Derby Days Are Here Again
After basketball season, Derby Week is the most sacred holiday in all of Kentucky. This Saturday, the world will watch the “most exciting two minutes in sports”- no, not Rick Pitino after hours at Porcini’s. Throughout this week on KSR College, I’ll prep you with the essential information to the Kentucky Derby- from traditions, to wagering, to throwing a Derby party, to actually going to the event and surviving. Let’s start with a little Derby history.
The first Kentucky Derby was held on May 17, 1895, with a field of 15 three-year-old horses. It was won by Aristides and jockey Oliver Lewis, and was one and a half miles at the time (it changed to one and a fourth in 1896). The event has always been held at Churchill Downs, although the track wasn’t officially called that until 1937.
After the Kentucky Derby each year, it soon became common practice for thoroughbred owners to send their horses and jockeys to the Preakness Stakes (at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore) and the Belmont Stakes (in Elmont, NY). Collectively, these events officially became known as the Triple Crown in 1930 when Gallant Fox won the trio- althoughthe horse Sir Barton had won all three in 1911. These races had the biggest purse of all horse races, and since then winning the Triple Crown has become the main storyline of all Kentucky Derbys. Different countries have their own version of the horse racing triple crown, and only eleven horses have ever won the United States version.
The fastest time ever recorded at the Kentucky Derby was one minute, 59.4 seconds, by Secretariat in 1973. While it’s amazing that his record has lasted this long- 38 years, to be exact- it’s also notable that Secretariat picked up the pace continuously throughout the race. Secretariat completed the elusive Triple Crown trifecta, and his inspirational story was the subject of a movie last year, which I never saw but my best friend Layson and her horse-crazy family loved it with a passion. So there’s that.
While it’s easy to get caught up in the glamour of the horses- after all, who didn’t want a pony for Christmas one year?- the jockeys are obviously instrumental to a Derby win as well. In the past few years, the safest bet at the Kentucky Derby has been to choose whoever Calvin Borel is riding- he’s won three of the past five years, and will suit up for Take Charge Indy this Saturday. Borel knows how to win a Derby regardless of what horse he’s riding, and you can bet I’m including him in my Trifecta.
That’s it for today. Come back tomorrow for a look at Derby traditions- the good, the bad, and the ugly.