2019 marks the 10th year in a row that Anna Nicole Smith's daughter Dannielynn, 12, has appeared at the Kentucky Derby alongside dad Larry Birkhead

By Liz McNeil Jen Juneau
May 04, 2019 11:05 AM

Anna Nicole Smith‘s daughter Dannielynn Hope is growing up so fast.

The 12-year-old made her appearance at the Barnstable Brown Kentucky Derby Gala on Friday in Louisville, Kentucky, posing alongside dad Larry Birkhead on the red carpet.

Looking like the spitting image of her late mother, Dannielynn wore a bright yellow dress with pink and white roses while Birkhead looked dapper in a navy suit and pink accents to match his child.

2019 marks the 10th year in a row that Dannielynn celebrated the Kentucky Derby alongside dad Birkhead, 46. The father-daughter pair reside in rural Kentucky as of September 2016.

“Larry met Anna Nicole at the party years ago. They come every year and it’s become an annual tradition,” Chris Barnstable-Brown tells PEOPLE.

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“Larry met Anna at the party. Larry was a photographer and guest and had been covering the party and met her there. He is from Louisville and they started dating. After Anna passed away, every year they come back to the party,” Barnstable-Brown says, adding, “Larry has brought Dannielynn for years. She’s a beautiful young girl now and becoming a young woman.”

Then on Saturday, Dannielynn honored her late mother with a special accessory.

“Kentucky Derby time once again. Dannielynn looks pretty in pink in her dress by Junona and her Mom’s hat from her unforgettable appearance at The Kentucky Derby in 2004 #KentuckyDerby2019,” the proud dad tweeted.

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Larry Birkhead and daughter Dannielynn
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RELATED GALLERY: All Grown Up! Ten Years of Anna Nicole Smith’s Daughter Dannielynn at the Kentucky Derby

Birkhead’s life as a single dad hasn’t been without its challenges — and a big one is helping shape the opinion his daughter forms about her late mother, who died from an accidental overdose in February 2007 at age 39 when Dannielynn was just 5 months old.

“I have a block on her [computer]. We sit down and I have a talk with her and I say, ‘You’re going to see these things about your mom and not everything is true,’ ” Birkhead told Wendy Williams in February 2017. “I take a little bit of Anna’s life and I put it into lessons.”

He added at the time that his little girl has grown up so quickly it seems like her milestones have come in one huge wave. “We went from diapers and teething to braces and sports bras overnight,” Birkhead admitted to Williams.

Anna Nicole Smith in 2005
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RELATED VIDEO: Anna Nicole Smith’s Daughter Dannielynn Looks All Grown Up at the Kentucky Derby

“It’s great and it’s a lot of work,” he added of parenting Dannielynn. “I know there’s a lot of single parents out there … but for me, when you add the Anna Nicole factor to it all, now it’s getting a little tough.”

In an interview with 20/20 that same month, Birkhead praised his daughter for being “fearless like her mom.”

“She’ll get on any roller coaster that you put in front of her,” the proud dad said.

The Kentucky Derby airs Saturday from 12 to 2:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN and 2:30 to 7:25 p.m. EST on NBC.

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