One of the reasons why the Kentucky Derby is one of the most popular sports betting events of the year is its rich history. Before you begin making your picks for the 143rd running on Saturday, May 6, let’s look back at the traditions that make the Kentucky Derby such a highly anticipated event.

 

About the Kentucky Derby

The first Kentucky Derby was run back in 1875, making it the longest continuous sporting event in the United States. It was even run during wartime. The race is run by thoroughbreds aged three years, so no horse has won the race more than once. Some nicknames for the Kentucky Derby are “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports” and the “Run For The Roses.” Being part of the Triple Crown, it’s also known as the first jewel of the Triple Crown, which consists of the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont States. The Kentucky Derby is the biggest horse race in North America – even bigger than the Breeders’ Cup. There’s usually a field of 20 horses lining up at the gates.

You can’t win the Triple Crown without winning the Kentucky Derby, and only 12 horses have pulled off the feat. The most recent winner was American Pharoah in 2015 and prior to that, it was Affirmed in 1978. A total of 23 horses managed to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown only to falter at the Belmont Stakes, which is the longest of the three Triple Crown races.

The Kentucky Derby is always run on the first Saturday in May. It’s followed by the Preakness two weeks later, and then the Belmont Stakes, which is run three weeks after the Preakness.

 

Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs opened in 1875 and has always hosted the Kentucky Derby. Located in south Louisville, it has a capacity of 170,000.

 

Kentucky Derby Traditions

We can’t talk about the Kentucky Derby without acknowledging its rich traditions. The race is called the “Run For The Roses” because the winning horse gets draped with a blanket of roses, a tradition that started in 1883. The event’s signature drink is the mint julep, which consists of bourbon, mint and sugar syrup served on ice. The signature food is burgoo, which is a stew made of chicken, beef, pork and vegetables.

The University of Louisville marching band usually starts the event with their rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home.” Stephen Foster created the song in 1852 and it’s now the official state song of Kentucky. Finally, some people tune into the Kentucky Derby for the big, lavish hats that are worn by the women in “Millionaire’s Row.” Nowadays, women of all classes and backgrounds wear the ostentatious hats.