The 140th running of the Kentucky Derby will take place on Saturday, May 3, at the historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Silver mint julep cups will be hoisted, the band will strike up “My Old Kentucky Home” and the world’s fastest three-year old thoroughbreds will race the one-and-a-quarter mile track in hopes of winning the famed “Run for the Roses.” Here are five interesting Kentucky Derby tidbits that many people don’t realize:
OLD BOYS CLUB
Fourteen female trainers have competed in the Kentucky Derby with Shelley Riley coming closest to winning in the 1992 race with the 2nd place finish by Casual Lies. Only six women actually have ridden in the Derby. In 1970, Diane Crump was the first female jockey to race, and none have finished better than 11th place.
TIP OF THE HAT
Besides the lush blanket of 564 red roses draped over the winning horse, the most recognizable accessory worn at the Kentucky Derby is a “derby hat.” Not only a fashion statement – sometimes good, many times ridiculously awful – the hat is said to be good luck. Though traditionally worn by women, more men have been donning these race-day chapeaus. It’s not rare to see toppers more than two feet in diameter that look more like spaceships landing on one’s head than an actual hat.
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, all that horse racing and hat wearing whets attendee’s appetites. On race day, Churchill Downs expects to serve: 225,00 cans of beer, 120,000 mint juleps, 7,800 liters of bourbon, 142,000 hot dogs, 32,000 jumbo shrimp, 9,700 pounds of chicken, 12,800 pounds of beef and 560 roasted turkeys. This food doesn’t come cheap either; at the 2006 Kentucky Derby, special $1000 mint juleps served in gold-plated cups with silver straws were available to select VIP attendees.
WHAT’S IN A NAME
The Kentucky Derby showcases horses whose names seem to go on longer than the actual race, but according to The Jockey Club, there’s a limit of 18 characters to the monikers. According to the club’s registry guidelines, when submitting a name to be registered, an explanation must accompany “coined” or “made-up” names that have no apparent meaning, which means such was provided for thoroughbreds Bada Bam Bada Boom, Raise a Booger, and Zipadedoodle. The winning horses with the longest names have been Fusaichi Pegasus (2000) and Foolish Pleasure (1975) with 15 characters, and the shortest names have been Orb (2013) and Zev (1923) with three letters.
THIRD TIME’S A CHARM
In the 1957 Kentucky Derby, legendary jockey Bill Shoemaker (already a Derby winner in 1955) suffered the greatest embarrassment of his career, while riding Gallant Man. He misjudged the finish line, standing up in the stirrups well before the finish. As a result, Iron Liege passed him and went on to win. In 1986, Shoemaker more than made up for his 1957 embarrassment when, at age 54, he won the Derby on Ferdinand, making the oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby.