Thoroughbred Horse Racing - A Glimpse at Kentucky Derby History
The horserace covers a distance of two kilometers, and it's the second oldest sporting event in the nation.
The course record, set by Secretariat in 1973, is just under two minutes (1:59 and 2/5ths of a second).
No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the race without racing at age 2.
But the many fans who've nicknamed it "the most exciting two minutes in sports" will agree that there's nothing second-rate about the Derby.
Due to the rich fields of its Bluegrass region (the same area for which the music is named), Kentucky was known throughout the nineteenth century for producing fine racehorses.
The idea for a race was hatched in 1872, when Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr.
- the grandson of the William Clark who, with Meriwether Lewis, mapped the Louisiana Purchase - visited races in England and France.
Inspired by his travels, he formed the Louisville Jockey Club when he returned home to Kentucky, and began raising money for a racetrack - soon known as the Churchill Downs - outside the city.
The first race was run in 1875, making it the oldest continually-held sporting event in the US.
After a shaky start, the race was taken over by a syndicate of businessmen under the direction of Colonel Matt Winn of Louisville in 1902, and quickly became the most successful thoroughbred horse race in America.
The race became part of the fabric of American culture.
With the Preakness Stakes race in Pimlico, Maryland, and the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York, it forms the Triple Crown of US Thoroughbred racing.
Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown, and none since 1978.
Over the years the Derby has given rise to various traditions, such as the consumption of mint juleps (a drink consisting of bourbon, mint, and sugar syrup), pari-mutuel betting, parties on the infield (where it's so hard to see the race that there's not much else to do), throwing day-of derby parties (if you can't get into the actual race), the chocolate-and-walnut Derby Pie (sold by the nearby Melrose Inn), and the wearing of elaborate hats.
The Derby was the site of the invention of "Gonzo journalism," the influential, expressive, confrontational, and proudly counterfactual style of journalism pioneered by writer Hunter S.
Thompson in a 1970 magazine piece with the tongue-in-cheek title "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.
" Most of all, there's "My Old Kentucky Home," the Stephen Foster tune played every year by the University of Louisville marching band as the horses parade through the grandstands and the proud hometown crowd falls to weeping and loud singing.
The Derby is so important that it even spun off the state's largest festival, the Kentucky Derby Festival, which began in 1956 and fills up the entire two weeks prior to the Derby race with the Pegasus Parade, balloon and steamboat races and a marathon, as well as the largest fireworks display in the US.
Visiting the Kentucky Derby takes advance planning.
Grandstand seats require a written request submitted several months in advance (see http://www.
com for more details).
Infield access is available for $40, as is SRO admission to "the bricks" (paddock gardens near the track).
Show up early (by 7:30AM) and bring a blanket.
Wear a strange hat.
Onsite parking is near-nonexistent, and hotels must also be booked several months in advance.
The best bet is to try to land a room at a hotel that also offers shuttle service to the Downs on Derby Day.
Most of all, make a point of reading up on the proceedings.
Watching thoroughbred horse racing offers a timeless thrill.
Whether you're a fan of horse racing gambling or just like the thrill of live horse racing, the sport is full of drama and passion, and sports news sources, as well as tip services, can help you maximize your enjoyment of thoroughbred horse racing by clarifying the details and letting you know who the favorites are.