Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby Will Play ‘My Old Kentucky Home' Despite Criticism

"My Old Kentucky Home" tells the story of an enslaved person being sold down the river, but over the years the song became associated with blackface minstrel shows and plantation culture

General interior view during the 146th Kentucky Derby
Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Churchill Downs Racetrack will continue its tradition of playing “My Old Kentucky Home” at the start of the Kentucky Derby despite criticism that the song is about American slavery.

The performance of the tune, which is also Kentucky's state song, will be different Saturday than in prior years, Churchill Downs said.

"Normally, the moment would include fans singing along. This year, it will be instrumental only and preceded by a moment of silence and reflection," Tonya Abeln, vice president of communications at the Churchill Downs Foundation, told NBC News in an email Saturday.

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most-watched sporting events in the U.S., with an average of 15 million television viewers each year. It is taking place Saturday without fans in attendance after it was postponed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. (NBC televises the derby each year.)

The song will be played by bugler Steve Buttleman, instead of as usual by the University of Louisville marching band.

Read the full story on

Contact Us