From the official Kentucky Derby Web site:
Women have played an active role in Kentucky Derby history since the turn of the century. In 1904, Mrs. Laska Durnell nominated Elwood to the Kentucky Derby, unbeknownst to her husband, trainer Charles Durnell. The decision was a shrewd one and Elwood won as the longest price in the field of five. Elwood was the first starter and winner owned by a woman, and also the first winner bred by a woman, Mrs. J.B. Prather.
By the 1940s, women owners in the Derby were almost commonplace. In 1942, seven of the first eight finishers in the Kentucky Derby were owned by women. The exception was Valdina Orphan, who finished third.
Besides the role of owner, a total of 10 women trainers have sent 11 starters postward in the Kentucky Derby, and four women have ridden in the famed “Run for the Roses”.
Perhaps we should toast the Kentucky Derby Dames with a delicious Mint Julep! Here is our favorite recipe taken from a letter dated March 30, 1937 from Lt Gen SB Buckner, Jr to General Connor:
So far as the mere mechanics of the operation are concerned, the procedure, stripped of its ceremonial embellishments, can be described as follows:
Go to a spring where cool, crystal-clear water bubbles from under a bank of dew-washed ferns. In a consecrated vessel, dip up a little water at the source. Follow the stream through its banks of green moss and wildflowers until it broadens and trickles through beds of mint growing in aromatic profusion and waving softly in the summer breezes. Gather the sweetest and tenderest shoots and gently carry them home. Go to the sideboard and select a decanter of Kentucky Bourbon, distilled by a master hand, mellowed with age yet still vigorous and inspiring. An ancestral sugar bowl, a row of silver goblets, some spoons and some ice and you are ready to start.
In a canvas bag, pound twice as much ice as you think you will need. Make it fine as snow, keep it dry and do not allow it to degenerate into slush.
In each goblet, put a slightly heaping teaspoonful of granulated sugar, barely cover this with spring water and slightly bruise one mint leaf into this, leaving the spoon in the goblet. Then pour elixir from the decanter until the goblets are about one-fourth full. Fill the goblets with snowy ice, sprinkling in a small amount of sugar as you fill. Wipe the outsides of the goblets dry and embellish copiously with mint.
Then comes the important and delicate operation of frosting. By proper manipulation of the spoon, the ingredients are circulated and blended until Nature, wishing to take a further hand and add another of its beautiful phenomena, encrusts the whole in a glittering coat of white frost. Thus harmoniously blended by the deft touches of a skilled hand, you have a beverage eminently appropriate for honorable men and beautiful women.
When all is ready, assemble your guests on the porch or in the garden, where the aroma of the juleps will rise Heavenward and make the birds sing. Propose a worthy toast, raise the goblet to your lips, bury your nose in the mint, inhale a deep breath of its fragrance and sip the nectar of the gods.
Being overcome by thirst, I can write no further.
S.B. Buckner, Jr.