The Kentucky Derby is a stakes race for 3-year-old thoroughbred horses, held each year in Louisville, Ky., in May. The race covers one and one-quarter miles and is known as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" after its approximate time length. The Derby is the first leg of the Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing.
The race is an extremely popular event, both in sports and in culture, and typically draws about 155,000 fans. The Derby is the final event of a two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. It holds many popular traditions, in everything from fashion -- large and distinctive hats for female attendants -- to drinks -- the popular mint julep.
Horse racing has been a popular sport in Kentucky for more than 150 years, with the first race course laid out in Lexington in 1789. The first Derby, though, came about 100 years later, in 1875. Founded by Col. M. Lewis Clark, the Derby was the first of its kind in the South and was modeled after popular stakes races in England.
The first Kentucky Derby took place on May 17, 1875, and was watched by more than 10,000 viewers. Four races were scheduled that day, but the Derby was the premier event. The first race was won by a 3-year-old chestnut colt, Aristides. Despite the high attendance and popularity of the event, the Derby and the Louisville Jockey Club were not financially successful, and it was bought and incorporated in 1894.
In 1913, Donerail became the longest shot ever to win the Derby, at $92.40 to 1 odds. Donerail paid out $184.90 on a $2 bet and collected $5,475 for the victory. He won in 2:04.80, at the time the fastest time ever run. That record was broken again just a year later, when Old Rosebud set a track record of 2:03.40 -- winning the race by eight lengths.
The Derby had another marquee year in 1915, when Regret became the first filly to win the race. After two record-setting years and a history-making race the next, the Derby had become a premier American sporting event.
Having been taken over yet again, and consolidating its power with other Kentucky racing sites, the Derby became part of the Kentucky Jockey Club and its popularity grew over the next decade. The club obtained several new tracks in both Kentucky and Illinois and eventually reorganized as a holding company to increase its capitalization by almost 100 percent. By 1928, the American Turf Association was the new holding company for Churchill Downs and its partner tracks.
In 1925, the race was broadcast live on the radio for the first time, spreading its popularity across the country. Its first international broadcast came not long after, when the transmission was sent from Louisville to New Jersey to England in 1933. Two years later, the first Kentucky Derby Festival was held.
After the American Turf Association sold many of its holdings, Churchill Downs and Latonia merged into its own incorporated company, Churchill Downs-Latonia Incorporated, in 1937. After Latonia was sold in 1943, the company became just Churchill Downs Incorporated. The ATA was dissolved in 1953, and Churchill Downs became the sole holding company.
World War II provided some challenges for the Derby, but it continued each year. In 1943, government travel restrictions precluded the sale of any out-of-town tickets, and Count Fleet won a race known as the "Street Car Derby." The government banned all horse racing in January 1945, threatening the Derby's continuous run of races, but it was lifted in May and the 71st Derby was held in June. Over the 10 years from 1940 to 1950, Churchill Downs Foundation donated $1.5 million to war charities and other causes.
The first televised Derby -- on a local channel and a limited basis -- was run in 1949. The first national telecast came three years later, on May 3, 1952; and a video replay system was installed for the first time in 1954. The 1950s also saw vast improvements and renovations done to Churchill Downs, modernizing and expanding the track.
The first (and only) Derby winner disqualification took place in 1968, when the winner, Dancer's Image, was found to have had an illegal medication in its blood during post-race testing. The second-place finisher, Forward Pass, was declared the winner.
After several takeover bids, from private groups and the city of Louisville, the board of directors created the Derby Protection Group to outbid all suitors and maintain control of the company -- also successfully driving stock up significantly.
In 1973, Secretariat won the Derby and broke two minutes for the first time in Derby history. Secretariat finished the race in 1:59.40. He went on to become the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. After that history-making race, the Derby followed with another landmark event when a record 163,628 viewers -- more than for any other thoroughbred race -- watched the 100th running of the Derby. Cannonade topped a field of 23 for the win.
Pat Day was the man of the hour in the mid-1980s. In 1983, he rode 169 winners in the spring meet and 54 in the fall meet. Five times he ran five winners in one day. The following year, he broke a 77-year- old record by riding seven winners in eight races in one day.
Renovations continued through the 1970s and 1980s, completing renovations to the turf, press box, sky boxes, clubhouse and paddocks by the late 1980s. The renovations both kept the Derby as the premier horse racing event in the country and attracted the Breeders' Cup to Churchill Downs, earning a record crowd of 80,452 in 1998.
The growth impacted all aspects of the Derby. Derby Day wagering had increased from $26,805,205 in 1985 to $88,941,006 in 1998. That led to increases in the winnings, which rose from a daily average of $187,363 in 1990 to $469,643 in 1999. It also led to further expansion by Churchill Downs Incorporated, which bought several new holdings in Indiana and Kentucky in the 1990s, and, in 1999, Miami.
