The 146th Kentucky Derby is finally here, three long months after the original race date of Saturday, May 2.
Before the call to post at 7:01 p.m. ET this Saturday, let’s see how much you know about the famous Run for the Roses.
But first, a brief history. Dating back to 1875, the Kentucky Derby is the longest running sporting event in the United States—it’s never been cancelled, through two world wars, the Great Depression and now, the coronavirus.
Known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” it was last postponed in 1945, at the end of World War II. And in March, Churchill Downs officials opted to postpone it for 2020 due to Covid-19 outbreak. But clearly, nothing can stop these ponies from running.
This year’s Triple Crown calendar was shaken and stirred: the Belmont Stakes, usually the last race in the series, was held in June. The Preakness, which is usually the second leg, will be held in October.
But the can’t-miss event is always the Derby, renowned for its mint juleps, extravagant hats and “My Old Kentucky Home.”
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Tiz the Law the Universal Favorite
Come Saturday, 20 thoroughbreds will run the race of their lives, with Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law pitted against Honor A.P. and Authentic.
While Tiz is the breakaway favorite, he’ll be at a disadvantage on race day, breaking from the 17th gate. Winning from the outside isn’t easy; in fact, no Derby entry has ever started from the 17th gate and gone on to win.
That said, this son of Constitution will be coming off a four-week layoff, so he’ll be primed for peak performance. Also in his favor: he’s known for fast finishes, having closed the final three-eighths of a mile in both the Belmont and the Travers Stakes in under :37 seconds.
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Tiz the Quiz
So, are you ready to play Derby Jeopardy? Let’s get started:
- Who won the first Kentucky Derby?
On May 17, 1875, the racetrack opened its gates. The Louisville Jockey Club sponsored the inaugural Derby, with a field of 15 three-year-olds racing before 10,000 spectators. The first winner was Aristides (l.), ridden by 19-year-old Oliver Lewis, for a purse of $2,850 (this year’s winner will trot off with $3 million). Back then, the Derby was 1.5 miles, and later was shortened to 1 1/4 miles.
- How did the Derby become part of the three-race Triple Crown?
In 1919, the thoroughbred Sir Barton became the first horse to win all three races, in a span of just 32 days: the Kentucky Derby, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, the Preakness, at Pimlico near Baltimore, and the Belmont Stakes, at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. Other owners began sending their horses on the same circuit, simply because they had larger purses. The term “Triple Crown” came into use in 1930, when Gallant Fox became the second horse to win the three races. And an American tradition was born.
- When did the Kentucky Derby become a national and international event?
The first network radio broadcast of the Kentucky Derby took place in 1925, with 5 million to 6 million listeners tuning in to hear Flying Ebony win the Derby. By 1932, the race was being broadcast on the BBC radio network. In 1949, the 75th Kentucky Derby was locally telecast for the first time—Ponder was the winner—and went national in 1952. An estimated 10 million to 15 million viewers tuned in to watch Hill Gale enter the winner’s circle. In 1984, the Kentucky Derby was first simulcast at 24 racetracks in the U.S., and a North American record was set for wagering on a single race—more than $18.9 million. The winner that year was Swale.
- Why is the Kentucky Derby known as the “Run for the Roses”?
In 1904, the red rose becomes the official flower of the Kentucky Derby. In 1925, New York sports columnist Bill Corum coined the term “Run for the Roses.” But it wasn’t until 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression, that the 58th winner, Burgoo King, was draped in a garland of red roses. That blanket weighs about 40 pounds, but the Kentucky Derby trophy itself only weighs 3½ lbs.
- Who was the first woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby?
It was 50 years ago, on May 2, 1970, that jockey Diane Crump rode in the 96th Kentucky Derby aboard Fathom. They came in 15th in a field of 18, but Crump went on to a distinguished career, winning a total of 228 races. Six women have competed in eight Derbys. Rosie Napravnik made the best finish, coming in fifth on Mylute in 2013.
- How much does it cost to attend the Kentucky Derby?
When the Derby first opened to the general public, in 1938, admission was 50 cents. The same ticket currently goes for $75, and $85 on race day.
- How much does it cost to quaff one of the Derby’s famous mint juleps?
The Derby’s signature cocktail since the 30s, this bracing brew includes bourbon, sugar, water, crushed or shaved ice and fresh mint. Downing a julep at Churchill Downs will set you back about $15. If you’re feeling lucky, you can order up a $2,500 version in a cup etched with the twin spires motif of Churchill Downs.
- What horse ran the fastest race?The legendary Secretariat (l.) posted the fastest finish, winning in 1:59:40 in the 99th Derby, and went on to win the Triple Crown. By the way, when you’re sizing up the horseflesh, keep in mind that 19 past Derby winners, including Secretariat, have had names beginning with the letter “s.”
- Why is the inside post called the “dreaded rail”?
The far inside post gives horse and jockey little room for error out of the gate. This year, it was assigned to Finnick the Fierce. Worse, Finnick lost his right eye to disease as a yearling, and won’t be able to see the 17 horses to his right. No horse has won the Derby from the rail since Ferdinand in 1986.
- What post position has won the most Kentucky Derbys?
The starting gate was first used in 1930. Since then, nine wins have originated from the 10th post, and eight wins from the eighth post. American Pharoah (2015) and Gato del Sol (1982) are the only two to win from post 18, and, as mentioned above, the only post to never host a Derby winner is the 17th, where Tiz the Law will start on Saturday.
- How many fillies have won the Kentucky Derby?
Three: Regret in 1915; Genuine Risk in 1980; and Winning Colors in 1988.
- Who’s the all-time winningest Kentucky Derby jockey?
There are two: Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack, with five wins each. Cincinnati-born Arcaro, the son of a taxi driver, rode in the Kentucky Derby 21 times, and won five of them: atop Lawrin in 1938; Whirlaway in 1941; Hoop Jr. in 1945; Citation in 1948; and Hill Gail in 1952. He took the Triple Crown twice (on Whirlaway and Citation), and retired with 4,779 wins. Hartack won aboard Iron Liege in 1957; Venetian Way in 1960; Decidedly in 1962; Northern Dancer in 1964; and Majestic Prince in 1969. Hartack won the Preakness three times and the Belmont Stakes once, but never won a Triple Crown. He retired with 4,272 wins. Bill Shoemaker is third, winning on Swaps in 1955; Tomy Lee in 1959; Lucky Debonair in 1965; and Ferdinand in 1986. He’s also run the race more than anyone in history, riding 26 times. Behind him is Isaac Murphy, one of many African American jockeys who rode in early Kentucky Derbys. Murphy won three times, with Buchanan in 1884; Riley in 1890; and Kingman in 1891.
2020 Kentucky Derby Odds*
- Tiz the Law 3-5
- Honor A.P. 5-1
- Authentic 8-1
- Thousand Words 15-1
- Ny Traffic 20-1
- King Guillermo 20-1
- Sole Volante 30-1
- Money Moves 30-1
- Enforceable 30-1
- Max Player 30-1
- Winning Impressions 50-1
- Attachment Rate 50-1
- Necker Island 50-1
- Finnick the Fierce 50-1
- Storm the Court 50-1
- Major Fed 50-1
- South Bend 50-1
- Big News 50-1
* William Hill
Watch the 146th Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, September 5. Post time is 7:01 p.m. ET. on NBC, with pre-race coverage starting at 12 noon.