The Run for the Roses, better known as the Kentucky Derby, is almost here and Louisville is busy readying itself for the influx of visitors coming to enjoy the greatest two minutes in sports again.
The “Derby” is a horse race held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, almost always on the first Saturday in May, capping a two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The competition is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles at Churchill Downs.
Visitors, comprising the more than 158,00 people, come from all over the world to watch this unique and historical event. There is a lot to know about it, so we’ll start you off with 20 starter facts about The Kentucky Derby.
- Nineteen past winners have had names beginning with the letter “S,” including Secretariat.
- The amount of food consumed at the Derby is pretty astounding. On average, spectators will eat 142,000 hot dogs, 18,000 barbecue sandwiches, 13,800 pounds of beef, 32,400 jumbo shrimp, 9,000 scallops, 8,000 pounds of potatoes, 30,000 cookies and 300,000 strawberries.
- Only three horses raced in the 1892 Kentucky Derby.
- The traditional drink of the Derby is the mint julep, and over 120,000 are said to be consumed at the race each year.
- Diane Crump was the first woman jockey to ever ride in the Derby; there has yet to be a female winner, but Shelley Riley came the closest in 1992 when she came in second.
- The Kentucky Derby trophy only weighs 3.5 lbs.
- The youngest jockey to win the esteemed race, Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton, was just 15 come derby day in 1892. Bill Shoemaker continues to hold the title as the oldest winner; he was 54 when he took home the 1986 title.
- Bill Shoemaker has also ridden the most Kentucky Derby horses (26) in history.
- The record low temperature at the race (held on the first week of May every year) was 47 degrees in 1935 and1957. The record high was 94 degrees in 1959.
- Churchill Downs founder and president Col. M. Lewis Clark might have made the rose the official flower of the race after attending an 1883 post-derby party where socialite E. Berry Wall was handing the flower out to the ladies in attendance.
- The Derby is also referred to as ‘The Run for the Roses’ because the winner is awarded a blanket sewn with over 400 roses post-race. This blanket weighs about 40 lbs.
- Post No. 1 has become known as “the dreaded rail” due to its tendency to leave horses boxed in behind other racers, making it difficult to pull away from the pack.
- 1919 champion Sir Barton was the first Triple Crown winner, however he hadn’t won a race before arriving at the Derby.
- All thoroughbred race horses have the same birthday—January 1. No matter what day a horse was born on during the year, race horse age is marked from New Year’s Day in order to make it easier to keep track of bloodlines.
- Only 3 year old horses are allowed to compete in the Kentucky Derby.
- The Derby has never been cancelled or postponed due to inclement weather.
- The Derby has only been held on a day other than the first Saturday in May twice—once in 1945, when a wartime ban on horse racing postponed the event, and a second time in 2020 when the race was delayed until September by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The historic 1¼-mile race was originally 1½ miles before the current distance was established in 1896.
- The Kentucky Derby was started by Lewis Clark Jr.—grandson of William Clark, half of the famous explorer duo Lewis and Clark—after he saw England’s Epsom Derby.
- Only three fillies (female horses) have won the Derby: Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980, and Winning Colors in 1988.