(row one) And they’re off! (row two) Have some traditional Kentucky Derby Food: Burgoo stew! Have a traditional Kentucky Derby Drink: The Mint Julep! (row three) Kentucky Derby founder Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., (grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition) and the original look of Churchill Downs. (I wonder if Winston Churchill ever attended a race there) (row four) The first woman jockey. Read further to see her name. What a Churchill Downs bet slip looks like. (row five) Another Kentucky Derby tradition is the hat. Hundreds of big lavish hats will be topping off hundreds of women’s heads on Derby Day. A fun day for everybody! (row six) What last year’s general admission tickets looked like.
A fun sign for me that spring has arrived is the running of the Kentucky Derby. Jackie and the girls love the pageantry of the event – the hats, outfits and celebrities and the race itself is something really special. And, talk about your PIA (Pain in the @%$) Job – finding a horse, raising a horse, training, practice, traveling all over to tracks, nutrition, finding the right jockey, everything that goes into horseracing, then making it to the Kentucky Derby field, winning, and then trying to repeat it two more times. For “triple crown” winners, it truly is a remarkable feat. There has only been twelve horses have won the Triple Crown: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), and American Pharoah (2015). Personally, I am always rooting for the underdog! Hence the reason I never place a bet on the horses! Special thanks to Wikipedia and random internet finds for the fun facts. See you at the finish line.
- The Kentucky Derby is a horse race that is held annually in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The race is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles (2 km) at Churchill Downs. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds (57 kilograms) and fillies 121 pounds (55 kilograms).
- The race is often called “The Run for the Roses” for the blanket of roses draped over the winner. It is also known in the United States as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports” or “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” in reference to its approximate duration.
- It is the first leg of the American Triple Crown and is followed by the Preakness Stakes, then the Belmont Stakes. Unlike the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, which took hiatuses in 1891–1893 and 1911–1912, respectively, the Kentucky Derby has been run every consecutive year since 1875, even during both World Wars. A horse must win all three races to win the Triple Crown.
- The attendance at the Kentucky Derby ranks first in North America and usually surpasses the attendance of all other stakes races including the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and the Breeders’ Cup.
- In 1872, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition, traveled to England, visiting Epsom in Surrey where The Derby had been running annually since 1780.From there, Clark went on to Paris, France, where in 1863, a group of racing enthusiasts had formed the French Jockey Club and had organized the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp, which at the time was the greatest race in France.
- Returning home to Kentucky, Clark organized the Louisville Jockey Club for the purpose of raising money to build quality racing facilities just outside the city. The track would soon become known as Churchill Downs, named for John and Henry Churchill, who provided the land for the racetrack.
- The Kentucky Derby was first run at 1 1/2 miles (12 furlongs; 2.4 km) the same distance as the Epsom Derby. The distance was changed in 1896 to its current 1 1/4 miles (10 furlongs; 2 km).
- On May 17, 1875, in front of an estimated crowd of 10,000 people, a field of 15 three-year-old horses contested the first Derby. Under jockey Oliver Lewis, a colt named Aristides, who was trained by future Hall of Famer Ansel Williamson, won the inaugural Derby. Later that year, Lewis rode Aristides to a second-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.
- Although the first race meeting proved a success, the track ran into financial difficulties and in 1894 the New Louisville Jockey Club was incorporated with new capitalization and improved facilities. Despite this, the business foundered until 1902 when Col. Matt Winn of Louisville put together a syndicate of businessmen to acquire the facility. Under Winn, Churchill Downs prospered and the Kentucky Derby then became the preeminent stakes race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses in North America.
- Thoroughbred owners began sending their successful Derby horses to compete later in the Preakness Stakes at the Pimlico Race Course, in Baltimore, Maryland, followed by the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York. The three races offered large purses and in 1919 Sir Barton became the first horse to win all three races. However, the term Triple Crown didn’t come into use for another eleven years. In 1930, when Gallant Fox became the second horse to win all three races, sportswriter Charles Hatton brought the phrase into American usage.
- Fueled by the media, public interest in the possibility of a “superhorse” that could win the Triple Crown began in the weeks leading up to the Derby. Two years after the term was coined, the race, which had been run in mid-May since inception, was changed to the first Saturday in May to allow for a specific schedule for the Triple Crown races. Since 1931, the order of Triple Crown races has been the Kentucky Derby first, followed by the Preakness Stakes and then the Belmont Stakes. Prior to 1931, eleven times the Preakness was run before the Derby.
- In 1954, the purse exceeded $100,000 for the first time. In 1968, Dancer’s Image became the first (and to this day the only) horse to win the race and then be disqualified after traces of phenylbutazone, an analgesic and anti-inflammatory drug, were found in the horse’s urinalysis; Forward Pass won after a protracted legal battle by the owners of Dancer’s Image(which they lost). Forward Pass thus became the eighth winner for Calumet Farm.
