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Kentucky Derby Details
The Kentucky Derby is arguably the most important race of the year in horse racing. As the first leg of the Triple Crown, horses who run the Kentucky Derby have an opportunity to earn a place in racing history if they can win the Derby followed by the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. But failure to win the Kentucky Derby ends a horse's chance at the Triple Crown, making the stakes of this race as high as can be to start the Triple Crown season.
Kentucky Derby History
An institution in horse racing, the Kentucky Derby has been around since the late-1800s, with the race being run for the first time in 1875. The inspiration for the race was the Epsom Derby in England, as well as the Grand Prix de France, two of the biggest races in the world at that time. Decades later, horses began competing in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in addition to the Kentucky Derby, with the Triple Crown name coming into popularity in 1930.
In the 1900s, the Kentucky Derby skyrocketed in popularity, with racing fans around the world growing to love the run for the roses. As a result of that popularity, the prize money for winning the Kentucky Derby has continued to grow. In 1954, the winner's prize topped $100,000, a number that has climbed consistently in the years that have followed.
Kentucky Derby Location
The Kentucky Derby takes place every year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The venue is named for John and Henry Churchill, who leased out the land needed to open the facility. Opened in 1875, Churchill Downs has grown with the Kentucky Derby, and has a capacity of 170,000 when the infield is made available for seating during the Derby.
Known for horse racing and good bourbon, Louisville is a natural home for an event of the magnitude of the Kentucky Derby. Due to its generally moderate weather and the fact that the city hosts one of the Triple Crown races, Louisville and the surrounding area sees plenty of horse trainers put down roots there, with trainers in that region frequently producing horses that go on to contend in the Derby and other Triple Crown events.
Originally, the Kentucky Derby was a 1.5 mile race, similar in length to the Epsom Derby that inspired its existence all of those years ago. Since then, though, the length of the race has been shortened to 1.25 miles, requiring a better balance of speed and endurance to win than the longer format.
Memorable Kentucky Derby Moments
Great Kentucky Derby memories start and end with the legendary run of Secretariat in 1973. He set the Churchill Downs course record at the 1.25 mile distance along with the record for the Kentucky Derby when he ran the course in 1:59 2/5, en route to a Triple Crown. Secretariat's run was so good that the second place finisher in the race, Sham, would have won many Kentucky Derbies in history with his 1:59.90 finishing time.