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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

No Tulips, But Guess What? Roses for Derby Day

3/20/2012

An usually warm winter in Louisville means a familiar sight and fragrance will be missing from Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Week -- but another one should take it's place.

"The tulips aren't going to make it this year," Churchill Downs' director of horticulture Matt Bizzell said Tuesday, the first day of spring.

Typically, between 6,000 and 12,000 tulips are showcased around Churchill Downs' 147-acre facility on Kentucky Derby Week.

"Unfortunately with all of this usually warm weather, the tulips will be blooming about three weeks from now, which is about two weeks early," Bizzell said. "Normally, they're at their peak for Opening Night (April 28), and if the weather cooperates, they make it for another week to Derby Day. That's not going to happen this year.

"Instead, we have 25,000 annuals that are growing in the Churchill Downs greenhouse (located adjacent to Gate 10 on the corner of Longfield and Wizard Avenue) right now. They'll go in place of the tulips and in all of the flower beds. The warmth and the sun are speeding them along. If this weather continues, we should be able to put these in the ground a little earlier than usual for opening week and not have to worry about frost.

"On one hand, it makes our job a little easier because we don't have to pull them out at the last minute and replace them for Oaks and Derby. But then again, I know I'm going to miss the look of those colorful tulips."

There's no need to worry about the official flower of the Kentucky Derby, however. Bizzell says the roses should look better than ever. "Traditionally, the roses usually peak after Derby but I'm hopeful they're going to peak right at Derby, which will be a nice change," Bizzell said.

Approximately 2,100 roses will dress the Kentucky Derby Winner's Circle on Derby Day. Also, there are about 250 rose bushes scattered throughout the facility, which also features approximately 1,500 trees and shrubs.

--Edited Churchill Downs release

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