The Kentucky Derby is a horserace held annually in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May, and this Saturday will be the 143rd running with a $2 million guaranteed purse. The race is for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles at Churchill Downs.
Known variously as ‘the most exciting two minutes in sports,’ ‘the fastest two minutes in sports,’ it’s also called ‘the run for the roses’ for the lush blanket of 554 red roses draped over the winner. It is the first leg of the American Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes, then the Belmont Stakes. Unlike the Preakness and the Belmont stakes, which took two years and one year off respectively, the Derby has been run every year since 1875. A horse must win all three races to the win the Triple Crown.
The fastest time ever run in the Derby (at its present distance) was set in 1973 at 1.59.4 minutes when Secretariat broke the record set in 1964 by Northern Dancer. Not only has Secretariat’s record time yet to be topped in the race itself, he did something unique in Triple Crown races: each successive quarter, his times were faster. Only twelve horses have won the Triple Crown from 1919 through 2015.
In addition to the race itself, a number of traditions play a large role in the Derby atmosphere. The mint julep, an iced drink consisting of bourbon, mint and a sugar syrup, is the traditional beverage of the race, served in an ice-frosted silver julep cup or from souvenir glasses printed with all previous Derby winners. Women appear in fine outfits lavishly accessorized with large, elaborate hats. As the horses parade before the grandstands, the University of Louisville Marching Band plays Stephen Foster’s My Old Kentucky Home. (from Wikipedia)