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Your guide to the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most thrilling events in the world. In fact, it's so exhilarating that it's been dubbed the "Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports," but there's much more to the Kentucky Derby than just a couple of moments of racing. In fact, the main event is preceded by two weeks of festivities that take place all over the city. If you're considering joining the more than 400,000 people from all around the world that come to Louisville, book a rental car for the Kentucky Derby and get ready for:

The Festival

In addition to the two-minute race, a massive festival comprises the celebrations of the Kentucky Derby, and it's made up of several events all across the city for weeks leading up to the derby. Use your Virginia Car rental to get to the Kentucky Exposition Center where the Taste of Derby presents a unique culinary experience that showcases the flavors of cities that play an important role in the sport of horse racing. From a most anywhere in the city, you can feast your eyes on the fireworks display of Thunder Over Louisville (though Waterfront Park is widely regarded as the best viewing spot).

A big highlight of the event is the set of marathons that let festivalgoers go head-to-head in their own race. You can take part in the half marathon that spans 13.1 miles or test your endurance in the 26.2-mile full marathon. The winner is awarded a spot in the Boston Marathon. Guests looking for something a little more lavish during the derby fest can attend the Julep Ball, a massive gala with music, dancing, drinks and food and a fundraiser that benefits worthwhile organizations such as cancer research centers. Another upscale bash is the Barnstable Brown Party, a black-tie event that attracts Hollywood stars and other celebrities from around the world.

The Race

This competition has been running longer than any other sports event in the country, dating back to 1875. It takes place on the first Saturday of each May at Louisville's Churchill Downs racetrack. The race puts 20 thoroughbreds aged three years old on the track together, chasing the finish line for a 1.5-mile stretch. The equines chosen for the derby are among the best in the world - 450 nominees compete in graded stake matches for the opportunity to run at Churchill Downs.

Whichever horse wins the derby is greeted on the other side of the finish line with a shawl of roses and gets to race in the Preakness Stakes for the chance to contend in the Belmont Stakes for the coveted Triple Crown. Keep in mind that in order to park your Louisville car rental at the track on the day of the event, you must purchase a parking pass in advance. Then, the whole crowd is encouraged to join in on the traditional after-race singing of "My Old Kentucky Home."

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