The History Of The Kentucky Derby

This year’s running of the 148th Kentucky Derby will happen on Saturday, May 7th, at approximately 6:57 eastern.  Be sure to tune in 30 minutes early to catch the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” with Derby fans worldwide!

The Kentucky Derby dates back to the inaugural run in 1875 and has since become an integral part of Americana.

From spectators wearing wide-brimmed hats while sipping mint juleps – the legendary herb and whiskey concoction – to people draping the winning horse in a garland of roses: The Derby is steeped in tradition. In fact, the Kentucky Derby has transcended from an average sporting event into a celebration of American culture, especially in the South.

Today in 2013, Nyquist was born! #FlashbackFriday to his 2016 #KyDerby victory.

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As time goes on, so does the Derby. The event has continuously produced an exciting atmosphere for Southern fans, even through times of despair – including tragic historical periods like World Wars l and ll and the Great Depression.

Back in the old days, society perceived the race as an event for the upper crust, which isn’t too surprising considering guests would attend the race wearing the latest designer clothes from Paris and Italy. Nowadays, thousands of die-hard horse-racing fanatics assemble at Churchill Downs in pastel-colored outfits and bizarre hats to keep the tradition alive and strong.

Read on to see which horses and jockeys have forged their legacy within America’s premier sporting event.

The Run of the Roses

The Kentucky Derby acquired its moniker “the most exciting two minutes in sports” due to the best thoroughbreds covering the 1.25 miles in two minutes or fewer.

Currently, Secretariat holds the fastest Kentucky Derby win ever, finishing the course at about 1 minute and 59 seconds. The Big Red Horse would continue to crush his competition as he won the Triple Crown later that year, earning him the title “Horse of the Year.” The 3-year-old thoroughbred is widely considered to be the greatest racehorse in history. The media took his story for a wild ride, placing him on the covers of Time, Sports Illustrated, and Newsweek. This brand of attention was a first in the horse-racing world.

Following closely, and we mean closely, behind the legendary Secretariat is the magnificent Monarchos. He finished the course just two-fifths of a second behind the all-time record. Northern Dancer rounds out the top three and is the Canadian-bred iron horse who crossed the finish line at the two-minute mark exactly.

The Most Thrilling Event in Horse Racing

For those unacquainted with the world of horse racing, the Triple Crown is awarded to the 3-year-old thoroughbred horse who wins not only the Kentucky Derby but the Belmont Stakes and Preakness Stakes as well.

The Triple Crown is valued as a rare sporting title to achieve in American horse racing with only 12 thoroughbreds winning the crown since Sir Barton claimed the first victory in 1919. Over the course of time, Triple Crown winners have endured a number of defining moments in race history such as Secretariat’s record-setting time at the Kentucky Derby and the undefeated Seattle Slew’s series sweep.

American Pharoah is the most recent race horse to cement his name in race history after breaking the 37-year-long gap since racehorse Affirmed last survived his rival’s onslaught in 1978. Instead of entering him into retirement, Zayat Stables, LLC – American Pharoah’s owner – enrolled the horse in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This earned the equine the first-ever “Grand Slam” in the sport.

Silver Cups in Hand

It’s impossible to talk Derby without mentioning one of its most iconic symbols – Mint Juleps. Each year, thousands of fanatics congregate at Churchill Downs, sterling silver cup in hand, to sip on the classic Bourbon-mint concoction and watch the race, of course.

The story behind the legendary cocktail is quite “muddled,” depending on who you ask. While the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac) is convinced that the original Mint Juleps were crafted with Cognac as the primary spirit during the Civil War era, recorded history specifies that Bourbon whiskey was the native ingredient.

Once a souvenir collected by the rich and powerful in the 1800’s, the Mint Julep cup has transformed into an integral part of the annual Kentucky Derby. Each year, attendees knock back around 120,000 Mint Juleps over a two-day racing span, burning through 10,000 bottles of Bourbon (Old Forester is the official supplier nowadays) and 1,000 pounds of fresh mint leaves. That’s not to mention the 60,000 pounds of crushed ice used to keep the Spring cocktail chilled.

kentucky derby 148 mint julep glassmint julep glass


There’s no better way to enjoy the classic whiskey drink than with the official Kentucky Derby Mint Julep glass. If you’re brewing on your own, be sure to mix in a high-proof Bourbon and don’t forget to garnish with a sprig of fresh Kentucky mint!

Old Kentucky Home

Going down to the iconic Twin Spires? Be sure to come prepared for your souvenir photograph. Visit Fanatics and saddle up with the latest fan gear and collectibles the Kentucky Derby has to offer.




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