LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Funny how the threat of rain changes priorities for Kentucky Derby spectators.
For sure, scores of women wearing big, colorful hats dotted the landscape at Churchill Downs on Saturday. Men in straw hats sported brightly hued suits they bring out once a year, sipping the Bluegrass State’s signature bourbon and puffing a cigar here and there.
And of course, there are mint juleps, a drink as iconic as those magnificent Twin Spires.
Just as present were clear ponchos that ended up protecting those fancy threads when the sky eventually opened up three hours before the Derby post time. Some eschewed fashion for function when it came to footwear: Rubber boots appeared to be the accessory of choice, especially when navigating the slippery terrain of discarded wet, non-winning tickets.
“This is cramping my style,” said Sharon Rose, visiting from Cleveland on her 13th trip to the Derby. “I had cute pink shoes that matched my hat and look at me now in these silly rubber boots.”
Last year’s Derby was the rainiest in the race’s history, soaking fans and sending many home early. Morning showers opened this year’s edition before breaking for several overcast hours. Occasional sprinkles eventually returned and escalated into a steady if light drizzle.
At least it wasn’t like last May, memorable for being the wettest Derby ever. And it didn’t dampen the spirits of a large crowd enjoying the 145th Run For the Roses, where Improbable and Maximum Security became co-favorites in the 19-horse field.
But sunshine would’ve been perfect, if only to showcase those colorful splashes that make the Derby scene special.