The Beginner’s Guide To The Kentucky Derby

The 144th running of the Kentucky Derby will occur on Saturday, May 5th at Churchill Downs in Louisville Kentucky. There’s a ton of tradition and history surrounding this pinnacle of horse racing, and if your knowledge of the event peaks with mint juleps and giant sun hats this is the article for you. We will cover the basics of the Kentucky Derby so you’ll be prepared just in time for “the run for the roses.”

Twenty thoroughbred horses will compete in the race, all of which are three years old. The race itself is 1.25 miles long. As fast as these horses run, the action won’t last long so you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared when the event starts!

Speaking of thoroughbreds, the term refers to horses whose bloodline can be traced back to 17th and 18th century England animals. Most of these horses will have a lineage that not only includes English mares but also stallions with Barb, Arabian and Turkish bloodlines.

So, how fast will the horses run?  It’s hard to say, but the fastest horse to ever run the Kentucky Derby was Secretariat, who, in 1973, finished the race in one minute, fifty-nine seconds. That record stands to this day.

The stakes are pretty large, too. In fact, the winner of the derby will receive $1.24 million, with an additional $760,000 being dispersed incrementally between the 2nd through 5th place horses. Those winnings go to the horse owners, and the jockeys who ride the horses will get about a 10% cut of the total winnings for their horse.

If you’ve watched the Kentucky Derby before, or if you’ve attended a derby party, you’ve likely seen some of the craziest hats on the planet. That tradition goes all the way back to the 1870 horse races that occurred in England when formal headwear was pretty standard for the ladies of the time. The Kentucky Derby has kept up the tradition.

The Kentucky Derby is special because it kicks off the “Triple Crown” season, encompassing the three biggest horse races in the U.S. The Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes make up the other two races in the Triple Crown.

While the race itself will only last a couple of minutes, Louisville Kentucky will kick off a series of events beginning two weeks prior to the derby, complete with fireworks, hot air balloon, races, and parades.

You can catch the race on T.V., but if you’d like to attend the race in person, expect to pay $40 for lowest general admission you can get. If you’re a high roller, consider dropping a few thousand bucks on a private suite, with all-inclusive dining and beverages.