History of the Kentucky Derby
Since its inception, the Kentucky Derby has been a favorite sporting event in America and around the world. Steeped in Southern history since 1875, the Kentucky Derby occurs annually on the first Saturday in May. It is widely considered a yearly staple for all horse racing enthusiasts. In fact, several past United States Presidents, including Ford, Nixon, and Carter, have attended one or more of the races to witness first-hand the grandeur of the Kentucky Derby.
Since 1936, “My Old Kentucky Home,” composed by Stephen Foster and performed by the University of Louisville Marching Band, plays as the honored horses make their way to the starting gate. And as they have for nearly a century, spectators sip Mint Juleps while they eagerly await the race. The drink is considered the traditional beverage of both Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby.
In addition to bragging rights, the winner of the Kentucky Derby is adorned with a garland of red roses, which first appeared in 1896. The red rose itself is the official flower of the Kentucky Derby. The victor earns the right to wear the green satin which features a single red rose, symbolizing the struggle and heart needed to win the race.
The Legendary Churchill Downs
It is the privilege of Churchill Downs to be the host of the annual race. Identified as the world’s most legendary racetrack, Churchill Downs is famous not only for hosting the Kentucky Derby, but for its “Twin Spires” as well. The spires have become both an international symbol of the race itself, and an iconic and highly photographed image for visitors.
Constructed in 1895, Joseph Dominic Baldez unknowingly designed an architectural landmark that thousands of people would witness and visit on a yearly basis. The track hosts Thoroughbred racing during both Spring and Fall Meets. Occupying 147 acres of land, Churchill Downs encompasses a one-mile dirt oval and a seven-furlong turf course. It has been host to a record eight Breeders’ Cup World Championships and can seat nearly 52,000 guests.
Choosing the Contenders
In order for a horse to reach the Kentucky Derby, it first must compete in 35 preliminary races and earn enough points to qualify. Each race awards points to the top four finishers, and a cumulative total of points determines the top 20 competitors eligible to compete in the Kentucky Derby. After the contenders make their way to the top twenty, statistics and odds are tabulated.
While the majesty of watching and attending the race itself might be enough excitement for some people, many others attempt to beat the odds by wagering on their favorite horse. For just $2, anyone can place a bet, hoping to win a portion of the “kitty.” If traveling to Churchill Downs to watch and bet on the race firsthand is not possible, betting online at Sportsbook Kentucky Derby, or similar sites, is an easy and accessible alternative.
May 2, 2015 marks the 141st annual Kentucky Derby. Get ready, the greatest two minutes in sports is coming soon.