Beginners Guide To The Derby

If you’ve opened this story you’re probably interested in the Kentucky Derby but might not know a whole lot about horse racing or the Triple Crown.

No worries, the Daily Racing Blog is here to help.

The Kentucky Derby is the most-watched horse race of the year in the United States and is widely considered one of the most important sporting events in the country.

It has grown to become much more than just a horse race since ARISTIDES Won the first edition in 1875.

The Kentucky Derby is the first jewel of the Triple Crown, a series of races that includes the Preakness Stakes, two weeks after the Derby and concludes with the Belmont Stakes three weeks after that.  

Here then, are the basics of the The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports.

WHO: The Best 3-Year-Old Racehorses. The Kentucky Derby is restricted to 3-year-old racehorses, male or female, so a Thoroughbred is eligible for the race only once in their lives. Horses must be nominated to the Triple Crown and then qualify for the Kentucky Derby through a series of races that award points to the top four finishers. The Kentucky Derby field is restricted to 20 runners.

WHAT: The Run For The Roses. The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously held major sporting event in America, and is often referred to as The Run For The Roses because the Winner has a blanket of roses draped over his/her back after the race. The race itself is a 1 ¼-mile race on a dirt main track that is a test of both speed and stamina.

WHERE: Churchill Downs. Kentucky is the hub of the Thoroughbred racehorse in the United States with roughly 44% of ALL racehorses being bred in bluegrass country. So it stands to reason that the most important race in the country would take place in Kentucky. Churchill Downs in Louisville, is the host track of the Kentucky Derby under its famed Twin Spires that sit atop the racetrack grandstand. The track opened in 1875 and held the first Kentucky Derby the same year.

WHEN: The First Saturday In May. The Kentucky Derby is held every year – well, every year when the world is not in the midst of a pandemic – on the first Saturday in May. From 1946 through 2019, the race was held on the first Saturday of the month of May, until COVID-19 in 2020 forced the postponement of the race until September. The Kentucky Derby returned to its usual place on the calendar in 2021 and this year’s 148th Kentucky Derby is May 7th.

WHY: Inspired From Across The Pond. In 1872, a gent named Meriwether Lewis Clark traveled to Europe and attended the Epsom Derby in England, a race run since 1780, and met members of the French Jockey Club. Inspired by his trip and experience in Europe, he set out to create a similar racing event in the U.S.

Gifted the land to develop a racetrack and, after formally organizing the Louisville Jockey Club, Clark and his new club raised the funding to build Churchill Downs in Louisville. On May 17th, 1875, the track opened its gates for the first time and the Louisville Jockey Club sponsored the inaugural Kentucky Derby.

In the years since that first running, the Kentucky Derby has evolved and become the most important event on the racing calendar. It is the main focus of horse racing fans every spring, a time when 3-year-old racehorses frequently mature mentally and develop physically into elite athletes.

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