Each year, tens of thousands of people converge upon Louisville to attend the Kentucky Derby. Known as “the fastest two minutes in sports” and “the Run for the Roses,” the race has become a part of the American fabric. Although it would be difficult, if not downright impossible, to find someone unfamiliar with the annual event, several of the race’s details aren’t quite as well-known. Following are five lesser-known facts about the Derby:
1. America’s longest-running sports event
This year marks the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby, making it America’s oldest consecutive major sporting event. The first Derby was held on May 17, 1875, one of four races marking the official opening of Churchill Downs. The track was built by Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., grandson of explorer William Clark, on 80 acres of land leased from his uncles, John and Henry Churchill.
2. Longest Longshot To Win
Donerail, a 91-1 longshot, came from behind to win the 1913 Derby, while also setting a new track record at 2:04 4/5. One of eight horses entered in that year’s race, he was considered such a longshot that he was left out of a Louisville newspaper’s cartoon featuring drawings of the other seven contenders. The win paid off for a luck few – a $2 bet paid $184.90.
3. America’s Best-Attended Horse Race
The Kentucky Derby annually draws the most-attended horse race in America, annually drawing more than 160,000 fans, The largest Derby crowd on record is 165,307, a record set in 2012. although it’s difficult to get an exact count of the fans who squeeze into the Churchill Downs infield.
4. The Allure of the Mint Julep
Each year 120,000 servings of the official Derby refreshment are sold at Churchill Downs during the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, held the day before. The concoction contains mint, bourbon, sugar and water, although the exact recipe varies depending on the bartender. Traditionally, the mint julep is served in a pewter or silver cup, which allows frost to appear on the cup, adding to its appeal.
5. Fastest Derby Winner
It’s little surprise that the fastest horse to run the Kentucky Derby is the celebrated Secretariat, who set the Kentucky Derby record on the way to winning the Triple Crown in 1973. One of only three horses to break the two-minute barrier, Secretariat won the Derby with a time of 1:59 2/5; it’s a record that still stand 40 years later.
Dave Allen, who lives near Louisville, is a professional freelance writer, and has covered news, sports and entertainment for the better part of 25 years. His work has been published in the Buffalo News and Maryland Musician, as well as several other publications.
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