Fifteen Fun Facts About The Derby

Events / Travel

Photos by Eclipse Sportswire

Have you ever wondered what some of the weirdest facts about the Kentucky Derby are? Mike Johnson has complied a list of 15 fun facts that will get you in the mood for this year’s Kentucky Derby … and that will answer your questions about some of the most off-the-wall parts of the Kentucky Derby.

1- The Derby is the only sporting event that can make Tom “Nerves of Steel” Brady melt like a teenaged girl with Bieber fever.

2- PGA Champion Jason Dufner will be making his first trip to Churchill Downs this weekend. Sorry, Jason, but there will be no “Dufnering” allowed on the premise. Horse racing is too exciting to let your posture sag like that.

3- The tradition of “My Old Kentucky Home” playing during the post parade is one that elicits tears and goose bumps, even from novice racing fans. However, the song’s composer, Stephen Foster, was Pennsylvania born and bred.

4- The well documented 2005 Derby superfecta record payout of  $864,253.50 was hit by Phoenix firefighter Chris Hertzog.  Here’s the kicker … he misplaced the ticket! Luckily, it was recovered the following day. But it goes to show you, always hold those tickets close.

5- The garland of roses draped over the winning horse is made up of roughly 400 flowers, all sewn together at the local Kroger the night before.

Mike Roses

6- The Kentucky Derby trophy takes over 2,000 man hours to craft. The process begins in November and the result is nothing short of 18 karat gold spectacularness. It’s the only solid gold trophy in all of sports.

7- Much mystique surrounds Secretariat’s Derby-record time of 1:59.40 in the 1973 edition of the race. Equally impressive, in my opinion, but far less heralded, is the slowest wining time at the 1 ¼ mile distance. That feat was accomplished by Stone Street in 1908, when he crossed the wire on a muddy track in 2:15.20. The slackers’ champion, ladies and gents.

8- One record that will not be broken in the foreseeable future is Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton’s title of the youngest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. He accomplished the feat at the tender age of 15. Why will we never see a 14-year-old? Kentucky law states you now must be 16 to acquire a riding license. 

9- Thousands of fans will pack the infield Saturday, and many will turn to social media to blog about their experience. It is doubtful any of them will generate a journalism revolution with their post, which is what Hunter S. Thompson did with his eclectic, edgy first-hand account of the 1970 race, sparking the Gonzo journalism style in the process.

10- Speaking of the infield, the fan experience will be better than ever this year. Churchill has put the “Jumbo” back in jumbotron with their latest upgrade, a video board the size of three NBA basketball courts. This will give infield goers an unprecedented view of the action on the track.

Mike Jumbo

11- Everyone is familiar with the Mint Julep and its tradition at the event. Being horse racing, you always have to raise the stakes for the big occasions. The result is the limited edition $1,000 Mint Julep. Double-oaked Woodford Reserve bourbon and gold-plated julep cup justify the cost, along with the fact proceeds benefit Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center.

12- This year’s edition, along with plenty of years past, have been heavily advertised via television, internet, billboards, etc. Colonel Meriwether Clark, the event’s founder, promoted the inaugural event in 1875 by going door-to-door in a horse-drawn wagon. To think how far we’ve come.  

13- Ten thousand people attended that first Kentucky Derby. The expected crowd this year should surge past 150,000.

Mike Crowd

14- Puzzled by the latest “fascinator” trend in women’s headwear fashion? You can thank the Brits for that. You can also thank our racing friends across the pond for the Derby concept. The Kentucky Derby was created to be America’s signature racing day, modeled after Great Britain’s longstanding Epsom Derby

15- While we’re out having our fun, remember that race day is a work day for 11,500 employees at Churchill. Cheers to them and all the volunteers who carry on the storied tradition. 

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