Throughout the 2000s, the Derby continued to grow and expand and entered the age of technology. A new simulcast betting system was put into place and a state-of-the-art center was built several miles from the track specifically for betting.
By 2004, the Churchill Down Stakes schedule included a record 45 races, 33 in the spring and 12 in the fall. That same year, the Kentucky Derby winner, Smarty Jones, was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the first time in 20 years a horse had graced the cover. The company continued to buy more tracks across the country, in New Orleans and other cities. Queen Elizabeth II visited the Derby during a trip to the United States in 2007.
Calvin Borel became the most famous jockey in recent history when he won three out of four Derbies from 2007 to 2010 -- the first jockey ever to win three in four years. Borel won with Super Saver in 2010, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Street Sense in 2007. Borel's victory with Mine That Bird was the second biggest upset in Derby history, after Donerail.
Churchill Downs is a racetrack in Louisville, Ky., that hosts the Kentucky Derby each year. It is one of the most famous tracks in the world, and was ranked the No. 5 course in North America in 2009. Churchill Downs also is the host for the 2011 Breeders' Cups, which it has hosted six times before.
The course features a one-mile dirt racetrack. The facility usually hosts about 50,000 viewers on its signature grandstands, though that number can triple on Derby days. One of the track's signature images is that of the twin spires that sit on top of the course's grandstand, and they now serve as the course's official logo -- and that of its owner, Churchill Downs Incorporated.
Churchill Downs opened in Louisville in 1875 with the inaugural Kentucky Derby. The race was created by horse breeder Col. M. Lewis Clark, who was inspired by the derbies in England in the 1870s. Clark created three stakes races to be held at Churchill Downs: the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Clark Handicap. The first Derby was held on May 17, 1875, the first day the track formally opened.
Churchill Downs was named a National Historic Landmark in October 1986.
Kentucky Derby Year-by-Year Winners
|2012||I'll Have Another||Mario Gutierrez||Doug F. O'Neill||2:01.83|
|2011||Animal Kingdom||John Velazquez||Graham Motion||02:02.04|
|2010||Super Saver||Calvin Borel||Todd Pletcher||02:04.5|
|2009||Mine That Bird||Calvin Borel||Bennie L. Woolley Jr.||02:02.7|
|2008||Big Brown||Kent Desormeaux||Richard Dutrow Jr.||02:01.8|
|2007||Street Sense||Calvin Borel||Carl Nafzger||02:02.2|
|2006||Barbaro||Edgar Prado||Michael R. Matz||02:01.4|
|2005||Giacomo||Mike E. Smith||John Shirreffs||02:02.8|
|2004||Smarty Jones||Stewart Elliott||John Servis||02:04.1|
|2003||Funny Cide||Jose Santos||Barclay Tagg||02:01.2|
|2002||War Emblem||Victor Espinoza||Bob Baffert||02:01.1|
|2001||Monarchos||Jorge F. Chavez||John T. Ward Jr.||02:00.0|
|2000||Fusaichi Pegasus||Kent Desormeaux||Neil Drysdale||02:01.0|
|1999||Charismatic||Chris Antley||D. Wayne Lukas||02:03.2|
|1998||Real Quiet||Kent Desormeaux||Bob Baffert||02:02.2|
|1997||Silver Charm||Gary Stevens||Bob Baffert||02:02.4|
|1996||Grindstone||Jerry Bailey||D. Wayne Lukas||02:01.0|
|1995||Thunder Gulch||Gary Stevens||D. Wayne Lukas||02:01.2|
|1994||Go for Gin||Chris McCarron||Nick Zito||02:03.6|
|1993||Sea Hero||Jerry Bailey||MacKenzie Miller||02:02.4|
|1992||Lil E. Tee||Pat Day||Lynn S. Whiting||02:03.0|
|1991||Strike the Gold||Chris Antley||Nick Zito||02:03.0|
