7 Facts about the Kentucky Derby

April 22, 2016

With the most exciting two minutes in sports fast approaching, I thought we’d take a look at some interesting, little known, or totally ignored facts about this great race and its history. The Kentucky Derby will be run for the 142nd time on May 7th, 2016. That’s an awful lot of Derbys over many years.

Below are 7 Kentucky Derby facts you may not have known about – facts involving foul claims, disqualifications, the Triple Crown and Apollo’s Curse.

  1. Considering it is one of the toughest run horse races in the world, right up there with The Melbourne Cup and Grand National, you may think there have been many foul claims, inquiries, and disqualifications. Don’t jump to conclusions. To the contrary, despite the rough nature of the race and riding, and the extreme competitiveness of both the human and equine athletes, there have been only six (6) times the stewards have gotten involved in The Run for the Roses. A statement towards the talent and professionalism of most jockeys in my book.

    Jockey’s Foul Claim –The first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875. The first time the stewards got involved was five years into the race’s history in 1880. It was a jockey’s claim of foul that was disallowed. Jimmy Lakeland who rode second place finisher Kimball, claimed against George Lewis who rode Fonso, who won by a length.

    The Fighting Finish
    Jockey’s Foul Claim – The stewards didn’t get involved again until 1933 but it was a doozy which became known as “The Fighting Finish” Derby. Brokers Tip, a maiden ridden by Don Meade, came up the rail and beat Head Play by a nose. Herb Fisher rode Head Play and claimed foul. Although there was obvious rough race riding that went on, there was much talk at the time that the claim of foul was quickly disallowed. The fierce stretch battle was captured in a masterful picture taken by Wallace Lowry of the Courier-Journal which clearly showed Meade and Fisher going at it and actually holding onto each other approaching the finish line. It had to be one of the most dramatic Derbys to see live and we are all fortunate it did not result in an injury of any kind. Kentucky Derby drama at its height. The stewards ruling was fascinating, and shows how things were looked at back then and the competitiveness of the greatest two minutes in sports.

    The Daily Racing Form recapped, “While the rough tactics of both Meade and Fisher somewhat marred the breathtaking finish” “their eagerness to win rather than to deliberately foul or impede their rival induced the mild breach of rules.” This was as furious and rough of a stretch duel in the history of not only the Kentucky Derby but in all of The Sport of Kings. The Kentucky Derby was the only race ever won by Brokers Tip, the only horse with that distinction. The finish was decided by four judges who watched through binoculars. Some say not only did Brokers Tip not get the head bob, but the judges were cautious about ruling against his owner, the iconic racing legend, Colonel E. R. Bradley, one-time owner of The Fair Grounds and a great breeder, owner, and gambler.I can only imagine the social media reactions to that one. Watch “The Fighting Finish” here and you be the judge:

    Jockey’s Foul Claim – The next steward involvement came in 1959 when Bill Boland who rode Sword Dancer to a second place finish, claimed against Bill Shoemaker, who won by a nose aboard Tomy Lee. The ruling was Sword Dancer was the aggressor and the claim was not allowed.

    The first and only disqualification of a Kentucky Derby winner came in 1968 but was not the result of an inquiry or foul claim. Dancers Image finished first, Forward Pass was second, Francie’s Hat third, T.V. Commercial fourth, and Kentucky Sherry fifth. In the mandatory post- race urine testing, Dancers Image came up positive for the banned medication phenylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication legal at many US racetracks at the time, but not Churchill Downs. Purse distribution was ordered taking Dancers Image out of the earnings with first, second, third, and fourth place money going to the second, third, fourth and fifth place finishers listed above. Of course pari-mutual payoffs were not affected. Peter Fuller owner and breeder of Dancers Image litigated the case four years into April 1972 when Kentucky’s highest court upheld the ruling, and declared Calumet Farms Forward Pass the official winner and awarded the farm the winning trophy. Of course the bettors who backed Forward Pass got nothing.

    Steward’s Inquiry and Jockey’s Foul Claim – The second disqualification in Kentucky Derby history took place in 1984 and was the result of both an inquiry and claim of foul. Gate Dancer and Eddie Delahoussaye finished fourth and Fali Time under Sandy Hawley finished fifth. Sandy claimed foul in the stretch, and the inquiry sign also lit up. The stewards agreed with Sandy and the order of the fourth and fifth place finishers were reversed. There was no superfecta wagering then so bettors were not affected.

    Jockey’s Foul Claim – In 2001 John Velasquez got the stewards involved when he finished second, beaten by almost five lengths by Monarchos and Jorge Chavez. The interference was alleged to have occurred at the quarter pole but the claim was not allowed.

    There you have it. Six times in the long history and only two disqualifications, with only one involving a winner and it was the result of a positive test.

  2. Sir Barton was the first Triple Crown winner in 1919, but it wasn’t called The Triple Crown when he did it. It was just three really hard races to win consecutively, but it takes nothing away from his accomplishment and place in history.

    The next winner of the three races was 11 years later when Gallant Fox did it. It was after that Charles Hatton dubbed the feat The Triple Crown.
  3. The first live radio broadcast of The Kentucky Derby was on May 16th, 1925. Why May 16th you ask? That’s because the Kentucky Derby used to be run in the middle of May and not the first Saturday. The first live TV coverage of the race was May 7th, 1949 by WAVE TV, the Louisville NBC affiliate at the time.
  4. On May 12th,1917 and May 13th, 1922 The Kentucky Derby and Preakness were run on the same day.
  5. In 1882 Apollo became the only horse to win The Run for the Roses without starting as a two-year old.
  6. The fastest Kentucky Derby ever was Secretariat’s in 1:59.2, with consecutively faster quarters throughout the race. Second place finisher Sham ran the second fastest, finishing second.
  7. Prior to 1931, The Preakness was run 11 times before The Kentucky Derby. The Belmont Stakes was also run 11 times before The Preakness in the history of the series.

Now will any of this give you this year’s winner? No, but we can offer some guidance there as well. Read Past the Wire’s Kentucky Derby radar running down the entire field, providing analysis and insight on developments right up until race day. You can use this link:


 it will take you to the most updated version so check back every few days.

High Five

Ashley Castrenze, apprentice rider for Craig Bernick’s Glen Hill Farm and trainer Tom Proctor, for starting her career two for two and guiding home Oldstone Farmhouse. Past the Wire are big fans of Glen Hill and Tom Proctor, they do things right and the horses come first. Kelly Smith also gets a big HIGH FIVE for her efforts to save and do what could be done for Financial Mogul who deserved better.

Low Five

To all who abandoned and didn’t help Financial Mogul.

Another one from the "black and white marble like notebook." Fish Trappe Road $8.70. UFC pay per view $. Thanks Jon!

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