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  • Writer's pictureDanny Brewer

The Soundtrack of the Run for the Roses: Music Played at the Kentucky Derby

Updated: Apr 12

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The Kentucky Derby, often dubbed "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports," is not only a pinnacle of horse racing but also a cultural event that encompasses a rich tapestry of traditions, including a distinctive musical repertoire. For those wondering about the unique melodies that fill the air at Churchill Downs, this blog post explores the iconic music played at the Kentucky Derby, providing insights into the tunes that have become synonymous with this storied event.

The Traditional Anthem: "My Old Kentucky Home"

The most enduring musical tradition of the Kentucky Derby is the playing of "My Old Kentucky Home" by Stephen Foster. As the horses are paraded before the grandstands leading up to the race, this poignant song is performed, evoking a strong sense of tradition and belonging among the attendees. This moment, steeped in emotion and history, sees tens of thousands of spectators singing along, creating a unifying experience that transcends the sport itself. The song's lyrics speak of longing and nostalgia for Kentucky, making it a perfect anthem for the state's most famous event.

The Call to Post: A Bugler's Tune

Another integral musical moment at the Kentucky Derby is the "Call to Post." This brief bugle melody signals the start of the race, beckoning the jockeys and their mounts to the starting gate. The tune is instantly recognizable to racing enthusiasts and serves as the definitive cue that the excitement is about to begin. The live performance of the "Call to Post" by the bugler, dressed in traditional red coat and black hat, adds to the pageantry and anticipation of the race.

The Fanfare of Victory: Celebratory Music

Following the race, as the winning horse and jockey make their way to the winner's circle, celebratory music fills the air. This varies each year but often includes triumphant, uplifting tunes that match the joy and exhilaration of victory. The music accentuates the presentation of the garland of roses to the winner, a time-honored tradition that dates back to 1932.

Beyond the Main Event: The Derby Festival

The Kentucky Derby Festival, which precedes the race, is a two-week-long celebration featuring a wide array of events, including the Pegasus Parade, balloon races, and the Thunder Over Louisville fireworks show. Music plays a central role in these festivities, with live bands and musical acts performing various genres ranging from country and bluegrass, native to Kentucky, to pop and rock, ensuring that there's something for everyone's musical taste.

Music is an essential element of the Kentucky Derby, adding layers of tradition and emotion to an already thrilling event. From the nostalgic strains of "My Old Kentucky Home" to the lively beats that score the festival, each note plays a part in creating the unforgettable atmosphere of Derby Day. Whether you're attending in person or watching from afar, the music of the Kentucky Derby serves as a reminder of the rich cultural heritage and shared moments of joy that the event brings to people around the world.

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danny brewer

Danny Brewer, President and CEO of Feel The Beat Entertainment and owner of BAMA Casino Company, brings over 30 years of experience in entertainment. He oversees teams that specialize in premium casino entertainment and top-tier customer service. His ventures, including Feel The Beat Entertainment and Cool Shots Photo Booth, cater to a diverse array of events from corporate to private parties. Renowned in the industry, Brewer is a speaker at trade shows and sets high standards for clients across various scales.


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