room option. From there you have enclosed and/or balcony options. There’s even a dedicated Speakeasy for just the Paddock. Did you know there are two other Speakeasy’s at Churchill? The photo below is what the renovation will look like when completed.

Below is what the space currently looks like 2.5 months before Derby 150.

Most horse races have between 6 and 12 races. The Kentucky Derby has 20 horses. It’s hard having all of those horses in the Paddock, especially when it’s too small, hence part of the reason for renovation. My favorite part was when they said there is a stall for the overstimulated horses being added. I mean, can you imagine how they feel looking at 115,000 people? I’d need a private stall too. Below is that space in progress.

After walking through The Paddock area we got to follow the walkway into the track and visit Winner’s Circle. Guarantee this will be the only time I will ever visit it. Pictured on the right are Doug Smith with Doug Smith Designs, Hunter & Peggy Sherwood with Sherwood Designs & Events and myself!

It was such a great event. I’m so glad that I went and can’t wait to see the finished project!