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17 Fun Facts About The Kentucky Derby

By CM Chaney · May 4, 2024

The Kentucky Derby, often referred to as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports," has a rich history filled with fascinating trivia and remarkable records.

From the impressive food consumption by spectators to the legendary horses and jockeys who have left their mark on the race, the Derby never fails to captivate fans.

Let's explore 17 intriguing facts that showcase the unique charm and enduring legacy of the Kentucky Derby.  Wikimedia

1. The Kentucky Derby's Unusual Start Date History

The Kentucky Derby has only been held on a day other than the first Saturday in May twice—once in 1945 due to a wartime ban on horse racing, and a second time in 2020 when the race was delayed until September by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Wikimeida/

2. Temperature Extremes at the Kentucky Derby

The record low temperature at the Kentucky Derby (traditionally held on the first weekend of May) was 47 degrees in 1935 and 1957, while the record high was 94 degrees in 1959.  Wikimeida/Velo Steve

3. The Dreaded Rail: Post No. 1's Reputation

Post No. 1 has become known as "the dreaded rail" due to its tendency to leave horses boxed in behind other racers, making it difficult to pull away from the pack.  Wikimeida/squirrel83

4. Impressive Food Consumption at the Derby

On average, Kentucky Derby spectators will consume an astounding amount of food, including 142,000 hot dogs, 18,000 barbecue sandwiches, 13,800 pounds of beef, 32,400 jumbo shrimp, 9,000 scallops, 8,000 pounds of potatoes, 30,000 cookies, and 300,000 strawberries.  Wikimeida/Bill Brine

5. The Kentucky Derby's Impressive Purse

For the 150th anniversary of the race, the Kentucky Derby purse was raised to $5 million (up from $3 million in 2023), with the winner taking home $3.1 million, $1 million for the runner-up, $500,000 for third place, $250,000 for fourth place, and $150,000 for fifth.  Wikimeida/Bill Brine

6. Age Records: Youngest and Oldest Kentucky Derby-Winning Jockeys

Alonzo "Lonnie" Clayton and James "Soup" Perkins share the title of youngest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby at age 15 in 1892 and 1895, respectively, while Bill Shoemaker holds the title of oldest winner at age 54 in 1986.  Wikimeida/

7. The Coveted Blanket of Roses

The Kentucky Derby winner is awarded a blanket sewn with over 400 roses post-race, weighing about 40 lbs, earning the event the nickname "The Run for the Roses."  Wikimeida/Craiglduncan

8. The Shared Birthday of All Thoroughbred Racehorses

All thoroughbred racehorses have the same birthday—January 1—regardless of their actual date of birth, to simplify bloodline tracking.  Wikimeida/Bill Brine

9. Fillies' Rare Success at the Kentucky Derby

Only three fillies (female horses) have won the Kentucky Derby: Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980, and Winning Colors in 1988.  Wikimeida/Bill Brine

10. The Popularity of "S" Names Among Kentucky Derby Winners

Nineteen past Kentucky Derby winners have had names beginning with the letter "S," including the legendary Secretariat.  Wikimeida/Jlvsclrk

11. The Mint Julep: The Traditional Drink of the Derby

Over 120,000 mint juleps, the traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby, are said to be consumed at the race each year.  Wikimeida/Will Shenton

12. The Kentucky Derby's Perfect Weather Record

The Kentucky Derby has never been cancelled or postponed due to inclement weather.  Wikimeida/Velo Steve

13. Record Holders: Calumet Farm and "Plain Ben" Jones

Calumet Farm holds the record for most Kentucky Derby wins by an owner with 8, while "Plain Ben" Jones holds the record for most wins by a trainer with 6.  Wikimeida/rreihm

14. The Kentucky Derby's English Inspiration

Lewis Clark Jr.—grandson of William Clark, half of the famous explorer duo Lewis and Clark—started the Kentucky Derby after seeing England's Epsom Derby.  Wikimeida/Ken Lund

15. Mike Smith: The Jockey with the Most Kentucky Derby Rides

Mike Smith has ridden the most Kentucky Derby horses (27) in history, surpassing Bill Shoemaker's record of 26 in 2021.  Wikimeida/John Athayde

16. Secretariat's Unbeaten Kentucky Derby Speed Record

Secretariat remains the fastest horse in Kentucky Derby history, with his 1973 record time of 1:59.40 never being broken, while Kingman holds the slowest winning time of 2:52.25 in 1891 when the race was 1.5 miles long.  Wikimeida/Calstanhope

17. Diane Crump: The First Woman Jockey in the Kentucky Derby

Diane Crump was the first woman jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby; although no female jockey has won yet, Shelley Riley came the closest with a second-place finish in 1992.  Wikimeida/Bill Brine