Reporter Devin Katayama and Photographer Garrett Rowland expose the classy underbelly of one of the most highly anticipated American sporting events of the year.
Each May, the tiny city of Louisville is overrun by hundreds of thousands of sporting enthusiasts, anxiously awaiting the opening of the gates at Churchill Downs. They come for the races: the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, and on Saturday, the first race of the US Triple Crown- the Kentucky Derby. But for much of the audience, the spectacle is not the racing- it's the people.
Like the Superbowl mashed with a music festival, the Derby is a mixed bag of glamour and hoi polloi- a crazy cross section of American culture. The hats are huge, the dresses are short and the whole arena is a runway.
In the Grandstands you find the upper crust, with vantage points of the finish line, their view blocked only by a few stragglers leaning on the railing. Near the Paddock, betters await the horses, lined up before each race to showcase their prowess. In the Skye Terrace, fancy-hatted elite dine at a private buffet between races, perhaps popping out to the balcony when they hear the call to the track. But passing under the track, through a dark tunnel packed with chanting frat boys, you reach the infield. That's where the party is.
Whether they're there to gamble, drink, hook up or just watch the horses, everyone's a character.
Edited by Jillian Buckley
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