Just as you don’t have to be a football fan to get drawn into the excitement on Super Bowl Sunday, the Kentucky Derby is an event that gets everyone talking about horse racing, at least for one weekend of each year. When rank outsider Rich Strike galloped to a shock win this year, everyone was talking about it – including people who ordinarily have no interest whatsoever in horse racing.
Even if you will be mingling with friends and relatives who don’t know much about horses this holiday season, the Kentucky Derby is always a safe topic of conversation. Here are some fascinating facts about America’s biggest race that are easy to commit to memory.
An even longer shot
Before this year’s race, Rich Strike wasn’t even a dark horse. At odds of 80-1, he was way out in the land of rank outsiders. But he’s not the longest shot in the history of the race. You do, however, have to go back 109 years to find a longer one! In 1913, Donerail was a three year old bay colt that had never run a race. Initially, breeder and owner Thomas Hayes did not plan to enter him, but with only seven other runners and riders, he was persuaded to do so, as much to give him experience as anything else. Donerail led from start to finish and earned his backers a 91-1 pay day at the same time.
An expensive hobby
Hayes must have spent the rest of his life waking up in a cold sweat thinking about what might never have been. Nevertheless, if he was around today, entering a rank outsider like Donerail is even more high-risk. For one thing, there are now 20 runners in the Kentucky Derby. For another, the cost to enter the Kentucky Derby works out at about $55,000. And that assumes you don’t have to transport your horse half way across the US!
America’s oldest sporting event
The first Kentucky Derby took place in 1875. There is no other sporting event in the US with even close to so much history. 15 horses competed that year, and the winner was a colt called Aristides, ridden by Olivier Lewis. Since then, it has only been interrupted by war, in the 1940s and in 2020/21, by a well-known global incident that interrupted more than horse races! In 2023, Churchill Downs will host the 149th Kentucky Derby.
The Kentucky Derby cocktail
Even in the horse racing heartland of the UK, there isn’t a horse race with its own cocktail. The Kentucky Derby, however, boasts the mint julep as its official drink. More than 120,000 glasses of the drink are consumed trackside each year. If you want to make one at home, you’ll need bourbon, fresh mint, sugar and ice.
A pure gold award
We talk about going for gold in many sports. But the runners at the Kentucky Derby are racing for the right to lift a trophy that is made of 14-karat gold and stands on a base made of jade.
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