When you think of greats in the sports world, for hockey, you think Gretzky. For football, it’s Brady or a Manning – maybe Lombardi.
Baseball? The list starts with names like Ruth, Aaron, and Jeter.
But when you hear the names Seabiscuit, American Pharoah, or Secretariat, most folks know exactly which sport AND which traditional sporting event those great athletes represent – the Kentucky Derby.
Staged annually at Churchill Downs, Louisville’s “Run for the Roses” or “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports,” celebrates its 143rd anniversary this year.
According to kentuckyderby.com, the famed race is the longest continually held sporting event in America, and takes place annually on the first Saturday in May – typically drawing a crowd of 155,000 people.
“The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” is a reference to the approximate length of time it takes the winner to run from the starting gate to the finish line – although the aforementioned Secretariat ran it in 1:59:40 back in 1973.
The “Derby” is the first race within the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, where it is followed by the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
Self-proclaimed Derby expert Mali Anderson points out that the red rose is the official flower of the Kentucky Derby. And after winning, the victorious Derby horse is draped with a garland of red roses.
It is said New York sports columnist Bill Corum was the first to refer to Derby as “The Run for the Roses” in 1925. The floral blanket carries the same symbolism as a winning crown, Anderson says.
Here are a few points of Kentucky Derby trivia to dazzle your friends:
- According to ESPN, former slave Ansel Williamson was the trainer of the Derby’s first winning horse, Aristides, in 1875.
- That same year, the winning jockey, Oliver Lewis, was also African-American, the Kentucky Derby Museum notes.
- In 1892, only three horses ran in the Derby, making it the smallest field in the race’s history, CNN notes.
- In 1970, Diane Crump became the first woman to ride in the Derby.
The main event is the culmination of a weekend full of activities at Churchill Downs and happens this year on May 6. Since it’s an easy two minutes to miss, be sure you’re in your seat and tuning in to see this year’s excitement at post time – exactly 6:34 pm EST!