Race Report: Discovering the 144th Kentucky Derby with Longines
The 144th edition of "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" didn’t disappoint. Keeping the time? Longines. Here’s a full report from Churchill Downs.
This past weekend, the Kentucky Derby Festival concluded with the “Run for the Roses” a 1 ¼ mile race around the famous Churchill Downs dirt track which most Americans refer to as the Kentucky Derby. While 20 thoroughbreds entered this race, only one could take home the Kentucky Derby Trophy. That honor ultimately went to winning jockey Mike Smith and his horse Justify. The final odds on Justify were 5-2 and he was the clear favorite going into the race. Nearly $8 million dollars was bet on the three-year-old Colt from Versailles, Kentucky. The entire race weekend was a spectacle unlike anything I’d ever seen.
The Longines Connection
Longines has been timing the Kentucky Derby since 2011 and this year may have been their most impactful yet. Throughout the weekend, the brand gifted multiple watches, most notably to the winning jockey and owners of Justify. The watch chosen for these occasions was the Conquest V.H.P. meaning “Very High Precision”. We’ve previously covered the V.H.P. lineup here. For the Derby, a special edition blue dial was introduced to the collection of precision timekeepers.
On the day prior to the race, Longines hosted the Kentucky Oaks. A full day of racing and pageantry in which the entire track and attendees are outfitted in a pink motif. One of the highlights was a bright pink carpet that played host to a fashion show of sorts called the ‘Longines Prize for Elegance’. All guests are encouraged to wear pink on the day of the Kentucky Oaks and a select few walked the pink carpet to the assembled judges, including journalists and brand representatives. Ultimately, Meghana Rajadhyaksha won the prize, a Longines Master Collection 25mm ladies watch. Outfitted with the same blue dial as the Conquest V.H.P. given to the Derby winners, but in this case featuring vibrant diamond indexes. Longines US Brand President, Pascal Savoy personally delivered the stainless-steel piece to Rajadhyaksha at the conclusion of the judging.
While there were many activities and races trackside for us to experience, one thing was overwhelmingly clear, Longines takes their timing obligations very seriously. With multiple Longines branded digital timing clocks placed throughout the track and prominent placement on the world’s largest jumbotron (seriously, you can see it across town). Longines has a rich history of sports timekeeping, but the Kentucky Derby feels like the epitome of racing events. It’s certainly one of America’s longest consecutively run events (since 1875 to be exact). Seeing the Longines logos throughout the track felt like a natural pairing given both brand’s respective statures.
First of the Triple Crown
It’s worth noting the Kentucky Derby is just the start of an eventful summer for horseracing. The Triple Crown Trophy is awarded to the horse and jockey that manages to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. Just twelve thoroughbreds have managed the win a Triple Crown with the most recent being American Pharaoh in 2015. Could Justify be on his way to the coveted Triple Crown? We’ll find out at the Preakness Stakes, set to take place on Saturday, May 19th, 2018. Longines is the official watch of the Triple Crown.
Being a bit of a gamester, I certainly knew a thing or two about horse racing. But seeing the race from the unique vantage point provided by Longines made this Derby rookie’s weekend, if not year. It’s hard to explain in words what I saw while walking through the historic venue. During a tour of the facilities, we visited the Turf Club, where stars mingle amongst onlookers. For example, I saw singers Kid Rock and Travis Tritt sharing betting tips with the Green Bay Packers.
We experienced so much over the course of our weekend. Sure, the race day was full of rain showers, but judging by the looks on people’s faces, this didn’t diminish their enjoyment of the Derby. Throughout it all, one thing was abundantly clear, Churchill Downs is a place of memories and dreams. People from all walks of life come to experience the spectacle of the Derby and sip on mint juleps while rooting for that 85-1 underdog (I’m talking to you ‘Instilled Regard’).
While I didn’t walk away a winner, I did go home with rich memories that I will cherish for a long time to come. Many thanks to Longines for hosting Watchonista at the Kentucky Derby.
Here we present you an assortment of photos that chronicle our Kentucky Derby experience courtesy of Longines.