Th Kentucky Derby ia back, baby! People across the globe are scrambling to their televisions, transistor radios and walkie talkies to say, “Oh yeah, horses. Cool, I guess.” The multi-million dollar race, celebrated with pageantry, hats, bourbon, gambling, and more bourbon is one of the longest tenured races in the world. But, horse racing isn’t the cultural zeitgeist it used to be. The average American knows more about soccer in Europe than the horse races in Kentucky.
That’s not to say we don’t want to know. The races are an elegant Southern tradition. How sophisticated one must be to know about the ponies! You would love to be able to toss out random facts and trivia about the “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports,” right? Right! So. grab a Mint Julep (or Southside) and let’s get to the big things you need to know before watching the Derby.
1. Background: This is the 143rd Kentucky Derby, affectionately called “The Race for the Roses.” Why is it called that? Well, because the winner is draped with a harness of roses. Yeah, makes sense. The race was founded by Meriwether Lewis Clark, grandson of the famous explorer William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and is held annually at Churchill Downs in Louisville Kentucky. It is beautiful.
2. The Race: The Derby, which caps off a 2-week festival, features 20 three-year-old horses racing around a 1.25 mile (10 furlong) dirt track. It is longer than any race leading up to it and takes around 2 minutes to complete. Because of its length, many horses struggle to “get the distance” and tire before the end.
The Kentucky Derby is also the first leg in what is called “The Triple Crown,” the three most prestigious horse races in the world. The other two races are the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. It is exceedingly rare for a horse to win all three races.
3. The Legends: If you want to talk Derby, you need to know a couple horses.
Secretariat is a Triple Crown winner and the fastest horse to run the Kentucky Derby with a time of 1:59 2/5. That’s not even his best race. His Belmont Stakes win, in which he led by an unbelievable 31 lengths, is considered one of the greatest horse races of all time.
American Pharaoh won the Derby in 2015 and was the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. They’ll make a Disney movie about him someday.
Seabiscuit may be the one race horse you have heard of, but id not a Derby winner. In fact, he never ran in any of the Triple Crown races. In his most famous race, he beat Triple Crown winner War Admiral. He is a very inspirational horse, but not a champion. Probably don’t talk about Seabiscuit during the Derby.
4. The Field: The 2017 field is wide open; no one expects a Triple Crown this year. The favorite horse, Always Dreaming is generously sitting at 4/1 odds. Any other horse in the top five (McCracken, J Boys Echo, Classic Empire, and Practical Joke) could potentially take him down. It should be a very exciting race.
The Kentucky Derby airs this year on May 6 at 6:34pm ET on NBC.