|1990||Unbridled||Craig Perret||Carl Nafzger||02:02.0|
|1989||Sunday Silence||Pat Valenzuela||Charlie Whittingham||02:05.0|
|1988||Winning Colors||Gary Stevens||D. Wayne Lukas||02:02.2|
|1987||Alysheba||Chris McCarron||Jack Van Berg||02:03.4|
|1986||Ferdinand||Bill Shoemaker||Charlie Whittingham||02:02.8|
|1985||Spend A Buck||Angel Cordero Jr.||Cam Gambolati||02:00.2|
|1984||Swale||Laffit Pincay Jr.||Woody Stephens||02:02.4|
|1983||Sunny's Halo||Ed Delahoussaye||David C. Cross Jr.||02:02.2|
|1982||Gato Del Sol||Ed Delahoussaye||Edwin J. Gregson||02:02.4|
|1981||Pleasant Colony||Jorge Velasquez||John P. Campo||02:02.0|
|1980||Genuine Risk||Jacinto Vasquez||LeRoy Jolley||02:02.0|
|1979||Spectacular Bid||Ronnie Franklin||Bud Delp||02:02.4|
|1978||Affirmed||Steve Cauthen||Laz Barrera||02:01.2|
|1977||Seattle Slew||Jean Cruguet||William H. Turner Jr.||02:02.2|
|1976||Bold Forbes||Angel Cordero Jr.||Laz Barrera||02:01.6|
|1975||Foolish Pleasure||Jacinto Vasquez||LeRoy Jolley||02:02.0|
|1974||Cannonade||Angel Cordero Jr.||Woody Stephens||02:04.0|
|1973||Secretariat||Ron Turcotte||Lucien Laurin||01:59.4|
|1972||Riva Ridge||Ron Turcotte||Lucien Laurin||02:01.8|
|1971||Canonero II||Gustavo Avila||Juan Arias||02:03.2|
|1970||Dust Commander||Mike Manganello||Don Combs||02:03.4|
|1969||Majestic Prince||Bill Hartack||Johnny Longden||02:01.8|
|1968||Forward Pass||Ismael Valenzuela||Henry Forrest||02:02.2|
|1967||Proud Clarion||Bobby Ussery||Loyd Gentry Jr.||02:00.6|
|1966||Kauai King||Don Brumfield||Henry Forrest||02:02.0|
|1965||Lucky Debonair||Bill Shoemaker||Frank Catrone||02:01.2|
|1964||Northern Dancer||Bill Hartack||Horatio Luro||02:00.0|
|1963||Chateaugay||Braulio Baeza||James P. Conway||02:01.8|
|1962||Decidedly||Bill Hartack||Horatio Luro||02:00.4|
|1961||Carry Back||Johnny Sellers||Jack A. Price||02:04.0|
|1960||Venetian Way||Bill Hartack||Victor J. Sovinski||02:02.4|
|1959||Tomy Lee||Bill Shoemaker||Frank E. Childs||02:02.2|
|1958||Tim Tam||Ismael Valenzuela||Jimmy Jones||02:05.0|
|1957||Iron Liege||Bill Hartack||Jimmy Jones||02:02.2|
|1956||Needles||David Erb||Hugh L. Fontaine||02:03.4|
|1955||Swaps||Bill Shoemaker||Mesh Tenney||02:01.8|
|1954||Determine||Raymond York||William Molter||02:03.0|
|1953||Dark Star||Hank Moreno||Eddie Hayward||02:02.0|
|1952||Hill Gail||Eddie Arcaro||Ben A. Jones||02:01.6|
|1951||Count Turf||Conn McCreary||Sol Rutchick||02:02.6|
|1950||Middleground||William Boland||Max Hirsch||02:01.6|
|1949||Ponder||Steve Brooks||Ben A. Jones||02:04.2|
|1948||Citation||Eddie Arcaro||Ben A. Jones||02:05.4|
|1947||Jet Pilot||Eric Guerin||Tom Smith||02:06.8|
|1946||Assault||Warren Mehrtens||Max Hirsch||02:06.6|
|1945||Hoop Jr.||Eddie Arcaro||Ivan H. Parke||02:07.0|
|1944||Pensive||Conn McCreary||Ben A. Jones||02:04.2|
|1943||Count Fleet||Johnny Longden||Don Cameron||02:04.0|
|1942||Shut Out||Wayne D. Wright||John M. Gaver Sr.||02:04.4|
|1941||Whirlaway||Eddie Arcaro||Ben A. Jones||02:01.4|
|1940||Gallahadion||Carroll Bierman||Roy Waldron||02:05.0|
|1939||Johnstown||James Stout||Jim Fitzsimmons||02:03.4|
|1938||Lawrin||Eddie Arcaro||Ben A. Jones||02:04.8|
|1937||War Admiral||Charley Kurtsinger||George Conway||02:03.2|
|1936||Bold Venture||Ira Hanford||Max Hirsch||02:03.6|
|1935||Omaha||Willie Saunders||Jim Fitzsimmons||02:05.0|
|1934||Cavalcade||Mack Garner||Bob Smith||02:04.0|
|1933||Brokers Tip||Don Meade||Herbert J. Thompson||02:06.8|
|1932||Burgoo King||Eugene James||Herbert J. Thompson||02:05.2|
|1931||Twenty Grand||Charley Kurtsinger||James G. Rowe Jr.||02:01.8|
