Fun Facts and Figures: Kentucky Derby by the Numbers

Justify won the 2018 Kentucky Derby on a day when 3.15 inches of rain fell at Churchill Downs, a record amount on the day of the race. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The 147th edition of the Kentucky Derby Presented by  Woodford Reserve returns in 2021 to its rightful place on the horse racing calendar on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Churchill to postpone the first jewel of the Triple Crown to September. It marked the first time since 1945 that the race was not held on the first Saturday in May and, in fact, it became the second jewel of the Triple Crown last year as the Belmont Stakes was held in June.

This year’s Kentucky Derby is now just around the corner, and with a talented cast of up to 20 3-year-olds slated to compete in the May 1 class, let’s take a look at some of the key numbers throughout the history of U.S. horse racing’s signature event.

1 ¼ – The distance in miles of the Kentucky Derby since 1896, when the race was shortened from its original distance of 1 ½ miles.

1:59.40 – The fastest winning time for the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby was authored in 1973 by eventual Triple Crown winner Secretariat. Monarchos in 2001 won the race in 1:59.97, making him the only other winner to crack the two-minute barrier for 1 ¼ miles in the race’s history.

3 – The smallest field size in the history of the Kentucky Derby. It happened twice: the 1892 edition won by Azra; and the 1905 edition, which was won by Agile.

3.15 – The record number in inches of rain that fell on Kentucky Derby day in 2018 when Justify won the first leg of the Triple Crown on his way to a sweep of the series.

5 – The number of Kentucky Derby victories by Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack, a record for jockeys in the run for the roses. The leading active riders with three wins are John Velazquez, Kent Desormeaux, Victor Espinoza, and Calvin Borel.

6 – The number of Kentucky Derby victories by trainers Ben Jones and Bob Baffert, who share the record for the race.

8 – The number Kentucky Derby winners that rallied from last to first to prevail, including most recently Mine That Bird in 2009.

9 –  The number of Kentucky Derby winners to prevail by a nose, the smallest winning margin: Spokane (1889), Azra (1892), Ben Brush (1896), Plaudit (1898), Alan-a-Dale (1902), Brokers Tip (1933), Iron Liege (1957), Tomy Lee (1959), and Grindstone (1996).

13 – The number of U.S. Thoroughbreds to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes to etch their names in the history books as a Triple Crown winner: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015), and Justify (2018).

20 – The cap for the number of starters permitted to compete in the Kentucky Derby.

30 – The official age of the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner, 1994 winner Go for Gin, who lives at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. His actual birthdate is April 18, 1991, but Thoroughbreds all officially turn the calendar on Jan. 1.

Genuine Risk in 1980 Kentucky Derby winner's circle. (BloodHorse Library)

40 – The number of fillies who have started in the Kentucky Derby with three winners: Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980, and Winning Colors in 1988.

94 – The blistering temperature in degrees Fahrenheit for the hottest Kentucky Derby on record when Tomy Lee won on May 2, 1959.

112 – The number of Kentucky Derby winners born in the Bluegrass State, by far the leading birthplace of Derby victors. Florida ranks next with six.

$184.90 – The record $2 win bet payout for the Kentucky Derby, which upset winner Donerail was responsible for in 1913 when he won by a half-length at 91.45-1 odds after catching pacesetter and 6-5 favorite Ten Point in the stretch.

$1,000 – The purse for the inaugural Kentucky Derby in 1875, which was won by Aristides.

$9,814.80 – The record exacta payout for the Kentucky Derby. The benchmark was set in 2005 when Giacomo prevailed at 50.30-1 odds with Closing Argument running second as a 71.60-1 longshot.

170,513 – The number of fans who attended the Kentucky Derby in 2015, a record for the race.

$3 million – The purse for the Kentucky Derby since 2019, with the winner earning $1,860,000.

$4 million – The highest purchase price at public auction for a Kentucky Derby winner, which was the amount Fusao Sekiguchi paid at the 1998 Keeneland July yearling sale for 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. No other Derby winners sold for seven figures at auction.

$24,463,927 - The record for money bet on the Kentucky Derby, which was the amount bet on the race in 2006 when Barbaro posted a dominant victory.

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