Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby History

Kentucky DerbyThe Kentucky Derby is a Grade I horse race for three-year-olds held annually at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It is traditionally held on the first Saturday in May and is the feature event of the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival.

The race is over one and a quarter miles and is the first leg of the American Triple Crown, completed by the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. The race is known as “The Run for the Roses” because of the blanket of roses draped over the winner. The Kentucky Derby has been run every year since 1875 and attracts the highest attendance of any race in the United States, including the other Triple Crown events and the prestigious Breeders’ Cup.

The race was inspired by the Epsom Derby in England that had been running annually since 1780. Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. organised the Louisville Jockey Club for the purpose of raising money to build quality racing facilities that would become known as Churchill Downs, named after John and Henry Churchill, who provided the land for the racecourse. The first running was won by Aristides, trained by Ansel Williamson and ridden by Oliver Lewis.

In 1892, African-American jockey Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton became the youngest rider to win the Derby at just fifteen years of age. The 1904 winner, Elwood, was the first Derby starter and winner owned by a woman, Laska Durnell. In 1915, Regret became the first of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby. The first foreign-bred horse to win the Derby was the English-bred colt Omar Khayyam in 1917. In 1970 Diane Crump became the first female jockey to ride in the Derby, finishing 15th aboard Fathom.

The fastest time ever run in the Derby was set in 1973 at 1 minute 59 2/5 seconds when Secretariat broke the previous record set by Northern Dancer in 1964. His performance was exceptional for another reason: each successive quarter, his times were faster.

Famous Kentucky Derby Winners

War Admiral (1937)

War Admiral was the fourth horse to win the Triple Crown and he won his Kentucky Derby by 8 lengths, going on to be champion 3-year-old colt and Horse of the Year for 1937 with 8 wins in 8 starts.

Count Fleet (1943)

Count Fleet won all three Triple Crown races easily, starting with the Derby by 3 lengths. He went on to win the Preakness by eight lengths before winning the Belmont by a staggering 25 lengths. In 21 career starts, he recorded 16 wins, 4 seconds and a third.

Citation (1948)

Triple Crown winner Citation had a remarkable career in which he only finished out of the frame once in 44 starts. He still holds the record for most stakes wins in a year, an incredible 17 in 1948.

Secretariat (1973)

Secretariat is one of the few horses to win Horse of the Year honours at ages 2 and 3. Remarkably, he still holds the track record for both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. He retired with a lifetime record of 21 starts, 16 wins, 3 seconds, 1 third, and $1.3million in prize money.

Seattle Slew (1977)

Seattle Slew was a champion at ages 2, 3, and 4. He remained undefeated all the way through the Belmont Stakes. His lifetime record was 17 starts, 14 wins, 2 seconds and $1.2million in prize money.

Affirmed (1978)

Affirmed remains last horse to win the Triple Crown. He had a tremendous rivalry with Alydar who finished second to him in all three Triple Crown races. He retired with an impressive record of 29 starts, 22 wins, 5 seconds, and 1 third with $2.3 million in prize money.

Sunday Silence (1989)

Sunday Silence won nine of his fourteen races, finishing second in the other five and taking just shy of $5million in prize money. He was denied the Triple Crown by Easy Goer defeated him for the only time in four meetings in the Belmont Stakes.

Barbaro (2006)

Barbaro won the 2006 Kentucky Derby impressively and was widely tipped to become the twelfth Triple Crown winner. Tragically, he fractured three bones in and around the fetlock in his right hind leg in the Preakness. Although he was saved, he eventually developed laminitis in both front legs and he was euthanized in January 2007.

Betting on the The Kentucky Derby

There is a strong futures market on The Kentucky Derby with prices being offered after the top juvenile events at the Breeders’ Cup in November. It is very rare for the race to be won by a horse that has not been raced as a two-year-old and it pays to follow the form of the top juveniles closely. The race has attracted international interest, most particularly from Sheikh Mohammad’s Godolphin operation. This has added to the interest for punters across Europe and many sportsbooks now offer odds well in advance of the big race.

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