Every year, millions of Americans watch the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May, and this spring will be no exception. The horse race called “the most exciting two minutes in sports” will be conducted at Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, Saturday.
A 1.25-mile race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds, the Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously running sporting event in the U.S., one steeped in tradition. The Derby was founded in 1875 by Meriwether Lewis Clark, the grandson of the famous explorer William Clark, who was inspired by the horse racing he had seen in Europe, according to the Derby’s official website. The inaugural event featured 15 horses running 1.5 miles in front of a crowd of about 10,000.
Over time, the Kentucky Derby has gone through a number of changes, but it remains one of the most popular sporting events in the U.S. As many around the country prepare to place bets and root for their favorite horses, here are some of the most important and interesting facts about the Derby.
— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) April 29, 2016
1. The Kentucky Derby is also called “The Run for the Roses” because the winning horse is draped with a handmade garland of roses.
2. The Derby has taken place every year, even during times of war and the Great Depression.
4. Winning the Triple Crown is a physically taxing feat because it requires a horse to be victorious in all three races, which take place within about a month. In the long history of the series, only 12 horses have won the Triple Crown.
5. Just 20 horses compete in the Kentucky Derby each year. More than 21,000 thoroughbred foals were born in the U.S. in 2013, according to America’s Best Racing, which means that less than one-tenth of 1 percent of them will get to compete in the Derby.
6. It costs at least $50,600 to enter a horse in the Derby — and more in the event certain deadlines are missed.
7. The mint julep is the traditional drink at the race.
8. Racegoers typically consume about 127,000 mint juleps over the course of the Kentucky Derby weekend each year, according to America’s Best Racing.
9. Nineteen Derby winners have had names that begin with the letter “S,” making it the most successful winning initial. Horses whose names start with the letter “Z” have a higher rate of success, but only seven such horses have competed in the race.
#KyDerby stat: 69 of last 70 winners faced 10+ field size first, American Pharoah the lone exception. Destin & Outwork have not done so.
— KY Derby Contenders (@DerbyContenders) April 29, 2016
10. People bet $194,271,295 on the Kentucky Derby last year.
11. The winner of the Derby gets a $2 million prize, and six other races with prize money totaling $2.15 million will also be held at Churchill Downs Saturday.
12. A big feature of Kentucky Derby day is the hat parade, and this tradition of wearing colorful, elaborate hats has only grown over time. Some participants don elegant and expensive headwear, while others opt for humorous hats to grab attention. And there are those who believe there is a causal relationship between fancy hats and lucky bets.
13. In the entire history of the Derby, only three winners have been fillies, or female horses.
14. Since 1956, the race itself has been preceded by two weeks of events and parties known as the Kentucky Derby Festival.
15. No Derby has ever been postponed because of bad weather.
16. Live coverage of the Kentucky Derby this year will be broadcast on NBC 4-7 p.m. EDT. About 16 million people watched its broadcast last year.