Devin Ridley-Marks has horses in his blood. His great-great-grandfather rode with Texas' version of the Pony Express and was a messenger during the Civil War. His great-great-great-grandfather was a horse trainer in Kentucky.
So it wasn't a stretch for Ridley-Marks to celebrate Saturday's running of the 134th Kentucky Derby with a party awash in mint juleps, a hat contest and cigar paddock.
Ridley-Marks teamed with Michael Murphy to put together Derby Doo Dah at Murphy's Gallery M in South Tampa. Murphy has family from the Bluegrass state; Ridley-Marks lived outside Lexington.
Proceeds from the event will go to Reclaiming Heritage, Ridley-Marks' nonprofit group devoted to celebrating Tampa's boomtown years, 1875 to 1925. The winner of the hat contest will get a pair of Manolo Blahnik (people) shoes. Ketel One will create a vodka mint julep for the non-bourbon drinkers.
The event seeks to raise awareness of Tampa's connection to the derby and horse racing, which is stronger than many might think.
Ridley-Marks' great-great-grandfather, the Col. Silas Armistead Jones, arrived in Tampa on Dec. 25, 1876, with two thoroughbred horses from Kentucky. The first Derby was held the year before, and he was a big fan.
It's unclear whether Col. Jones held any Derby Doo Dahs, but he did like to throw lavish parties. A co-founder of Tampa's Board of Trade, he became an influential Florida builder and started the area's first daily newspaper, the Tampa Daily Times. He taught his six daughters how to ride.
In recognition of that equine history, Murphy will have artwork for sale by artists who specialize in horses and shoes. Guests also can create their own horse to compete in a dice game version of Run for the Roses.
A few real horses might show up, too, Ridley-Marks said. His ancestors would have insisted on it.