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For many Derby fans, stargazing is main event

People come to the Derby to see the horses. You might have found that statement presumptuous if you were around Gate 10 at Churchill Downs.

That's where the stars came in, walking the red carpet where they were photographed and interviewed as if the Derby was an entertainment awards show — and not just by the media.

"We've seen everybody," Courtney Burk of San Antonio, Texas, said, flipping through close-up photos of famous people like Law & Order: SVU star Christopher Meloni on her iPhone. "Kate Gosselin, Fred Thompson, Joey Fatone, Nick Lachey, the Dos Equis guy" aka "the most interesting man in the world," played by actor Jonathan Goldsmith.

Burk was one of many star seekers hanging out at the head of the red carpet.

Paul Andrews of Chicago and David Mayer of St. Louis came prepared with 8-by-10 photos of the stars for them to sign.

"I collect them," Andrews said, right after supermodel Niki Taylor applied her Sharpie to several of Andrews' images of a scantily clad Taylor.

Dr. Montgomery as host

At the end of the red carpet, Private Practice and Grey's Anatomy actress Kate Walsh had a little garden party promoting Mott's new vegetable juice drink. 

"It's the epitome of a 21st-century drink," she said of Mott's Garden Blend. "Two servings of vegetables in a glass."

Walsh said she was squeezing the Derby in before shooting a new movie while on summer hiatus from Private Practice.

"I have always wanted to come to the Derby," she said. "It's a very romantic and fun day. I watched Secretariat to get in the spirit."

Hosting the garden party, Walsh got to see most of the stars attending the Derby, but her two favorites were Private Practice co-star Tim Daly and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.

"I thought, 'Oh, you have a real job,' " she said of Beshear.

The anchor wore custom shoes

WLEX (Channel 18) anchor Nicole Pence had her Derby outfit together, except for the shoes.

She's an anchor who spends her time on-air behind a desk, so she could be wearing Chucks for all we know. But she's also a woman who wants a complete ensemble for Derby Day.

Wednesday, a package arrived, with a pair of gold shoes custom-painted by St. Petersburg, Fla., artist Rasta Geary Taylor.

"I thought, 'Holy cow!' " Pence said of laying eyes on the gold heels sporting the LEX 18 logo and Derby images.

Pence says her mother had the shoes made, and she was initially a little iffy about the proposition.

"I didn't want anything that looked cheap," she said. "But these are gorgeous," she added, repeatedly taking them off as if she didn't want them to touch the ground too much.