Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby fun facts and records worth knowing before Saturday's race

Biggest longshot to ever win? Most successful starting gate? Best finish for a female jockey? Here are the answers to all of those Kentucky Derby questions and more

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The first Saturday in May is near. 

That means it’s time for the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby, which is set for May 4.

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As the oldest continuously held sporting event in American history, the Kentucky Derby has no shortage of long-standing records, interesting tidbits and fun traditions. Let’s take a look at some ahead of this weekend’s “Run for the Roses.”

10 Kentucky Derby records

1. The Kentucky Derby is called the most exciting two minutes in sports for a reason. The record for the quickest finish is held by Secretariat, who won the 1973 Derby with a time of 1:59.40 en route to the Triple Crown. 

2. The largest margin of victory in the Kentucky Derby is eight lengths, held by Old Rosebud (1914), Johnstown (1939), Whirlaway (1941) and Assault (1946).  The second-largest winning margins occurred more recently, with Barbaro (2006) and Mine That Bird (2009) each winning by 6 1/2 lengths. 

3. The biggest longshot to win the Kentucky Derby was in 1913 when Donerail won with odds of 91-1. The second biggest long shot was 2022 winner Rich Strike, who entered at 80-1.

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4. Horses get just one crack at the Kentucky Derby, but that's not the case for jockeys. Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack have each won the Derby five times, sharing the record for most victories by a jockey. 

5. Rosie Napravnik holds the best finish for a female jockey in the Kentucky Derby, finishing fifth in 2013. Only six women jockeys have ridden in the Derby, with Diane Crump being the first in 1970. The top finish for the horse of a female trainer was Shelley Riley, who helped Casual Lies to a second place finish in the 1992 Derby.

Here's everything you need to know about the 150th iteration of the Kentucky Derby, known as the fastest two minutes in sports.

6. The youngest winning jockey in Kentucky Derby history is Alonzo Clayton, who guided Azra to victory in the 1892 Derby at the age of 15. As for the oldest? That was Bill Shoemaker, who won the 1986 Derby aboard Ferdinand at 54 years old. Shoemaker holds the record for most rides in the Derby with 26, including four victories -- which could have been a record-tying five had he not miscalculated the finish line aboard Gallant Mant in 1957, prematurely standing up in his stirrups as Iron Liege passed him by to claim the victory.  

7. Since the Kentucky Derby began using a starting gate, post position five has produced the most Derby winners with 10

8. Calumet Farm, a Thoroughbred breeding and training farm based in Lexington, leads all owners with 10 wins in the Kentucky Derby, including 2022 winner Rich Strike. The record for most wins in the Derby by a trainer is six. That's held by Ben Jones, who won six times between the years of 1938 and 1952, and Bob Baffert, who won his first Derby in 1997. Baffert was stripped of what would have been a record-breaking seventh victory when his 2021 Derby-winning horse Medina Spirit tested positive for an anti-inflammatory medication during a post-race drug test and was subsequently disqualified. Baffert received a two-year suspension from Churchill Downs.

9. The most money wagered on the Kentucky Derby was in 2023 when $188.7 million in bets were placed, according to USA TODAY. That topped the previous high of $179 million set the year prior 

10. The oldest living Kentucky Derby-winning horse is 30-year-old Silver Charm, who won the 1997 “Run for the Roses.” Go for Gin, who won the 1994 Derby, previously had been the eldest at 31 years old until passing away in 2022 of heart failure. 

10 Kentucky Derby facts

1. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. started the Kentucky Derby in 1875. His grandfather was William Clark of the famed exploring duo Lewis and Clark.

2. Black jockeys won 15 of the first 28 Kentucky Derbies. In the first Kentucky Derby, 13 of the 15 jockeys were Black. 

3. Horses with a name starting with the letter S have won the Kentucky Derby 19 times, more than any other letter. The only first letters that haven't won the Derby, you ask? Q and X. 

4. The Kentucky Derby was nationally televised for the first time in 1952, with an estimated 10 to 15 million viewers.

5. The drink of choice at the Kentucky Derby is the Mint Juleps and an estimated 120,000 are served at Churchill Downs on a traditional Derby weekend. 

6. The blanket of roses placed up on the Kentucky Derby winner weighs roughly 40 pounds.

7. The Kentucky Derby was permanently scheduled for the first Saturday in May beginning in 1931. The Derby has since run on a day other than the first Saturday in May only twice: when it was postponed in 1945 during a wartime horse racing suspension, and in 2020 when it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bonus fact: The Kentucky Derby began in 1875 and has never been canceled.

8. Three fillies (female horses) have won the Derby: Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980), and Winning Colors (1988).

9. Sir Barton never won a race before winning the 1919 Kentucky Derby. That year, he won the first Triple Crown (before it was actually called the Triple Crown). 

10. Since the Kentucky Derby began using a starting gate in 1930, no winner has emerged from post 17.

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