This weekend signals the start of the Kentucky Derby. Though we usually think of baseball as "America's pastime," horse racing is a long-standing tradition in much of the country, especially the South. The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the all-important Triple Crown, and owners, jockeys, and trainers prepare their thoroughbreds for the Derby all year.
The Kentucky Derby is also known for its refined Southern style—attendees dress up, women traditionally wear ostentatious hats, and the mint julep is the drink of choice. Celebrities come out in large numbers for the Kentucky Derby—not just to watch the horses race, but also as owners of thoroughbred horses. Here are some of the most famous Kentucky Derby celebrity owners.
Pianist and songwriter Burt Bacharach saw his first horse race at age 14. He fell in love with the animals, and horses came to pay a major role in his life. Such a large role, in fact, that they distracted the Grammy and Academy Award winner from making music. In 1983, Bacharach got so caught up in the career of his filly Heartlight No. One, that he didn't write a song for months. In 1994, his horse Soul of the Matter finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby, and in 1995, his other horse, Afternoon Deelites, came in eighth.
Former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is remembered as one of the most controversial individuals in Yankees history. But baseball wasn't the only sport he had a passion for. Steinbrenner bred horses at a stable in Ocala, Fla., and entered his first horse in the Kentucky Derby in 1977. The thoroughbred, Steve's Friend, finished fifth. Though Steinbrenner's Yankees won seven World Series on his watch, he had less luck with horse racing. In all, he entered six horses in the Kentucky Derby and never made it past fifth place.
The name Jenny Craig is most commonly associated with weight loss, not horse racing. But the Louisiana native and weight loss guru has wide-ranging interests, including horses. In 1995, Craig and her husband purchased a horse ranch in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. The Craigs bred thoroughbreds, including Dr. Devious, who finished in seventh place in the 1992 Kentucky Derby. Sidney Craig passed away in 2008, and his widow named one of her thoroughbreds, Sidney's Candy, after him. In 2010 Sidney's Candy ran in the Kentucky Derby.
When MC Hammer rose to fame in 1990, it was as a rap star with his chart-topping single "U Can't Touch This.” With his billowing 'hammer pants' and funky style, Hammer didn't seem like the Kentucky Derby type. But looks can be deceiving, and indeed, horseracing was one of the rapper's passions. In 1991, he opened Oaktown Stable, named after his hometown of Oakland, Calif. Oaktown would eventually be home to 19 thoroughbred horses. In 1992, MC Hammer's colt finished third in the Kentucky Derby—with the very appropriate name of Dance Floor.
When Steven Spielberg directed the Oscar-nominated War Horse in 2011, it wasn't his first experience working with horses. The famed filmmaker owned a share in a horse that came in fourth in the 2003 Kentucky Derby. The horse's name? Atswhatimtalknbout.