The Kentucky Derby is the first jewel in the Triple Crown of horse racing. Run annually at the Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May, it is known in the United States as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes of Sports.” While almost everyone knows of the Derby, most don’t know these essential facts.
Official Food and Drink
The Kentucky Derby’s official food is a traditional southern stew called “burgoo.” It contains pork, beef, chicken and vegetables, and it is absolutely delicious. Burgoo is thought to be derived from beef bourguignon. The official drink is the mint julep, a classic Southern cocktail made with bourbon, sugar and mint.
The two jockeys with the most derby wins, tied at five wins each, are Bill Hartack and Eddie Arcaro. Arcaro competed from 1938 to 1952 and Bill Hartack got his five wins between 1957 and 1969. While neither of these jockeys won two Derbys in a row, that feat has been accomplished three times by Calvin Borel.
Women in the Derby
Only five female jockeys have competed in the Kentucky Derby and none have won the race. While female horse owners are common, female trainers are not. Only fourteen Derby horse were trained by women, the first by Diane Crump in 1970. As far as horses go, only three Derby winners have been fillies: Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980 and Winning Colors in 1988.
Horses and Drugs
In the entire history of the race, only one horse has been found with performance enhancing drugs in his system. Dancer’s Image tested positive for phenylbutazone after his 1968 win, and after a long legal battle, he was disqualified and the crown passed to the runner up, Forward Pass.
The Legend of Secretariat
The legendary 1973 triple-crown winner, Secretariat, still holds the record for the fastest run at the Kentucky Derby. Secretariat was the last horse to break out of the gate in that race, and he ran faster with each quarter-mile segment, which never happens. He finished the race in 1:53 minutes, a record that still stands to this day.
“The Run for the Roses“
The tradition of draping the Kentucky Derby winner with a blanket of roses dates back to 1883, when New York socialite E. Berry Wall gave all the ladies at the post-Derby party roses. This spurred the Derby founder, Meriwether Lewis Clark, to declare the rose the official flower of the derby. The first blanket of roses, made of pink and white roses, was draped across the winner in 1896. There are exactly 564 roses in today’s blanket.
For some, the Kentucky Derby is just one big party. For others, it is the social event of the year. Whichever it is for you, mark your calendars and don’t miss this year’s “Run for the Roses.”