As you prepare to watch the Kentucky Derby this Saturday, here’s a quick guide to one of the most famous sporting events in the world.
Held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May, the sporting event is classified as a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses. The top five finishers of the race receive a share of the purse. A garland of more than 400 red roses is awarded to the winner.
In 1872, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., grandson of William Clark of the Lewis-and-Clark-fame, visited the Epsom Derby in England. He returned to Kentucky and organized the Louisville Jockey Club to raise money to build quality, racing facilities. On May 17, 1875, about 10,000 people gathered to watch 15 horses compete in the first Derby.
“America’s Race,” “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports,” “The Chance of a Lifetime” and “The Run for the Roses”
The Triple Crown:
The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing and is followed by the Preakness Stakes (held the third Saturday each May in Baltimore, Maryland), then the Belmont Stakes (held in June in Elmont, New York). A horse must win all three races to win the Triple Crown. Only eleven horses have ever achieved such a feat.
Named after the original landowners John and Henry Churchill, the Louisville racetrack, with its recognizable twin spire grandstand, opened in 1875 and has hosted the 1¼ mile-long Derby each year.
Held each year on the Friday before its sister race, the 1⅛ miles race, and the Kentucky Derby, are the oldest continuously contested sporting events in history. The winner gets a significant purse and a large garland of lilies.
The Kentucky Derby Festival:
First held in 1935, it’s now an annual festival held in Louisville during the two weeks leading up to the day of the Derby.
Participants are limited to three-year-old thoroughbred horses. The fastest time ever run in the Derby (at its present distance) was set in 1973 at 1 minute 59 2/5 seconds when Secretariat broke the previous record.
Derby attire is known for its over-the-top use of pastel colors, seersucker, linen, madras plaid and hats – especially women’s hats. However, what you wear often depends on where you sit. Those in the reserved seating areas tend to go all out, while the infield crowd opts for more casual apparel.
The Mint Julep:
Officially associated with the Derby since 1938, the traditional cocktail consists of bourbon, mint, sugar and water. The historic drink should be served in an ice-frosted silver julep cup, but most race-goers enjoy theirs in a souvenir glass.