Tomorrow begins what is possibly the most anticipated drinking, hat-wearing, and horse-racing event of the year – the Kentucky Derby. Though I’ve never been much of a horse-racing aficionado, I have always been charmed by the spectacle, the lore, and, for lack of a better word, the accoutrements of the Kentucky Derby. Founded in 1872 by Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, the Derby is held at Churchill Downs and is the first leg of the Triple Crown series of races. The Derby is also known as the Run for the Roses, after the blanket of 554 roses draped over the winner.
Not surprisingly, Churchill Downs has every reason to keep the American public charmed by this two-day event; in 2010, Forbes named the Kentucky Derby one of the “World’s Top Sport Events,” raking in $67 million a year. Of course, part of the way in which the Kentucky Derby retains its cache – and maintains its value – is by protecting its brand. Churchill Downs currently owns 24 live and dead records for the KENTUCKY DERBY mark.
But the allure of the Kentucky Derby comes from more than just the KENTUCKY DERBY – and it benefits more than just Churchill Downs. For example, there’s DERBY-PIE, a chocolate-and-walnut-tart concoction. According to one source, the owner of the DERBY-PIE mark has fought off numerous parties who would infringe its mark, forcing other companies to alter their recipes slightly and/or use a different name (such as “Pegasus Pie”, a reference to the Pegasus Parade at the Kentucky Derby Festival and May Day Pie, in reference to the First Saturday in May, the day of the Kentucky Derby). All in all, the Trademark Office lists 84 records containing the term DERBY, only 24 of which are owned by Churchill Downs.
While I probably won’t watch the Run for the Roses, I’ll wager that I, along with thousands of others, will enjoy what might be the most famous thing to come out of the Kentucky Derby – a mint julep. Unlike some cocktails, like the DARK N’ STORMY, no one claims exclusive rights in the make-up of this drink. And yet, if any one organization could, it might just be the Kentucky Derby, which sells over 120,000 of these cocktails every year.