You don’t have to be a horse racing fan to have heard of the Kentucky Derby. It is the most popular of all the North American horse races and each year the number of Derby viewers exceeds that of any other race run in the U.S. Its first running was in 1875, making it the oldest, consecutively run North American horse race as well. Both the Belmont Stakes and the Preakness Stakes started before the Derby (1867 and 1873 respectively), but both of those races had years in which they weren’t run. The Preakness wasn’t run in 1891 – 93 and the Belmont wasn’t run in 1911- 12.
The Kentucky Derby has earned many nicknames over the years, one of the most common being “The Run for the Roses”. Others include “The fastest two minutes in sports” and “The most exciting two minutes in sports”; and with these types of nicknames it’s easy to see how so many people get caught up in the excitement of betting on the Derby.
On the first Saturday in May of each year, thousands of fans flock to Churchill Downs, in Louisville, Kentucky for the Race. A G1 Stakes race, as well as the first jewel in the coveted “Triple Crown”, the Derby is open only to the cream of the 3 year old thoroughbred crop. The 1 ¼ mile long track is the perfect challenge for both the horses and the jockeys.
Kentucky Derby History and Facts
The History of the Kentucky Derby is a rich and colorful one, much like the race itself. The race’s history actually began in 1872, a few years prior to the first actual running of the Derby. Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., the grandson of the famous William Clark (the Lewis and Clark expedition) traveled to England where he viewed the Epsom Derby, which had been run yearly since 1780. He also traveled to France where a group of racing fans had founded the French Jockey Club and organized a race known as the Grand Prix de Paris. The race, held at Longchamps, was France’s greatest race at the time.
When he returned home to Louisville, Clark began organizing the Louisville Jockey Club with the intent to raise money to build a quality racing facility outside the city. The track quickly came to be called Churchill Downs because John and Henry Churchill had provided the land on which it was built. The track didn’t become officially incorporated as Churchill Downs until 1937.
The first Kentucky Derby was run at the same distance as the Epsom Derby, at 1 ½ miles, but was changed to its current length of 1 ¼ miles in 1896. On May 17, 1875, the first Kentucky Derby was run before a crowd estimated at around 10,000 people. Fifteen, three year old thoroughbreds made up the field of the first Derby and a colt called Aristides, ridden by jockey Oliver Lewis, won the race that day. Aristides was trained by Ansel Williamson, a future Hall of Fame member. Later that year, Aristides carried Lewis again in the Belmont Stakes to finish second.
The history of the Kentucky Derby is too vast to be covered quickly, but there are some interesting bits of trivia that many fans don’t know.
The Kentucky Derby was first televised in 1952 and in 1954 the race’s purse went over $100,000.
Originally the purse was divided among the first four finishers, but in 2005 it was changed to pay out to the top five.
The track record for the Kentucky Derby is 1:59.40, set in 1973 by the legendary Secretariat and the records still stands to this day.
Calumet Farms holds the record for most wins by a single owner with 8 winners between 1941 and 1968.
Ben A. Jones holds the title of trainer for the most winners with 6 Derby winners trained by him between 1938 and 1952.
Betting Tips for the Derby
If you plan to bet on the Derby, most veterans recommend finding the value plays. Historically, those horses favored in the Derby have done very poorly and despite short term earnings, would have cost bettors money in the long run. If you look back at the past 11 Derby runnings (2001 through 12), it can be seen that the favorite to win has actually won only 3 times at 4.10/1, 4.90/1, and 2.4/1 odds. That means that betting on Derby favorites would have yielded just 3.4 units of gain if you had flat bet through these years.
Many bettors wait until the last minute before even beginning to look at the odds when it comes to the Kentucky Derby, but Racebooks release odds on many different 3-year olds throughout the year and betting as early as you can is best. The Kentucky Derby is one of the most fast paced, exciting sporting events around and whether you are at Churchill Downs or watching at one of the many racing venues around the world, it really is the most exciting two minutes in sports.
How you bet depends on your personal preferences, but if you bet online make sure to review the online gambling laws for your area before placing your bet.