Twelve Things You Might Not Know About the 2019 Kentucky Derby

Racing at Churchill Downs, host of the Kentucky Derby.
Racing at Churchill Downs, host of the Kentucky Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

One of the most memorable sporting events of the year is just around the corner: the 145th edition of the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve is on May 4. Get ready for the greatest two minutes in sports with 12 must-know facts.

1. The Kentucky Derby is one of the highest-attended sporting events in the world. Last year more than 157,000 fans packed Churchill Downs on the rainiest Kentucky Derby day in history, and the average attendance over the last 10 years is 160,968.

2. The betting favorite has won the last six editions of the race: Justify (2018), Always Dreaming (2017), Nyquist (2016), American Pharoah (2015), California Chrome (2014), and Orb (2013). This year’s favorite is expected to be Omaha Beach or Roadster.

3. Sunday is the only day of the week the Derby hasn’t been run on. It’s been run each day Monday through Saturday at one time or another, though it’s been contested exclusively on the first Saturday in May each year since 1946.

4. No horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby from post-position No. 17. Each of the other 19 posts has had at least one winner.

5. There are 400 red roses in the winner’s garland. Another 60 are in the winning jockey’s bouquet, and 2,100 adorn the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle.

6. Just two horses born outside of North America have ever won the Derby: British-breds Tomy Lee (1959) and Omar Khayyam (1917). This year Japanese-bred Master Fencer will attempt to become the third.

7. The reigning 2-year-old champion won the race two of the last four years: American Pharoah (2015) and Nyquist (2016). This year Game Winner will attempt to improve that record to 3-for-5.

8. Hall of Fame trainers Richard Mandella and Bill Mott are both winless in the Kentucky Derby, but each has one of the top contenders in this year’s race. Mandella trains Arkansas Derby winner Omaha Beach while Mott has Wood Memorial winner Tacitus as well as longshot Country House.

Game Winner
Game Winner (Eclipse Sportswire)

9. Churchill Downs serves up a whopping 127,000 mint juleps in two days for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, utilizing locally grown mint and another of Kentucky’s signature industries: bourbon.

10. No horse has won the Derby at longer odds than 1913 victor Donerail. He was sent off at record odds of 91.45-1 and paid $184.90 for a $2 win bet.

11. Racing fans bet a record $225,671,089 on Kentucky Derby day in 2018. That is but a small fraction of the $11.3 billion total amount bet on racing in North America last year. 

12. The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously run major sporting event in the country. It’s been run annually since 1875, as have the Longines Kentucky Oaks and the Clark Handicap (also at Churchill Downs, in November).

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