Peekskill-Cortlandt Patch

The Kentucky Derby is considered by many to be “America’s Race” and fans world-wide look forward to the annual event.

Over its 137-year history, many traditions have developed around the Kentucky Derby. While millions of race fans everywhere appreciate the opportunity to see the world-class horses and the famous faces that partake in the festivities, the Kentucky Derby is often most appreciated for its fashion — particularly the hats.

From its earliest days, Kentucky Derby attendees, both men and women, were expected to wear their finest hats. A woman without a hat was considered a disgrace. Although the times have changed, the tradition remains, and it is still rare to find a lady without a hat on derby day.

Derby hats are known to come in a wide variety of sizes and styles, ranging from small to large, vintage to contemporary, conservative to garish, feathery to flowery or simply just outlandish. The ladies are not the only ones who partake in the fun. You will find lots of men donning their favorites as well.

On Saturday, May 5, Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway will celebrate the Kentucky Derby and honor its 137-year tradition by awarding prizes to the participants with the most distinguished hats.

In a political twist, some prominent elected officials will be in the judging seats.

The guest judges who will make up the panel will be April Pesick, racing enthusiast and Assistant Publicist for Yonkers Raceway, state Sen. Andrea Stewart Cousins, newly elected state Assembly Member Shelley Mayer, Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick, Standardbred Owners Association President Joe Faraldo, and WHUD radio show host Mike Bennett.

“It’s great to see racing fans come together for such an historic sports tradition,” said Bob Galterio, chief operating officer at Empire City. “We are proud to have such a distinguished panel of judges for our first-ever derby hat contest. It’s going to be a fun and exciting weekend for everyone involved.”

To participate, contestants must register from 1 to 4 p.m. at the trackside registration table. All contestants will display their hats before the judging panel for viewing at 4:30 p.m. The winners will be announced at 5 p.m.

“It’s great that we will celebrate the Kentucky Derby at Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway this year,” said Mayer. “A hat contest is a fitting tribute to this special race and its traditions, and I look forward to participating in judging the finest hats in the contest.”

First prizes of $500 for both the “most creative” and “most fashionable” hats will be awarded. Second prizes for each are $250, and third place winners will take home $100 each.

“The Kentucky Derby is an event steeped in history and tradition,” said Yonkers City Council President Lesnick. “Not only does the Derby celebrate the finest in horse racing but it brings people together to revel in the excitement of both sports and fashion. I look forward to seeing the “crown of roses” awarded to the first place thoroughbred at Churchill Downs and also to the one worn by our winning participant at Yonkers Raceway.”

Empire City Casino will also feature the signature cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, the mint julep.

Also, the first 500 Empire Club members to visit the Gotham Palace main promotions booth beginning at 4 p.m. on Saturday will receive a free $2 exacta box for the Derby — a $4 total wager.

Yonkers Raceway will simulcast the Churchill Downs’ races. First post for both Friday (Kentucky Oaks) and Saturday (Kentucky Derby) is 10:30 a.m. Yonkers Raceway’s regularly-scheduled harness program is set for 7:10 p.m. on both nights.