And We’re Off!

Celebrities set to descend on Churchill Downs

Story by Angie Fenton

Photo of Jennifer Lawrence by Tim Valentino

Photo of Blair Underwood courtesy of Kentucky Derby Festival

Blair Underwood

You know it’s going to be a doozy of a Derby when one of the world’s best actresses walks the red – I mean, orange – carpet on Opening Night at Churchill Downs.

Jennifer Lawrence returned to her old Kentucky home on April 28 to attend the orange-themed 2018 Awards in the Arts presented by Woodford Reserve, Joy Mangano and Unbridled Eve Charitable Foundation. The celebratory event, which was hosted by Fund for the Arts, Jennifer Lawrence Foundation and Churchill Downs, honored several of the city’s prominent artists and arts organizations.

Jennifer Lawrence attends Awards in the Arts on Opening Night

Although it still remains to be seen whether the much-loved Louisville native will stick around for Derby Week, dozens of celebrities from a variety of industries will take part in the festivities at the newly-renovated racetrack, including Blair Underwood, who is a guest of the Kentucky Derby Festival (KDF) and the Barnstable Brown Gala. The Emmy-, Grammy- and NAACP Image Award-winning actor – currently starring on “Quantico” (10 p.m. ET Thursdays on ABC) – will attend KDF’s Celebrity Day at the Downs on Thurby (that’s Thursday’s Derby for y’all who aren’t locals) and his first Kentucky Derby. “It’s always something I wanted to do but never had a chance to do it,” he said.

Underwood will attend with his wife Desiree “for sure” and had hoped to bring his father, retired Army Col. Frank Underwood Sr., with him but at presstime, Blair Underwood said the 86-year-old was feeling a bit under the weather and most likely wouldn’t make the trip (though Frank Underwood Jr., Blair’s brother, will).

“I’m an avid horse lover,” explained Blair Underwood. “When we were kids, we had a ranch in the Rocky Mountains. …I’ve never raced horses. I’ve always loved Western riding… My intrigue and desire for the Kentucky Derby is to watch the horses race. That’s my angle: the race itself. Now, I know it’s surrounded by a lot of pomp and circumstance, and I’m looking forward to that, too. But the initial pull is horse racing.”

Instead of studying the ponies in advance, Underwood said he’ll arrive a “blank slate. I’m just going to absorb it all in.”

That’s not to say the stylish thespian hasn’t done his homework when it comes to what he plans to wear while in town.

“I can tell you that I have some hats that I’m excited about,” said Underwood (FYI: Desiree, his wife, will have at least one hat custom-made by The Hat Girls, the Louisville duo comprised of Kate Smith and Rachel Bell.) 

Underwood, who is eager to experience all Derby has to offer, also will walk the various red carpets. Word to the wise: “What comes next?” is Underwood’s favorite question, he laughed. “That’s because the next gig is always the best the gig.” VT