the run for the roses

If you are looking for high-profile horse races in the USA, you can’t make a mistake with the Kentucky Derby. There probably isn’t a race as iconic as this one.

The Kentucky Derby 2021 will take place April 30-May 1 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s the fourteenth and final race of day two, and it’s the reason Louisville gets nationwide attention each second Saturday in May.

The Derby attracts lots of spectators and bettors alike. If you have the opportunity, we surely recommend visiting the Churchill Downs to watch the Kentucky Derby live from the stands. You will have the chance to place a bet or two right there where all the action happens.

However, all those who can’t do this can always watch the race from the comfort of their own homes and participate in Kentucky Derby online betting. You can find lots of info related to odds, betting guides, tips, and predictions right here on our website.

Make sure to keep on reading our Derby guide to learn more about race history, horses, fun facts, and lots more.

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Kentucky Derby History

The Kentucky Derby 2021 will be the 147th running of the race. Its origins date back to 1875, so this race has the longest-running history in the USA.

People usually associate the Derby with extravagant hats, mint juleps, and lots of betting happening. But there are lots of those who are unfamiliar with how this race came to be.

It all started in 1872 when Col. Merriweather Lewis Clark Jr. traveled to Europe and watched the Epsom Derby. After that, he met the founders of the French Jockey Club in Paris. This inspired him to create something similar in the States. His uncles, Henry and John Churchill, gave him the land to build the racetrack, and that’s how the Churchill Downs came into existence.

The first Derby took place in 1875 in front of a 10,000-strong audience. The race was originally 1 1/2 miles (12 furlongs) long, but it saw the length change in 1896 to today’s 1 1/4 miles (10 furlongs). The inaugural winner was Aristides, with Oliver Lewis as his jockey. His finish time was 2:37.75.

Since then, there have been a few changes when it comes to the Kentucky Derby. However, as opposed to the other two races constituting the Triple Crown (Preakness and Belmont), the Derby hasn’t ever taken a hiatus, not even for a single year.

Three-year-old Thoroughbreds traditionally compete in the Derby, which is run on the left-handed dirt track. The carrying weight limit for geldings and colts is 126 lbs, whereas it’s 121 lb for fillies.

The Derby is the first leg in the chase for the Triple Crown, so you can understand why it attracts so much attention. Whichever horse wins becomes the biggest candidate for taking the title – until Preakness, at least.

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Greatest Kentucky Derby Horses

Our article on the race (also known as the “fastest two minutes in sports”) can’t possibly be complete without mentioning the most famous Kentucky Derby runners. There have been quite a few of them that deserve a spot on our list, but we had to narrow it down to the top four. Make sure to keep on reading to learn more about these superior winners.

Sir Barton
Sir Barton and jockey Johnny Loftus, 1919 Preakness Stakes. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Sir Barton

Sir Barton was the first Kentucky runner to win the Triple Crown in 1919. Trained by H. Guy Bedwell and with Johnny Loftus as his jockey, he was the race leader from the very start.

After this victory, he continued his winning streak and took the trophy both in the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes shortly after that. Since he managed to win the Withers Stake in between, he was crowned the Horse of the Year in 1919.

Northern Dancer

One of the most successful 20th-century sires, Northern Dancer managed to win the Derby in 1964 though he was not a Triple Crown winner himself. He won Preakness but failed to win Belmont as he reached the finish in the third position. This Canadian-bred champion horse even made it to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1965 and was the first Canadian-bred to win a Triple Crown race.

After his racing career was over, he retired to stud and sired some of the greatest stakes winners, including Nijinsky, the winner of the 1960 Triple Crown in England. His progeny proved to be highly successful, with 147 stakes winners and 411 winners. Even many notable winners of today have Northern Dancer in their pedigree.


The most famous horse in the world had to make it to our list. When we are talking about the stuff of legends, we have to give Secretariat the credit this stellar horse deserves.

Not only did he manage to win the Triple Crown in 1973 but also to set the record in all three races. There hasn’t been a horse to date that has managed to break his records from the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, or the Belmont Stakes.

May 5th, 1973 saw the largest Derby Crowd that the Churchill Downs and the entire country had ever seen. Secretariat was assigned the odds of 3-2 together with Angle Light. He broke last from the gate 10 and won by 2 1/2 lengths.

What was particularly impressive about this race was that Secretariat was running faster as the race was progressing. His second 1/4 mile segment was faster than the first, and so on. He also became the first horse to run the race under the 2-minute mark– an accomplishment that would only be repeated by Monarchos in 2001.


The latest Triple Crown winner was Justify in 2018, so he also deserves a spot on our notable Derby winners list. Kentucky-born and bred, Justify was trained by Bob Baffert, a famed US racehorse trainer. Having won the Santa Anita Derby, he entered Kentucky as the prominent favorite.

However, the talks of the “Curse of Apollo” started circulating ahead of the race. Justify had not competed as a two-year-old, and his first race was the Santa Anita Derby when he was three.

What does this have to do with Kentucky, you might be wondering? Well, ever since Apollo in 1882, there hasn’t been a single horse that has won the Derby without racing as a two-year-old.

But Justify would break this 126-year-old so-called curse. Even though heavy rain had soaked the dirt track at Churchill Downs, he won untouched by mud going through the finish– being the expected pacemaker and prominent favorite from the start.


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Kentucky Derby Fun Facts

Finally, we’ll highlight some interesting facts about this race. Make sure to keep on reading to learn more about them.

You might have heard that the Derby is also called the “Race for the Roses”– here’s why. The owner of the winning horse receives the 18-karat gold trophy, with the trainer, jockey, and breeder receiving the silver replica, which is half the size. Also, the winner gets a significant portion of the $3,000,000 total purse.

