Excitement is already in the air for the 145th annual Kentucky Derby to take place on Saturday, May 4th at Churchill Downs in Louisville. That means now is the perfect time to study up on Derby facts, including the 10 described below.
1) Number of Horses
Although the first Kentucky Derby ran 15 horses and 20 horses run today, the 1892 race featured just three horses.
2) Predictors of Kentucky Derby Success
Jockeys typically participate in several prep races before the Kentucky Derby. These races have produced several winners over the years, including 23 each for Bluegrass at Keeneland and Champagne Stakes at Belmont, 22 at the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, and 20 each at Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga and Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
3) Big Betting Action
More than $200 million dollars is wagered on the Kentucky Derby and the main races leading up to it.
4) Largest Crowd Size
The largest crowd in Kentucky Derby history gathered in 2015. On that day, 170,513 people watched American Pharaoh take the crown and Firing Line and Dortmund come in second and third. The perfect spring weather that day gets much of the credit for the turnout.
5) Winningest Trainer
Ben A. Jones still holds the title for the winningest trainer in Kentucky Derby History with six wins to his credit. Jones took the title in 1938, 1941, 1944, 1948, 1949, and 1952 with horses named Lawrin, Whirlaway, Pensive, Citation, Ponder, and Hill Gail.
6) 45 Years and Counting, the Fastest Time on Record
Secretariat has held the record for the fastest race time since 1973. He completed the race in just 1:59 2/5. That is not only the record for the Kentucky Derby, but for any race completed at Churchill Downs in its nearly century and a half history. Monarchos came close to upsetting Secretariat’s winning speed in 2001 but fell short by less than half of a second.
7) Age is Only a Number for Jockeys
Jockeys representing a wide range of ages have won the Kentucky Derby over the years. Fifteen-year-old Alonzo Clayton took the title in 1892 as the youngest jockey while Bill Shoemaker holds the title as the oldest jockey when he won the race in 1986 at age 54. Shoemaker holds another record as participating in more Kentucky Derby races than any other jockey at 26.
8) Winningest Jockeys
Two jockeys are tied for first place for the most Kentucky Derby wins at five each. Eddie Arcaro won in 1938, 1941, 1945, 1948, and 1952. All but his 1945 win occurred in partnership with trainer Ben A. Jones. His horse that year was Hoop, Jr. Bill Hartack recorded his five wins in 1957, 1960, 1962, 1964, and 1969. His winning horses were Iron Liege, Venetian Way, Decidedly, Northern Dancer, and Majestic Prince.
9) Mint Julep Madness
The Kentucky Derby has many traditions, including what people choose to drink. Horseracing fans drink a cocktail called the mint julep approximately 120,000 times at each annual event.
10) Variable Kentucky Springtime Temperatures
The race takes place on the first Saturday in May regardless of weather conditions. The lowest recorded temperature for the Kentucky Derby is 47 degrees. It happened twice, in 1935 and 1957. The highest temperature recorded for race day is 94 degrees in 1959.
With such a fascinating history and fun traditions, it’s no wonder that the Kentucky Derby continues to be one of the most popular one-day sporting events in the United States.