Proclaimed the “most exciting two minutes in sports,” the Kentucky Derby is just that. Each year, equestrians and non-equestrians alike join in this immersive experience full of excitement, speed, fancy hats, and, of course, majestic horses. With the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby just around the corner, here is a list of facts about the race that you may not know.

Facts About The Race

  1. The Kentucky Derby is the longest-continuously held sporting event in the United States. It was first held on May 17, 1875, and has continued to take place every year since.
  2. The Derby is also called “The Run for the Roses” because after the race, the winner is draped in a blanket adorned with over 400 roses. This blanket weighs about 40 pounds!
  3. The Derby always takes place on the first Saturday in May, except for two occasions: in 1945, when a wartime ban on horse racing postponed the event, and in 2020, when the race was delayed until September due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Inclement weather has never led to its cancellation or postponement.
  4. A maximum of 20 horses can run in the Derby each year. This number was made official in 1975, making it the largest field for any single race in America.
  5. Diane Crump was the first woman jockey to ride in the Derby in 1970. No female jockey has won the race yet, but Shelley Riley came closest in 1992 with a second-place finish.

Facts About the Winners

  1. The letter “S” proves to be lucky in this race. Nineteen past winners’ names, including Secretariat, begin with “S.”
  2. Starting post #1 has become known as “the dreaded rail.” It tends to leave horses boxed in behind other racers, making it difficult to pull away from the pack.
  3. On the other hand, starting posts #5 and #10 have proven to be the luckiest, as horses from these lanes have won more times than any other starting post.
  4. Only three fillies have won the Derby: Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980, and Winning Colors in 1988.
  5. The state of Kentucky has produced more winning horses than any other state in the country.

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Learn More

Looking to catch up on more recent years at the Derby? Read here to find out what happened last year.

The facts in this blog were compiled from Town & Country Magazine and the Kentucky Derby Museum.