Oaks History: Lilies for the Fillies

Events / Travel

Ladies enjoying Kentucky Oaks day (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

Although the Kentucky Oaks blanket of lilies hasn’t been around for as long as the Kentucky Derby garland of roses, it still is a great tradition of Churchill Downs’ signature race for fillies.

The stargazer lily has been the official flower of the Oaks since 1991, when the Kroger Co. was asked to craft a feminine garland for the winning filly in the Derby’s sister race. The stargazer lily was picked to represent femininity and strength. Lite Light became the first filly to receive the garland of lilies after she trounced the field in the 117th Kentucky Oaks.

GARLAND OF STARGAZER LILIES WAITS FOR KENTUCKY OAKS WINNER

Photos by Eclipse Sportswire

If you ask me, Kentucky Oaks day is underrated. There’s something incredible about the sea of pink that takes over Churchill Downs and watching the best of the best fillies compete in a race with 140 years of history.  

I love everything that the Kentucky Oaks embodies, plus it seems to be a day that tips its hat (or fascinator) to women! The winning Kentucky Oaks filly has been presented with a floral garland since 1916. Back then it was made of roses but it is now crafted of lilies — “Lilies for the Fillies.”

KENTUCKY OAKS DAY IS ALL ABOUT THE LADIES

 

How many lilies make up the Oaks blanket? There are 133 of them adorning the winner’s garland. The flowers are sewn into a white fabric backing with a fleur-de-lis pattern, then trimmed with a border of oak ivy leaves. Like the Derby’s garland of roses, the lily garland also is embroidered with Churchill’s Twin Spires, the seal of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the number of the race’s renewal.

PINK IS THE COLOR OF THE DAY


 

Also lily themed (and extremely tasty) is the Oaks’ official drink – the Grey Goose Oaks Lily. One part sweet and sour mix, one part Grey Goose Vodka, three parts cranberry juice all mixed with a splash of Triple Sec. Of course, it tastes best when garnished with a cherry and orange wedge.

THE OAKS LILY IS A PERFECT COMPLEMENT TO A DAY AT THE RACES

I spent my college career involved with my sorority’s national philanthropy (Breast Cancer Education and Awareness) and love that since 2009 the Kentucky Oaks has partnered with various breast cancer awareness and research organizations. They also hold a Survivors Parade before the races — a great way to show support for cancer survivors. The Kentucky Oaks is a fun event with a rich history and the perfect way to spend Derby eve!

BLANKET OF LILIES DRAPED OVER 2010 WINNER BLIND LUCK AND RAFAEL BEJARANO


 

Read more about the wonderful tradition of the Kentucky Oaks and the “Lilies for the Fillies” here on Churchill Down’s website.

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