Everything You Need to Know About the Kentucky Derby

Everything You Need to Know About the Kentucky Derby - horses racing on dirt track

On the first Saturday in May, every year since 1875, a prestigious horse race has taken place at Churchill Downs. Today, the Kentucky Derby, or “The Run for the Roses”, is the best-known of three classic races in America.

Internationally, it is regarded alongside England’s Grand National and Australia’s Melbourne Cup as one of the world’s biggest races. 20 thoroughbred contenders race over one and a quarter miles in hope of winning up to $1,860,000.

Around 150,000 people attend the racing festival each year while enthusiasts all over the planet watch and place wagers. No matter where you live, Kentucky Derby betting is easy through excellent online sportsbooks like DK Horse.

This is our beginner’s guide to everything you need to know about the Kentucky Derby.

  • When is it?

2023’s race takes place on May 6 making it the 146th Kentucky Derby run in the month of May. Only three have been different: 1901 was held in April, 1945 was in June, and 2020 was in September.

  • Where is it?

Churchill Downs race course has been the home of every single Kentucky Derby since its debut in 1875. The track is located near the university at the heart of Louisville, the largest city in the state of Kentucky.

  • Why did it start?

In 1872, Meriwether Lewis Clark was traveling in Europe when he attended the, by then, 92-year-old Epsom Derby in England. Inspired by what he saw, Clark returned home, built Churchill Downs, and launched the Kentucky Derby in 1875.

  • Who races?

The Kentucky Derby is raced exclusively by Thoroughbred horses aged three years old. Both colts (male) and fillies (female) can compete, but only once in their entire lives.

  • How else might I know it?

“The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” is a Kentucky Derby nickname referring to the average length of the race. “The Run for the Roses” is another, thanks to the blanket of roses draped over each year’s winner.

  • Can I attend?

Anyone over 18 can attend the Kentucky Derby, tickets start at around $60 and rise into the hundreds for hospitality. If you can’t get to the track itself, races are broadcast live on TV and streaming services around the world.

  • What should I wear?

The Kentucky Derby is an outdoor event so weather and practicality should always factor heavily in your outfit choice. Despite this, you’ll find many attendees choose glamorous wardrobes that make an impact and dressing to impress is always encouraged.

  • How do I bet?

The easiest way to place a wager is to find a reputable sportsbook such as DK Horse. These online platforms will guide you through all the bet types and odds and answer any questions you have.

  • Who’s going to win?

If we could predict horse races in advance we’d be billionaires, but Two Phil’s is currently listed as 2023’s favorite. Things change quickly when it comes to the Derby so keep checking the news and the odds until race day.

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When an event occurs uninterrupted for 148 years, it picks up plenty of stories and statistics on the way. Here are some of our favorite facts about America’s most famous horse race.

  • S is the magic letter

While there are 26 letters in the alphabet, there’s no even spread when it comes to Kentucky Derby winner’s names. 19 of the 148 winners so far had a name starting with S – good news for Sun Thunder this year!

  • Three is the magic number

The Kentucky Derby might be the biggest race of the year but, for its winners, it’s just the start. Held later, the Belmont Stakes and the Preakness Stakes make up each season’s “Triple Crown” with the prestigious Derby.

  • Big appetites

150,000 people attend the Kentucky Derby and most of them don’t get through the day without a snack. On average, 142,000 hot dogs are consumed alongside 13,800 pounds of beef plus shrimp, scallops, cookies, and strawberries.

  • Young and old

At the age of just 15, Lonnie Clayton in 1892 and Soup Perkins in 1895 are the youngest Derby-winning jockeys. At the other end of the scale, Bill Shoemaker was 54 when he rode to victory in 1986.

  • Fresh flavours

Of all things, the Kentucky Derby has its own traditional drink, and it might not be what you expect. Bourbon, mint, sugar, water, and ice are mixed to create a mint julep, and 120,00- are drunk each year.

Thanks to its glamour, prestige, and sense of occasion, the Kentucky Derby is one of the world’s best racing days. It’s high stakes on the track and high enjoyment for everyone watching, attending, and placing wagers.

So, with all this in mind, is it time for you to book tickets for your first Derby day? Alternatively, place your bets, send your invites, and create a “Run for the Roses” party wherever you are.

Feature image for illustration only.

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