Kentucky Derby Betting

Run every year since 1875, the Kentucky Derby is America’s oldest, continuous sporting event. It is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds held on the first Saturday in May at the Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. The Derby has the distinction of being the first of the three legs of the U.S. Triple crown, followed by the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

A number of nicknames have been given to this one-and-a-quarter-mile flat race over the years, including “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” and “The Run for the Roses.” The latter refers to a blanket of flowers that is draped over the winner at the conclusion of the race. Annual attendance at the Kentucky Derby is the highest among all fixtures in North America, surpassing even the Breeders’ Cup.

A Vaunted History

The Kentucky Derby was originally modeled after two great 1½-mile European races, Britain’s Epsom Derby and France’s Grand Prix de Paris, now known as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. It was founded by Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., the grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The first running took place on a track created by the Louisville Jockey Club and was won by a colt named Aristides in a time of 2:37.75 with African-American jockey Oliver Lewis on board.

Over the next century, many milestones were achieved. In 1896, the distance was shortened to the current 1¼ miles; in 1904, Elwood became the race’s first starter and winner owned by a woman, Laska Durnell; and in 1936, the racecourse was official incorporated as Churchill Downs, named in honour of John and Henry Churchill, who had provided the land for the track and its facilities.

In 1964, Northern Dancer became the first horse to cover the course in two minutes flat. That record stood until 1973, when Secretariat ran a 1:59.40 en route to a Triple crown victory. Among other champions to run here as three-year-olds were 1977 winner Seattle Slew and 1978’s famed stallion Affirmed.

Isaac Murphy was the Kentucky Derby’s first dominant jockey, winning in 1884, 1890, and 1891. Eddie Arcaro was the force to be reckoned with five wins between 1938 and 1952. Then came Bill Shoemaker with four victories and Bill Hartack with five in 1955~1969. Most recently, rider Calvin Borel has owned the track, bringing home three winners in four years—Street Sense (2007), Mine That Bird (2009), and Super Saver (2010).

Race Days at Churchill Downs

Muck more than just an afternoon flat race with a long history, the Kentucky Derby has become the centerpiece of a two-week period of activities known as the Kentucky Derby Festival. Since 1956, the event has grown to include a Wine Fest, a Spring Fashion Show, special luncheons and dinners, the annual Pegasus Parade, balloon and bed races, and much more. Traditions include a special drink called the Mint Julep, the wearing of fancy hats by women, and the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home” by a local university marching band.

The race itself features up to 20 runners. Geldings and colts carry 126 pounds (57.2 kg), while fillies run with 121 pounds (54.9 kg). Since 2005, the top five finishers have been allowed to share in the $2 million purse, previously limited to four, and the winner’s share is $1,425,000.

Betting trackside at Churchill Downs is heaviest on the Derby, of course, but the Festival offers a full card of racing action, including the 1⅛-mile Kentucky Oaks, which is run on the Friday before. The racecourse also has its own affiliated online sportsbook for ante-post wagering as well as betting on race days—, so named after the two spires that tower above the track’s Grandstands. A $0 sign-up bonus is offered on the web site as an incentive to new bettors.

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