Horse racing meetings are extremely popular around the world and America is no different with several major meets taking place every year where owners and jockeys can win vast sums of money, while punters hope to back the first horse past the finishing post. One of the more popular American race meetings is the world famous Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby is an annual event held in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday of May. The race is a Grade I stakes race for three year old Thoroughbreds at the Churchill Down and it is a fitting ending race for the two week long Kentucky Derby Festival. It is one of the richest horse races in the world with a $2 million purse and a cool $1,425,000 being awarded to the first place finisher.
To keep the playing field level, colts and geldings have to carry 126 pounds while fillies carry 121 pounds. Americans call the Kentucky Derby “the most exciting two minutes in sports” as the horses make it around the 1.25 mile course in approximately two minutes. Secretariat holds the record for the fastest completion of the Kentucky Derby, winning the race in 1:59.4 minutes in 1973.
The Kentucky Derby has run over the same 1.25 miles distance since 1896; races prior to this year ran over 1.5 miles. An estimated crowd of more than 10,000 people watched the inaugural Kentucky Derby in 1875 and it was a colt names Aristides, ridden by Oliver Lewis, who romped home to victory. The Kentucky Derby became part of a so called Triple Crown after thoroughbred owners began sending their successful Derby horses to compete in the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. Sir Barton became the first horse to win all three races, doing so in 1919, and 11 years later Gallant Fox became the second horse to complete the Triple Crown of American horse racing.
Northern Dancer held the record for the fastest time when he won in 1964. Secretariat broke the record in 1973 at 1:59.4 minutes and the record still stands today. This race was unique in that Secretariat’s times were faster in each successive quarter when usually horses begin slowing down as they naturally tire. The only other horse in Kentucky Derby history to finish the race with a sub-two minute time is Monarchos in 2001 who finished in 1:59.97 minutes to become only the third horse in history to finish the course in under two minutes.
The record for the longest victory margin in the Kentucky Derby stands at eight lengths. This winning distance has happened four times by Old Rosebud (1914), Johnstown (1939), Whirlaway (1941) and Assault (1946). Some of the other records include Ben A. Jones who with six victories is the race’s most successful trainer, or the eight wins by horses owned by Calumet Farm. The most victories recorded by a jockey stands at five and this has happened to both Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack. The next Kentucky Derby takes place on May 5, 2018.