|1930||Gallant Fox||Earl Sande||Jim Fitzsimmons||02:07.6|
|1929||Clyde Van Dusen||Linus McAtee||Clyde Van Dusen||02:10.8|
|1928||Reigh Count||Chick Lang||Bert S. Michell||02:10.4|
|1927||Whiskery||Linus McAtee||Fred Hopkins||02:06.0|
|1926||Bubbling Over||Albert Johnson||Herbert J. Thompson||02:03.8|
|1925||Flying Ebony||Earl Sande||William B. Duke||02:07.6|
|1924||Black Gold||John D. Mooney||Hanley Webb||02:05.2|
|1923||Zev||Earl Sande||David J. Leary||02:05.4|
|1922||Morvich||Albert Johnson||Fred Burlew||02:04.6|
|1921||Behave Yourself||Charles Thompson||Herbert J. Thompson||02:04.2|
|1920||Paul Jones||Ted Rice||Billy Garth||02:09.0|
|1919||Sir Barton||Johnny Loftus||H. Guy Bedwell||02:09.8|
|1918||Exterminator||William Knapp||Henry McDaniel||02:10.8|
|1917||Omar Khayyam||Charles Borel||Charles T. Patterson||02:04.6|
|1916||George Smith||Johnny Loftus||Hollie Hughes||02:04.0|
|1915||Regret||Joe Notter||James G. Rowe Sr.||02:05.4|
|1914||Old Rosebud||John McCabe||Frank D. Weir||02:03.4|
|1913||Donerail||Roscoe Goose||Thomas P. Hayes||02:04.8|
|1912||Worth||Carroll H. Shilling||Frank M. Taylor||02:09.4|
|1911||Meridian||George Archibald||Albert Ewing||02:05.0|
|1910||Donau||Frederick Herbert||George Ham||02:06.4|
|1909||Wintergreen||Vincent Powers||Charles Mack||02:08.2|
|1908||Stone Street||Arthur Pickens||J. W. Hall||02:15.2|
|1907||Pink Star||Andy Minder||W. H. Fizer||02:12.6|
|1906||Sir Huon||Roscoe Troxler||Pete Coyne||02:08.8|
|1905||Agile||Jack Martin||Robert Tucker||02:10.8|
|1904||Elwood||Shorty Prior||Charles E. Durnell||02:08.5|
|1903||Judge Himes||Hal Booker||John P. Mayberry||02:09.0|
|1902||Alan-a-Dale||Jimmy Winkfield||Thomas C. McDowell||02:08.8|
|1901||His Eminence||Jimmy Winkfield||Frank B. Van Meter||02:07.8|
|1900||Lieut. Gibson||Jimmy Boland||Charles Hughes||02:06.2|
|1899||Manuel||Fred Taral||Robert J. Walden||02:12.0|
|1898||Plaudit||Willie Simms||John E. Madden||02:09.0|
|1897||Typhoon II||Buttons Garner||J. C. Cahn||02:12.5|
|1896||Ben Brush||Willie Simms||Hardy Campbell Jr.||02:07.8|
|1895||Halma||Soup Perkins||Byron McClelland||02:37.5|
|1894||Chant||Frank Goodale||H. Eugene Leigh||02:41.0|
|1893||Lookout||Eddie Kunze||William McDaniel||02:39.3|
|1892||Azra||Alonzo Clayton||John H. Morris||02:41.5|
|1891||Kingman||Isaac Murphy||Dud Allen||02:52.3|
|1890||Riley||Isaac Murphy||Edward Corrigan||02:45.0|
|1889||Spokane||Thomas Kiley||John Rodegap||02:34.5|
|1888||Macbeth II||George Covington||John Campbell||02:38.0|
|1887||Montrose||Isaac Lewis||John McGinty||02:39.3|
|1886||Ben Ali||Paul Duffy||Jim Murphy||02:36.5|
|1885||Joe Cotton||Erskine Henderson||Abe Perry||02:37.3|
|1884||Buchanan||Isaac Murphy||William Bird||02:40.3|
|1883||Leonatus||Billy Donohue||Raleigh Colston||02:43.0|
|1882||Apollo||Babe Hurd||Green B. Morris||02:40.0|
|1881||Hindoo||Jim McLaughlin||James G. Rowe Sr.||02:40.0|
|1880||Fonso||George Lewis||Tice Hutsell||02:37.5|
|1879||Lord Murphy||Charlie Shauer||George Rice||02:37.0|
|1878||Day Star||Jimmy Carter||Lee Paul||02:37.3|
|1877||Baden-Baden||Billy Walker||Edward D. Brown||02:38.0|
|1876||Vagrant||Bobby Swim||James Williams||02:38.3|
|1875||Aristides||Oliver Lewis||Ansel Williamson||02:37.7|
Venue: Churchill Downs
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
First run: 1875
Distance: 1 ¼ miles
Purse: $2 million
2012 winner: I'll Have Another
2012 winning jockey: Mario Gutierrez
139th Kentucky Derby Results
$2 Exacta (16-4) Paid $981.60 $1 Trifecta (16-4-3) Paid $3,462.80 $1 Super (16-4-3-5) Paid $28,542.00
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