Elections

Presidential candidates no longer race to the Kentucky Derby

Businessman Donald Trump and his then-girlfriend, Melania Knauss, at the 125th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 1, 1999. At the time of the photo, the couple had been dating about a year. They would get married in 2005. Currently, Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for U.S. president. Click here to see a gallery of celebrities attending the Kentucky Derby from years past. Photo by David Stephenson
Businessman Donald Trump and his then-girlfriend, Melania Knauss, at the 125th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 1, 1999. At the time of the photo, the couple had been dating about a year. They would get married in 2005. Currently, Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for U.S. president. Click here to see a gallery of celebrities attending the Kentucky Derby from years past. Photo by David Stephenson

The Kentucky Derby has drawn some huge names over the years, and we’re not referring to the long horse names such as Whatamichoppedliver, Ya-Ka-Hick-A-Mick-A-Do-La and Ohnoitsmymotherinlaw.

The 1999 Kentucky Derby saw a lot of celebrities, politicians and eventual politicians, such as Donald Trump, his then-girlfriend Melania Knauss, then-Vice President Al Gore, boxing legend Muhammed Ali, comedian Joan Rivers and actors Ed Asner, Jon Lovitz and Lori Anderson.

In 2000, then-presidential candidate George W. Bush attended the race. Chelsea Clinton went on her mother’s behalf in 2008, when Hillary Clinton was still running for the Democratic presidential nomination against President Barack Obama.

Kentucky politicians typically attend the Bluegrass state’s signature event. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a regular staple at the Derby, making headlines in 2012 when he passed on an invitation to the White House from President Obama to go to the Derby and its parties instead. Sen. Rand Paul is another Derby regular, bringing along media mogul Rupert Murdoch in 2014.

Hundreds of other celebrities and politicians alike have made appearances at the races and surrounding parties over the years.

President Nixon, Jack Nicholson and Steven Spielberg are just some of the A-list celebrities who have made it to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

This year’s list of celebrities expected to attend the parties and/or the race include alpine skier Lindsey Vonn, model Kate Upton, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, journalist Megyn Kelly, singer Kid Rock, former NSYNC member Joey Fatone and actors Taylor Kinney, Johnny Galecki and Jon Voight. But national politicians are absent from any lists of expected appearances.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has said President Obama would not attend the Derby while he is a sitting president.

A post by the Kentucky Derby compared the event to the presidential primaries that have hogged the news cycle for months now. Among its points: A chosen few candidates at the Derby would dominate the media attention, while other deserving candidates would be ignored. It also compared the tendency to label horses as “establishment” or “insurgents,” also known as “outsiders.”

Trump, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders — the three remaining presidential candidates — have stated no plans to go to the Derby as primary season gradually draws to an end. Trump has a campaign event scheduled Saturday in Washington state, while Clinton will be in California Friday night and Sanders will kick off a two-day swing through New Jersey on Sunday. Saturday campaign events for the two Democratic candidates were not listed Friday morning, but chances are they will not include a visit to Churchill Downs.

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