Kentucky Derby trivia, May 3, 2014

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derby A field of 19 horses will line up in the starting gate Saturday at Churchill Downs for the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby.  It is called the Run for the Roses because the winning horse is draped with blanket of 554 red roses.

The tradition is as a result of New York socialite E. Berry Wall presenting roses to ladies at a post-Derby party in 1883 that was attended by Churchill Downs founder and president, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. It is believed that this gesture eventually led Clark to the idea of making the rose the race's official flower.

By 1896 it was standard for the winner to be draped in a rose blanket and for the trophy to be presented to the winner by the governor of Kentucky, a tradition that has continued every year. (That is 118 years if you are counting).

Churchill Downs was founded in 1875 by Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., the grandson of William Clark of the famous exploring duo Lewis and Clark. After the Southern aristocrat returned from a tour of Europe in 1873, where he visited race tracks in England and France, he convinced his cousins, John and Henry Churchill, to convert a portion of their family’s 300-acre estate into a premier horse racing track. They did so in 1875, with the Churchill brothers providing the financial backing and Clark serving as the president and on-site manager.

The very first Kentucky Derby was held in 1875, the very year Churchill Downs opened. It was contested by 15 3-year-old thoroughbreds in front of 10,000 spectators and was won by a colt named Aristedes, who was ridden by jockey Oliver Lewis.

Ever wonder how many Kentucky Derbies have been postponed due to rain? The truth is the Derby has never been postponed. In 1918 2.31 inches of rain fell on race day, but the race went on as planned. Exterminator came in first that year; a real mudder.

TVs everywhere will be tuned into the Kentucky Derby Saturday for what is billed as the most exciting two minutes in all of sport. May 16, 1925 was the first live radio broadcast of the Kentucky Derby. The first national TV telecast of the Kentucky Derby aired 62 years ago on May 3, 1952.

Can you name the song played as the horses move from the paddock to the starting gate?

It is of course Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home” and it’s performed by the University of Louisville Marching Band.

The fastest horse to ever win the Kentucky Derby was Secretariat who got around the track in less than two minutes at 1:59.  Secretariat went on to win the Triple Crown that year, 1973. The slowest horse to ever win the race was Kingman who finished first in 1891 with a winning time 2:52.

There is a hefty fee to enter the first jewel of the Triple Crown; the entry fee is $25,000 and there is an additional $25,000 fee if the horse enters the starting gate.

The length of the track at Churchill Downs is 1.25 miles.

Thirteen of the 15 riders in the first Kentucky Derby were African-American.

African-American jockeys won 15 of the Derby's first 28 runnings.

The longest shot to win the Kentucky Derby was Donerail in 1913 paying $184.90 for a $2 bet.

During World World II wartime travel restrictions resulted in a "Street Car Derby," with no out-of-town tickets sold for the race. But 65,000 turned out in 1943 to see Count Fleet, a 2-5 choice, win easily.

In 1968 the winning horse, Dancer’s Image, was stripped of the title because post-race testing revealed an illegal medication; and second place finisher Forward Pass was declared the winner.

In 1974 an all-time record U.S. thoroughbred racing crowd of 163,628 jammed the Downs to see Cannonade top a field of 23 and win the 100th Derby.

In 1942, seven of the first eight finishers in the Kentucky Derby were owned by women. The exception was Valdina Orphan, who finished third.

The mint julep, an iced drink with bourbon, mint and a sugar syrup, is the traditional beverage of the race.

Millionaire's Row refers to the expensive box seats that attract the rich, the famous and the well-connected. Women appear in fine outfits lavishly accessorized with large, elaborate hats.

Only three fillies have ever won the Derby: Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980 and Winning Colors in 1988.

In 1929, Clyde Van Dusen, the horse, won for Clyde Van Dusen, the trainer.

Eighteen horses have brought perfect records into the race. Only five left undefeated. They are: Regret (1915), Morvich (1922), Majestic Prince (1969), Seattle Slew (1977), and Smarty Jones (2004).

Odds that the Derby winner was born in Kentucky: 1.3-1. Ninety-seven of the 130 winners were born in the Bluegrass State.

