While it might not share the immense popularity of traditional sports like soccer, baseball, and basketball, horse racing is one of the most ancient sports known to man. The earliest men used horse racing as entertainment and a show of power.
The iconic Théodore Géricault masterpiece called the Riderless Racers at Rome was an 1817 painting of horse racers and fans cheering them on. Over the years, these traditions have remained the same. Thousands of thoroughbreds partake in horse racing competitions across the world, but none of these competitions is as prestigious as the Kentucky Derby.
Held on the first Saturday of May, the Kentucky Derby has been dubbed the “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” by many. The race marks an end to the insane Kentucky Derby Festival and features the best horses and jockeys in the US. This year’s event is almost here, and this article will cover all you need to know going into the event – from schedules, venues, and the ultimate list of top contenders for Kentucky Derby.
After a visit to England and Paris, where Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. witnessed some of the best horse racing competitions at the time, he decided to return home and start something similar.
He began by creating the Louisville Jockey Club in a bid to raise funds for the building of top-quality facilities for racing in the city of Kentucky. The story started with the construction of the Churchill Downs race track, which was named after the two brothers who provided land for it, Henry and John Churchill.
An estimated 10,000 people came to watch the first edition of the Kentucky Derby. The event was held on 17th May 1975, with 15 three-year-old thoroughbreds competing. Aristides, guided by legendary jockey American Oliver Lewis became the first colt to win the Kentucky Derby. Since then, the tournament has become the oldest continuously held sports event in the US.
Despite its immense popularity in North America, the Kentucky Derby did not receive TV coverage until its 77th edition in 1952. WHAS TV offered the tournament’s first live coverage, with Hill Gail of Calumet farm winning the edition. Since then, the competition has become more popular and attracted interest from far and wide.
The Kentucky Derby is not just loved for the festival or the ultimate two minutes of sports pleasure; it’s cherished for its heavy presence in the gambling community. A 2008 research showed that gambling on horse racing generated a world market total of over $115 billion, topping most of the gambling revenues list.
Last year’s edition was held on 1st May and ended with many controversies surrounding it. Medina Spirit was the first to cross the finish line, earning John Velazquez his fourth Kentucky Derby win. However, drug tests after the race confirmed the presence of betamethasone in Medina’s system. The decision to disqualify Medina Spirit took over nine months, but it was confirmed on 21st February 2022, and the title was awarded to Mandaloun.
Venue and Dates
Like the 147 editions preceding it, the 2022 Kentucky Derby will be held at the 2km Churchill Downs race track in Louisville, Kentucky, US. The competition will be held on 7th May 2022, the first Saturday of the month, and will see 20 racers compete for a purse worth $3 million.
The race winner will go home with $1,860,000 leaving the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th runners-up to share the remaining prize money.
Secretariat holds the record for the fastest ever finish with a record time of 1:59.40. This record has been standing for over 30 years, and the 2022 racers will be looking to break it.
Although the race is only two minutes long, a whole month of festivities precedes it. The Kentucky Derby Festival is one of the reasons the Derby is admired so much. Lots of fun activities and competitions are spread over different dates.
This year, the 7-week long festival will see some significant changes, with the prestigious Pegasus Parade moved from its original Thursday step-off day to Sunday. According to the festival’s organizers, this will allow more attendees, as it will hold on a weekend instead of the traditional workday. Here are some of the major dates to keep notes on:
14th April: Republic Bank BourbonVille
14th April – 24th April: Stock Yards Bank $1 Million Hole-in-One Golf Contest.
16th April: PNC Tour de Lou
22nd April: They’re Off! Luncheon
23rd April: Thunder Over Louisville
28th April – 6th May: Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville and the Chow Wagon
29th April – 30th April: Great BalloonFest
30th April: GE Appliances Minimarathon & Marathon
1st May: Zoeller Pump Company Pegasus Parade
2nd May: Great Bed Races
3rd May: Kentucky Proud WineFest
4th May: Liberty Financial Great Steamboat Race
5th May: Festivals Day at the Downs
6th May: Derby Eve Jam.
Being the most prestigious horse racing event in the United States, you have the most prestigious horses in the country – the best of the best.
The Kentucky Derby organizers ensure that only the best horses participate on that last day. For a horse to qualify for the Derby, it must go through a series of races dubbed the “Road to the Kentucky Derby.” These races are held in different locations across the country, and points are awarded to the first four.
A minimum of forty points is required to confirm qualification. The competition is not limited to the US alone, as races are held on different continents allowing for a worldwide audience. This also allows horses from outside the US to participate. The 20 racers who qualify are given a three-week rest before the Kentucky Derby day.
So far, here are some of the horses that have qualified.
- Classic Causeway
- Un Ojo
- Forbidden Kingdom
Note: The list is updated after every race. You can follow it live here.
The Kentucky Derby is the biggest horse racing event in the US, and as though the tickets are always in high demand. Luckily, they can be accessed on the official Kentucky Derby site.
It’s also advisable to buy the tickets online and in earnest. Past experiences have shown that ticket prices would become more expensive as we get closer to the race day. You can see more details on how to purchase tickets here.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re looking to go on a vacation in Kentucky or plan to watch the event with your family and friends at home, this year’s Derby promises to be fun.
In addition to the immense entertainment that comes from watching horses struggle to show superiority, there’s also a good chance that you can make money betting on your favorite horse. All these thrills and excitement packed into an incredible 120 seconds. The Kentucky Derby is truly the “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.”
The 2022 Kentucky Derby is here. Get yourself acquainted with the history, schedule, and contenders of one of America’s oldest sporting events.
Photo: Medina Spirit finishes first in the Kentucky Derby, Coady Photography