The Kentucky Derby is known as ‘The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports’ and is a truly special occasion and a huge crowd in excess of 150,000 is set to feast their eyes on the thrilling race at Churchill Downs. Not only is the Kentucky Derby America’s longest running sporting event but it also attracts well over $100m in betting activity.
First run in 1875, the race was the brainchild of Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. who was inspired by the Epsom Derby and Longchamp’s Grand Prix de Paris.
The Kentucky Derby is currently the first leg of the US Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes in mid-May and the Belmont Stakes in early June. Much like our very own Classics, these races are for three-year-old horses only.
Kentucky Derby Course Map (Dirt Course)
The 1m 2f Kentucky Derby starts right at the beginning of the home straight with the field passing the grandstands and the winning post for the first time before completing a full circuit left-handed to complete the race.
Kentucky Derby Past Winners
|2022||Rich Strike||81/10||Eric Reed||Sonny Leon|
|2021*||Mandaloun||269/10||Brad Cox||Florent Geroux|
|2020||Authentic||84/10||Bob Baffert||John R. Velazquez|
|2019||Country House||65/1||William Mott||Flavien Prat|
|2018||Justify||29/10||Bob Baffert||Mike E. Smith|
|2017||Always Dreaming||9/2||Todd Pletcher||John R. Velazquez|
|2016||Nyquist||2/1||Doug O’Neill||Mario Gutierrez|
|2015||American Pharaoh||5/2||Bob Baffert||Victor Espinoza|
|2014||California Chrome||5/2||Art Sherman||Victor Espinoza|
|2013||Orb||11/2||Joel Rosario||Claude McGaughey III|
|2012||I'll Have Another||153/10||Doug O'Neill||Mario Gutierrez|
|2011||Animal Kingdom||209/10||H. Graham Motion||John R. Velazquez|
|2010||Super Saver||8/1||Todd Pletcher||Calvin Borel|
|2009||Mine That Bird||51/1||Bennie L. Woolley Jr.||Calvin Borel|
|2008||Big Brown||12/5||Richard E. Dutrow Jr.||Kent Desormeaux|
|2007||Street Sense||49/10||Carl Nafzger||Calvin Borel|
|2006||Barbaro||61/10||Michael R. Matz||Edgar Prado|
|2005||Giacomo||50/1||John Shirreffs||Mike E. Smith|
|2004||Smarty Jones||41/10||John Servis||Stewart Elliott|
|2003||Funny Cide||128/10||Barclay Tagg||Jose A. Santos|
*Medina Spirit was first past the post in 2021 but was later disqualified
About the Kentucky Derby: Churchill Downs’ Run for the Roses
Horse racing is an international sport. Lucrative and highly reputable races take place throughout the year in Europe, the Middle East, Australia and the USA. The Kentucky Derby is up there with the most well-known horse races anywhere in the world and is certainly one of the most iconic and exciting for US racing fans.
Taking Cues from Europe
The Kentucky Derby was first held in 1875. The race was the brainchild of Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. who had visited Europe and learned about the history of horse racing in both Epsom and Paris. He decided to start something similar back home and got about working on a course in Louisville, Kentucky. That would be known as Churchill Downs after John and Henry Churchill who provided the ground for the course.
The first Kentucky Derby was held on 17 May 1875. The first 20 years saw the race run at 1 mile 4 furlongs which is the same distance as the Epsom Derby before being cut to the current distance of 1 mile 2 furlongs in 1896. Those early days were exciting as American horse racing fans were drawn to the new race but Churchill Downs had continual financial troubles until Colonel Matt Winn headed a syndicate of business people who ensured a more stable footing which helped to grow the reputation of the Kentucky Derby both nationally and internationally.
First Leg of the Triple Crown
The other major boost to the prestige of the Kentucky Derby was the emergence of the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. Together they came to form the United States Triple Crown which became known as the Holy Grail of American racing. Perhaps because of the similarity of distance in all three races it is still regularly attempted in contrast to the British Triple Crown which comprises the 2000 Guineas (1000 Guineas for fillies), the Epsom Derby (Oaks for fillies) and the St Leger. As the list below shows, Justify became the latest American horse to join the pantheon of greats in 2018.
United States Triple Crown Winners
|2015||American Pharoah||Bob Baffert|
|1977||Seattle Slew||William H. Turner Jr|
|1948||Citation||Horace A. Jones|
|1943||Count Fleet||Don Cameron|
|1941||Whirlaway||Benjamin A. Jones|
|1937||War Admiral||George Conway|
|1930||Gallant Fox||Jim Fitzsimmons|
|1919||Sir Barton||Harvey Guy Bedwell|
The Trends to Consider in the Hunt for a Winner
In the eyes of many racing fans the Kentucky Derby has overtaken the races on which it was originally based. It is now among the biggest sporting events in the world. The thousands attending each year and the millions watching around the world enjoy traditions such as the contrast between the infield parties and the exclusive seats in Millionaires row, the blanket of 554 roses awarded to the winner and the shout of “riders up” which commands jockeys to mount their rides.
No matter where they are watching from or the style they are watching in, the one thing that connects all fans of the Kentucky Derby is the desire to pick a winning bet. As it’s such an historic race there is a host of statistical information to devour for punters looking for an edge.
This is bigger than your average Group 1 contest and it always takes a performance of the highest quality to win. That’s one reason favourites have such an excellent recent record (Justify became the sixth straight favourite to oblige in 2018). Taking a longer term view, favourites tend to win over just over 25% of the time. Don’t discount long shots though as betting shocks do happen in the Kentucky Derby, Rich Strike’s win at 81/10 in 2022 was the second longest winning odds in the race’s history.
The importance of the barrier draw in the race is so pronounced that it has a major impact on the odds when announced. Those drawn low have a considerable disadvantage with very few winner from barriers one, two or three in the last 40 years. Justify broke the long held belief that horses who did not race as two-year-olds cannot win the Kentucky Derby but he had already proven himself as a Group 1 winner before heading to Churchill Downs, had already won over 1 mile 2 furlongs and headed into the race with just three runs in the season which is about the maximum you’d want as a punter.