Interesting Facts & Trivia About the Kentucky Derby

I thought it would be fun to look at some interesting facts about the Kentucky Derby that we have collected over the years.

This year marks the 143rd running of the race, and it will be held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The race is set up for the top three-year-old horses in the world to do battle and take part in what is referred to as the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.”

The Kentucky Derby is believed by many to be the most prestigious horse racing event of the year. Let’s take a look at how the race got started, and some fun facts you might not of known about the race itself so that way even if you don’t use our predictions to win money on the race, your friends will still consider you an expert.

Origin: Who Founded the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby was founded in 1875 by Meriwether Lewis Clark. Clark was trying to mimic England’s Epsom Derby. While the event struggled to begin with, it’s easy to see that this event was able to get things turned around and become one of the biggest sporting venues of the year. On average, there are usually around 155,000 attending the race, and millions watching at home on television.

Did you Know the Distance of the Race Has Changed?

One thing you might not have known is that for the first 21 years the racing distance was 1 ½ miles before being shortened to today’s 1 ¼ miles in 1896. What many of you probably do know is that the Kentucky Derby is the first of three races that make up the Triple Crown. The other two races are the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. So far there have been 11 horses to win the Triple Crown, and its something that hasn’t been done since Affirmed was able to accomplish the feat back in 1978.

All-Time Fastest & Slowest Winning Times

The fastest time ever ran at the Kentucky Derby is held by Secretariat who was clocked at an outstanding 1:59:40 in 1973. Secretariat would go on to back up his performance with wins at the Preakness and Belmont for the Triple Crown.  The slowest winner was Kingman in 1891 with a time of 2:52:00.

Most Victories By Jockey

The most victories at the Kentucky Derby by one jockey is five. Both Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack hold this record.

5-Win Kentucky Derby Jockeys – Horses (Dates)

Bill Hartack – Iron Liege (1957), Venetian Way (1960), Decidedly (1962), Northern Dancer (1964), Majestic Prince (1969)

Eddie Arcaro – Larwin (1938), Whirlaway (1941), Hoop Jr. (1945), Citation (1948), Hill Gail (1952)

Official Song

The official song of the Kentucky Derby is “My Old Kentucky Home” by Stephen Collins Fosters. This song is performed each year before the race, and on a fun side note you can place a prop bet on just how long this song will take to be played.

Official Drink

The Mint Julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby; it consists of bourbon, mint, and sugar syrup.

Where the “Run for the Roses” Nickname Came From

I’m sure many of you have heard the Kentucky Derby being called the “Run for the Roses” because of the 554 red roses that are awarded to the winner each year, but what you might not know is just how this tradition got started. Way back in 1883, E. Berry Wall was presenting roses to ladies at the post-derby party. It just so happened that M. Lewis Clark was at this party, and he liked the gesture so much that he decided the rose would be the race’s official flower. It wasn’t until about 15 years later that the Kentucky Derby winner was draped with Roses.  All of us are familiar with seeing it happen today, but many don’t know how it was started.

Rain is a Common Factor

Rain has fallen at some point on 46% of all Derby days.  But how many times has the Derby been postponed due to weather?  The answer is none.  In 1918, 2.31 inches of rain fell on race day, but the race was still held and Exterminator was the winner.

How Much is Bet on the Big Race?

It’s tough to peg exactly how much is bet on the Kentucky Derby but at Churchill Downs the number is nearly $130 million.  In Las Vegas alone it’s estimated that $6-7 million is bet on the race.  See our link above for the most recent estimates.

I hope that you can take some of these fun facts and use them with the friends or family that you will be watching the Kentucky Derby with.  Who knows, maybe you can surprise them all with your knowledge of the Derby.  However, nothing will earn you more bragging rights than if you have the winning horse pegged, so make that priority number one.