Willie Simms rode in two Derbies and won them both – aboard Ben Brush in 1896 and Plaudit in 1898. Simms is the only African-American rider to win all three races that became the Triple Crown.

Assault, the Texas horse, won the Triple Crown in 1946; he wasn't the favorite in any of the three races.

The only foreign-based horse to win the Derby was Canonero II, the 1971 upset winner from Venezuela.

In 1922, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes were run on the same day.

Since 2001 NBC has broadcast the Kentucky Derby as well as the other two legs of racing’s Triple Crown. Prior to that ABC had the Derby while CBS had the Preakness and the Belmont.

It is estimated that 165,000 people packed the grounds of Churchill Downs to see I’ll Have Another ride to victory in 2013. That ties the Kentucky Derby with the events held at Bristol Motor Speedway as the sixth most-attended sporting event in the United States, behind only the Coca-Cola 600, the Daytona 500, the Talladega 500, the NRA 500, and the Indianapolis 500.

Of course, the Derby crowd is starkly divided into two categories: the wild drunken party people camping out on the infield, and the well-dressed, well-to-do society types in the grandstand. And of course, even the grandstand has divisions. There are the “regular” sections of the grandstand, and there is “Millionaire’s Row,” which features outrageously expensive seats populated with the rich and famous.

Tickets for the race in the infield cost $45 in advance, while ticket packages for the grandstand range from $600 to $6,000.

The official food of the Kentucky Derby is burgoo, a traditional Southern stew containing beef, chicken, pork, and vegetables. It’s almost certainly some sort of derivative of the classic French dish – beef bourguignon, and it sounds absolutely delicious.

Of course, the official beverage of the Kentucky Derby is the mint julep. Although the classic bourbon, mint, and sugar cocktail wasn’t invented at the Churchill Downs, it has been promoted there since 1938 and definitely owes its fame to the Kentucky Derby. And just in case you’d like to sip on a mint julep while you watch the Derby on Saturday, here’s how you make one:

6cl Bourbon whiskey

4 mint leaves

1 teaspoon powdered sugar

2 teaspoons water

Combine the mint, sugar and water in a highball glass. Fill the glass with cracked ice, add Bourbon and stir until the glass is frosted. Add mint sprig to garnish.

The winningest Jockey in Kentucky Derby history is… well, actually, there are two tied at five wins a piece.

Eddie Arcaro won five times from 1938 to 1952, and Bill Hartack won five times from 1957 to 1969. Interestingly, though, neither of these gents won the race in consecutive years. That feat has been performed four times in the history of the Derby, most recently in 2009 and 2010 by Calvin Borel.

No female jockey has ever won the Kentucky Derby. However, that doesn’t mean women haven’t made their mark.

In 1904, Elwood became the first horse bred and owned by a woman to be both entered and to win the Kentucky Derby. He was owned by Laska Durnell and bred by J.B. Prather. By 1942, female owners were commonplace, and seven of the top eight finishers were owned by women.

Female trainers are less common at the Derby. Only 13 women have sent a total of 14 horses to the starting gates. And female jockeys are even fewer, totaling just five. The first was Diane Crump in 1970 and since then we’ve seen Patti Cooksey, Andrea Seefeldt, Julie Krone, and Rosemary Homiester.

Of the 139 Kentucky Derby winners, only three have been fillies. The first was Regret in 1915, the second was Genuine Risk in 1980, and the third was Winning Colors (pictured here) in 1988.

Officially, the Kentucky Derby is a race for thoroughbreds up to the age of 3. However, the reality is that this is a race for 2-year-olds. The last horse to win the Kentucky Derby who was older than 2 years old? That would be Apollo in 1882.

The owner of the Kentucky Derby winner gets $1,425,000. They also get that nice blanket of roses.

Horse Racing’s Triple Crown developed organically. The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont were the three highest-paying races in thoroughbred racing, so naturally owners just started sending their horses to Baltimore and upstate New York after the Derby in order to get a shot at the biggest paydays.

So now you are prepared to dazzle anyone with your knowledge of the Kentucky Derby. Mix up a mint julep and enjoy cheering for your favorite horse.

 


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