What about the horse that actually wins the race? After the race, the winning horse receives a green satin backing with a crown of more than 400 red roses, fern, and ribbons in the winner’s circle.

Another staple associated with this race is the Kentucky Derby infield. The infield is an ideal place for all those who cannot afford tickets for the big race but can still watch it from nearby. There is no limit to the number of available tickets, so you can get your firsthand Derby experience in the infield.

On average, as many as 80,000 visitors come and enjoy the races. The extravagant fashion accessories that you can see on the Churchill Downs stands do not lack here either. Some of the most outrageous hats included nests with oversized birds, large feather crowns, kids’ dolls, Churchill Downs replicas, and lots of different representations of horses, of course.

And you haven’t truly been to Kentucky if you haven’t tried the mint julep. On average, as many as 120,000 of these cocktails are served each year.

We’ll make sure to bring you all the latest info in the days leading up to the race, so make sure to check back with us regularly.


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Kentucky Oaks – The Fillies Race

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Kentucky Derby FAQ

What is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is a Grade 1 horse race that comes with a $3 million purse, with first-place picking up a cool $1.86 million. The race is known as “The Run for Roses” as the winner is draped in a rose-covered blanket.

It’s a fast-action race and lasts around 2 minutes. As a result, many refer to the Kentucky Derby as “The Most Exciting 2 Minutes in Sport” given the speed of the race and the elite field that it attracts each year.

The race makes up part of the American Triple Crown, which is followed by the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, respectively. 

Where is the Kentucky Derby?

Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky is the location of the race. The course is one of the most iconic in the country and has been open since 1875.

Whilst the course is best known for the Kentucky Derby that it hosts annually, it’s also played host to the Breeders Cup on 9 occasions, more than any other track in the US.

Other notable races at Churchill Downs include the Kentucky Oaks, Woodford Reserve Classic, Stephen Foster Handicap, and the Clark Handicap.

When is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby takes place on the first Saturday in May and is one of the biggest races for online horse betting in the world.

In 2021, it will take place April 30-May 1.

What time does the Kentucky Derby Start?

The race is run at 3:30 pm local time (EDT).

How long is the Kentucky Derby?

The race is run over 1 ¼ mile. The surface of the track is dirt and given that it’s held at the start of May, the track is often fairly mixed, with all conditions from sloppy to fast being run over the last decade or so.

Horses will be required to navigate throughout the left-handed track, and it provides for some stunning picture with the iconic Churchill Downs grandstand in the background.

Interestingly, up until 1896, the race was run over 1 ½ mile but was reduced the following year to fit in with distances of other races around the world that were as equally iconic.

Who won the Kentucky Derby last year?

Country House was the winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby. The horse was trained by William I. Mott and ridden by Flavian Prat. Interestingly, the starting price of +6500 was one of the longest priced winners of the race for many years and up there as one of the longest of all time.

There was over $250.9 Million wagered via Kentucky Derby online betting on the day of the race for the Kentucky Oaks meeting, with the Derby pulling in a massive $165.5 million. The whole meeting is said to reach over $343 million in wagers in the US alone.

Country House qualified for the race via the Road to the Kentucky Derby. This is a point scoring system that allows horses to pick up points in ranking races throughout the year. Country House finished in 15th position of the 20 allotted places.

The win was one of the most controversial in Kentucky Derby history. The winner of the race was initially Maximum Security, who held off a late charge from Country House. However, after a 22-minute meeting, the stewards decided that Maximum Security had veered offline and blocked other horses, which was deemed an infraction.

As a result, Maximum Security was relegated to 17th place and Country House was then deemed the winner, much to the shock of the some 150,000 watching the race.

How many horses are in the Kentucky Derby this year?

The field size for the Kentucky Derby is up to 20 horses, which is usually full each year.

How old are Kentucky Derby horses?

The maximum age for the Kentucky Derby horses into the race is 3-year-old. Kentucky Derby info states it’s open to colt/geldings of 126lb and fillies of 121lb weight limits.

What network is the Kentucky Derby on?

NBC is the host network for the Kentucky Derby and their coverage starts from early on Saturday morning, covering all races of the meeting. They will broadcast the race to over 20 million viewers in the US alone, and it can be accessed via their app on iOS and Android.

How old is the Kentucky Derby?

The first running of the Kentucky Derby was in 1875. It was hosted by Col. Merriweather Lewis Clark Jr. who traveled to England and watched The Derby at Epsom Racecourse in 1872.

On his return, he was able to raise enough money to run his own version of The Derby and did so running at the same 1 ½ mile distance The Derby had. The purpose-built track for the race would then become Churchill Downs and it’s played host to the race ever since.

How much are Kentucky Derby tickets?

Price of a ticket to go and watch the race starts from just $65. But there are only 10,000 tickets at this price, and they can drastically rise depending on where you are located.

Seats can range between $400 to $3,000 for 2-day access across the full meeting. Premium boxes start from $3,800 but a private suit for 24 or more people starts at a whopping $120,000.

How many people attend the Kentucky Derby?

The record attendance for the Kentucky Derby was in 2015 when over 170,000 people turned up to watch American Pharaoh win the race. The record came about as many knew they were going to be witnessing a piece of horse racing history.

The horse went off at +300, one of the shortest prices ever in Kentucky Derby history. But it was the fact that the Kentucky Derby was the first part of the Triple Crown that American Pharaoh went on to win that year (Belmont Stakes and Preakness Stakes the other two), becoming the first horse to do so in almost 40 years.

That wraps up our Kentucky Derby FAQ. We will keep this page updated each year to make sure all information is present and correct.