- In 1970, Diane Crump became the first female jockey to ride in the Derby, finishing 15th aboard Fathom.
- The fastest time ever run in the Derby was set in 1973 at 1:59.4 minutes when Secretariat broke the record set by Northern Dancer in 1964. Not only has Secretariat’s record time yet to be topped, in the race itself, he did something unique in Triple Crown races: each successive quarter, his times were faster.
- In 2005, the purse distribution for the Derby was changed, so that horses finishing fifth would henceforth receive a share of the purse; previously only the first four finishers did so.
- Since Kentucky Derby is the biggest race in the world, millions of people from around the world bet at various live tracks and online sportsbooks. In 2017, a crowd of 158,070 watched Always Dreaming win the Derby, making it the seventh biggest attendance in the history of the racetrack. The track reported a wagering total of $209.2 million from all the sources on all the races on the Kentucky Derby Day program.
- In addition to the race itself, a number of traditions play a large role in the Derby atmosphere. The mint julep—an iced drink consisting of bourbon, mint, and a sugar syrup—is the traditional beverage of the race. The historic drink can be served in an ice-frosted silver julep cup, but most Churchill Downs patrons sip theirs from souvenir glasses (first offered in 1939 and available in revised form each year since) printed with all previous Derby winners.
- Burgoo, a thick stew of beef, chicken, pork, and vegetables, is a popular Kentucky dish served at the Derby.
- “Millionaire’s Row” refers to the expensive box seats that attract the rich, the famous and the well-connected. Women appear in fine outfits lavishly accessorized with large, elaborate hats. As the horses are paraded before the grandstands, the University of Louisville Marching Band plays Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home,” a tradition which began in 1921.
- The Derby is frequently referred to as “The Run for the Roses,” because a lush blanket of 554 red roses is awarded to the Kentucky Derby winner each year. The tradition originated in 1883 when New York socialite E. Berry Wall presented roses to ladies at a post-Derby party that was attended by Churchill Downs founder and president, Col. M. Lewis Clark. This gesture is believed to have led Clark to the idea of making the rose the race’s official flower. However, it was not until 1896 that any recorded account referred to roses being draped on the Derby winner.
- The mint julep, the Derby’s traditional drink, is wildly overpriced at $11 a pop. Connoisseurs of bourbon consider it a waste of good whiskey.
- On Derby Day the infield will hold around 80,000 revelers, making it Kentucky’s third-largest city, behind Lexington and Louisville.
- Thirteen of the 15 riders in the first Derby were African-Americans. Black jockeys won 15 of the first 28, with Isaac Murphy taking three.
- The winning trainers in two of the first three Derbys were former slaves — Ansel Williamson (Aristides, 1875) and Ed Brown (Baden-Baden, 1877).
- Former major league ballplayer Hank Allen trained Northern Wolf, who finished sixth in 1989.
- The 1¼-mile distance has been standard since 1896. The first 21 Derbys were contested at 1½ miles.
- The Governor of Kentucky awards the garland and the Kentucky Derby Trophy.
- Since 1946 it’s been run on the first Saturday in May. In 1945, the final year of World War II, the date was June 9.
- Of 40 fillies, only three won — Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988).
- Fourteen female trainers have competed, with Shelley Riley (second, Casual Lies, 1992) coming closest to winning.
- Sir Barton, who in 1919 became the first Triple Crown winner, was winless before taking the Run for the Roses. So were Buchanan (1884) and Brokers Tip (1933).
- Four horses, including Triple Crown winners Whirlaway (1941) and Assault (1946), dominated by 8 lengths. Eight times the margin was a nose.
- A Derby triumph guarantees a large stud fee. Unfortunately, the owners of nine geldings couldn’t cash in, including the connections of Mine That Bird (2009) and Funny Cide (2003).
- Of the last 26 Derby winners, eight were post-time favorites.
- No winner has emerged from post 17. Oddly, since 1900, post 1, often called “the dreaded rail,” is tied for post 5 with 12 victories.
- The oldest living winner is Sea Hero, 25, who stands at stud in Izmit, Turkey.
- Thousands of elegantly dressed women will grace Churchill Downs on Saturday. The endless lines for the ladies’ room will resemble runways during fashion week.
- Southern hospitality surrenders shamelessly to greed on Derby weekend, when you can pay at least $300 a night for a Louisville motel room that costs $55 any other time.
- The Derby debuted in 1875. Its model was the Epsom Derby, a 1½-mile grass race that has been run in England since 1780.
- Only six women have ridden in the Derby. Diane Crump was the first, in 1970. The best finish for a female jockey in the Derby is fifth (Rosie Napravnik on Mylute in 2013).
Ok. Crank up the speakers on your computer, pad or phone and if you have a PA system at your office, crank it up, too and play this after the intro — The Bugler’s Call to Post
Here’s an interview with the Churchill Downs Bugler
My Old Kentucky Home – 2015 Kentucky Derby