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Fast Facts to Impress Kentucky Derby Fans

Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby, also known as the “Run for the Roses,” takes place yearly at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Thousand of spectators would witness the annual Kentucky Derby participated by American, Japanese, and European three-year-old thoroughbreds.

Many fans know that the Kentucky Derby is also called “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”, being the shortest race time recorded by Secretariat in 1973 with 1:59 ⅖. However, more than this widely-known trivia, there are more interesting facts to impress your fellow Derby fans! Let’s enumerate the must-know Derby fast facts below.

A major betting event

The Kentucky Derby is a major betting event, with millions of dollars wagered on the race each year. In 2021, the total amount wagered on the race was $233 million. Now that the Run for the Roses is getting nearer, many bettors are monitoring online betting sites. Undoubtedly, the Derby 2023 betting volume is sure to impress!

Oldest and longest-running horse racing event

Today, the competition has become the country’s oldest and longest horse racing event. Throughout the years of celebration since 1875, the event has captured the hearts of the horse racing community and become a must-witness national horseracing spectacle held annually. Thereupon, the Kentucky Derby is older than the two most renowned sporting events– the World Series and the Super Bowl. 

The first Derby winner

The first Kentucky Derby race was won by a horse named Aristides, ridden by jockey Oliver Lewis. The first race had a field of 15 horses and went on over 1 1/2 miles.

Run for the Roses

In recognition of the blanket of roses laid over the winner, the race is commonly called “Run for the Roses.” The tradition started in 1896 when the victorious horse was vested with a blanket of red roses, a tradition maintained until today.

Race distance

Kentucky Derby is raced over 1 1/4 miles (or 10 furlongs) on a dirt track. The track is oval and a mile in circumference.

Fastest record

The fastest time ever recorded at the Kentucky Derby was 1 minute, 59.4 seconds by Secretariat in 1973. He also holds the record for the largest margin of victory, winning by 31 lengths. Secretariat is considered one of the greatest horses in history and is still revered by racing fans today.

Deferred three times

Only three times in history has the Kentucky Derby been cancelled: in 1945 because of World War II and in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 epidemic. The event was held again on May 7, 2022.

The first leg of the Triple Crown

The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the three races of the Triple Crown. The other two races are the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. In history, there are only 13 horses who won the Triple Crown, the most recent being Justify in 2018. Thus, winning first in these races has been the most challenging achievement in the horse-racing industry.

A tradition of stylish hats

Attendees sometimes wear lavish hats and clothing for the Kentucky Derby, which is also recognized for its flair. Hats have been worn from the beginning of the race when ladies were obliged to wear them to show their social rank.

Biggest revenue recorded

The Kentucky Derby has a significant economic upturn in Louisville and the neighboring towns. The festivities yielded approximately $400 million in revenue for the area in 2019, with millions of dollars spent on hotels plus wagers, restaurants, and other local companies.

The Kentucky Derby drink

Mint juleps are the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. They are made with bourbon, sugar, water, and mint and are typically served in a silver cup. That year, approximately 120,000 mint juleps were served at the event.

Unforgettable upsets

The Kentucky Derby has had some notable upsets over the years, with longshot horses beating the favorites. One of the most famous upsets was in 2009 when Mine That Bird won the race at 50-1 odds.

Female jockeys and horses

Women have made significant contributions to horse racing and the Kentucky Derby. In 1939, jockey Anna Lee Aldred became the first woman to become a licensed jockey. In 1970, Diane Crump was the first female jockey to compete in the Kentucky Derby. Meanwhile, In 1992, trainer D. Wayne Lukas became the first trainer to win the race with a filly, Winning Colors.

Wide influence in arts

The Kentucky Derby has a rich creative past, inspiring several novels, motion pictures, and anthems. “My Old Kentucky Home,” one of the most recognized tunes, is performed before the horse race and has grown into a treasured tradition.

Borel’s Hat Trick

Calvin Borel is the only jockey to have captured the Kentucky Derby Champion title three years in a row, winning in 2007, 2009, and 2010. Borel is well-known for his proficiency at horseback riding along the rail, giving him the moniker “Bo-rail.”

Final Thoughts

For over a century, the Kentucky Derby has been a horseracing sensation followed by millions worldwide. 


The Kentucky Derby is undoubtedly on horseracing fans’ bucket lists every year. Before you attend the Derby, be sure to be familiar with the fast facts of the Derby. This way, you can impress your fellow Derby enthusiasts and demonstrate your passion for the race’s rich history and heritage. 

One thought on “Fast Facts to Impress Kentucky Derby Fans

  1. Forte won the Florida Derby this past Saturday.

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