Some sporting events aren’t particularly well-suited for online video distribution. Football has too many stops and starts. A hockey puck is practically invisible on a YouTube screen. But horse racing, with its short run time and breathless action, makes for video that pops no matter the screen size.
So it seems almost natural that the Kentucky Derby would have a YouTube account, but nonetheless it’s gratifying to see that it exists, and has in fact existed since 2006. This meant that immediately after the race on Saturday, there was an official video available for those who had missed it — a video that’s officially viral today, having racked up half a million views since being posted.
And no wonder: The complete race is a tense three minutes of horse-powered excitement. Without the pre-race coverage introducing you to the horses and their jockeys, the context is a bit lacking, but the official commentary makes the action easy to parse. When the announcers declare that 50-to-1-rated Mine That Bird is the upset winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby, beating out the higher-ranked favorites this Saturday to take home $1.4 million in cash, it’s almost as thrilling as seeing it live.
The Derby’s YouTube account also archives notable races from its 135-year history, as well as videos capturing the culture that’s sprung up around the event. Because sure it’s fun to play the ponies, but you know what’s even more fun? Playing the ponies while sipping a delicious mint julep and wearing a really big hat. Since the Derby wants you to have the best time possible, they’ve produced shorts on these exceedingly important topics.
Hosted by the pleasant and engaging Michelle Yu, these videos are a lot of fun. The mint julep clip not only offers instruction on how to properly prepare the beverage, but includes basic notes on making your own simple syrup (which it turns out will keep for a week in the fridge! That’s seven days’ worth of mint julep joy!).
The hat-making segments could be much tighter — Part 1, at three minutes, focuses on Yu picking out the materials for her custom derby hat, while Part 2 is a 20-minute millinery odyssey that barely cracks 4,000 views. But it’s still an interesting look at a part of the culture that honors an era in which you could raise your profile just by swapping your headgear.
And all the videos all add to a sense of the horse-racing world beyond talk of steroid scandals and public euthanasia, which they desperately need after last year’s tragic death of Eight Bells. By embracing YouTube, the Derby allows those who are catching up a taste of what they missed — while also getting them excited for the next race.