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What You May Not Know About the Kentucky Derby

Added on: March 31, 2013

A lot of people know what the Kentucky Derby is, and it's a good bet that if the casual sports fan were to watch only one horse race per year, it would most likely be the Derby. Surely there is enough interest from the live crowd, which could number up to 150,000 on Derby Day. Many of those fans may be unaware of some very interesting things about the Derby. Here are some of those things:

* When the Derby was first run, in 1875, the course at Churchill Downs was a mile and a half, which is the distance for the Belmont Stakes, but in 1896 that was changed to a mile and a quarter, where it still stands today.

* While some major sporting events may have taken a while to integrate, such was not the case with the Kentucky Derby. In fact, thirteen of the 15 jockeys who competed in the very first race in 1875 were African-American. And through 1902, there had been fifteen black jockeys who had won the roses.

* Diane Crump was the first female to ride in a pari-mutuel event in the United States, having done so in 1969, though the resistance was such that she required a full police escort to get her into the paddock area at Hialeah Park. It was only a year later, in 1970, that she became the first woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 15th with a horse called Fathom.

* The biggest longshot to ever win the Derby was Donerail, who went off at a little more than 91-to-1 in the 1913 Derby, paying $184.90 to win.

* The Derby is often referred to as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports," but on two occasions the winner has been able to take care of business in less time than that. Secretariat was the first competitor to break the two-minute mark, setting the all-time Kentucky Derby record at one minute, 59 and two-fifths seconds in 1973. And in 2001, Monarchos, ridden by Jorge Chavez, came home in 1:59:97. Whirlaway (1941) and Assault (1946) were the horse who drew off to win by the greatest margin, each beating the rest of the field by eight lengths.