Share in the excitement of  ‘the most exciting two minutes in sports’ as the Kentucky Derby celebrates its 150th anniversary

Louisville, Kentucky takes centre stage next month when one of the world's most famous equestrian events gallops into town on the first weekend of May. Held on the same weekend each year at the purpose-built Churchill Downs racecourse, the Kentucky Derby is billed as "the most exciting two minutes in sports".

      This year, the event falls on Saturday 4 May and represents the Derby's 150th iteration, having first been staged at Churchill Downs in 1874. That first event was patterned on England's legendary Epsom Classics, and the Kentucky Derby remains the longest continually held sporting event in America - and one of the most prestigious horse races anywhere on the planet.

       Horse-mad holidaymakers can get a taste of the Derby all year round on a fly-drive through this part of the American South. At the Kentucky Derby Museum, visitors can take a tour of Churchill Downs' racetrack and see trophies, trivia and artefacts relating to the races.

     Then in nearby Lexington, meet thoroughbred, saddlebred and various other steeds at Kentucky Horse Park, whose Hall of Champions is home to retired racing legends who've run in the Derby.

      A Breeds Barn and daily Parade of Breeds showcase over 40 different types of horse including Arabian, Andalusian and mustangs, providing insight into mankind's 6,000-year-old relationship with these intelligent animals.

      Also in Lexington is Keeneland, another horse racing facility that offers behind-the-scenes tours that include the chance to interact with jockeys.

       Kentucky also offers appeal beyond its horse-racing heritage. This is the home of bluegrass music and well-known acts like The Judds and Billy Ray Cyrus. It's also known for bourbon, with 95% of the world's supply distilled here (it's said that there are more barrels of ageing bourbon in Kentucky than there are residents).

      Each distillery has its own unique twist, which adds interest to a tour along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Of particular note is the Woodford Reserve Distillery, located between Lexington and Fankfort, which has been in operation here since 1797 and produces the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby.

       Bon Voyage, the North America travel specialist, recommends combining Kentucky with the highlights of neighbouring Tennessee and Louisiana.

      Across the state line in Nashville, discover the story of country music and catch a performance in a honky-tonk bar; then continue to Memphis, the birthplace of rock'n'roll, to experience its phenomenal musical heritage at venues such as Sun Studios (where legends Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded hits in the 1950s) and Elvis Presley's palatial mansion, Graceland.

      Then in New Orleans, explore the French Quarter, visit magnificent plantation homes and take a jazz cruise on the mighty Mississippi River.

       This suggested, tailor-made fly-drive costs from £2,675 per person and includes flights (from London, Manchester or Glasgow) into Cincinnati and back from New Orleans, car hire and 12 nights' quality, well-located accommodation (room-only basis).

      For bookings or more information, call 0800 316 0194 or visit