How Much Do You Know About the Kentucky Derby?

By: Kale Havervold
Image: Somogyvari/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

There are a lot of great moments in sports. The final few minutes of an NFL playoff game, a sudden death overtime hockey game and many others. However, "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" doesn't take place on a field or a court, but on a racetrack. There are no cars on this track, but there sure is a lot of horsepower. That's right, we're talking about the Kentucky Derby. 

The Kentucky Derby has been around well over 100 years and is the most famous horse race on the planet. It's attended by thousands and thousands of people from all over the world. Each year, one horse becomes a superstar if they win this race and will earn their place in history. There are also millions of dollars in prize money to be won with every race. 

As you could expect with an event that has been around over a century, there's a lot of history surrounding the Kentucky Derby. There are stunning runs, shocking upsets, unbelievable performances and everything in between. In order to truly be an expert on all things Kentucky Derby, you need to know the horses, the event, the statistics and much more about the world of horse racing. 

So without any further ado, get ready to challenge yourself against our quiz about all things Kentucky Derby. 

What is the "Triple Crown"?

The Triple Crown refers to when a single horse wins three of the largest races in a given year. This includes winning the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes and the Preakness Stakes.

When was the very first Kentucky Derby?

The very first Kentucky Derby took place way back in 1875. The first race featured 15 different horses, and the winner took home just shy of $3000 for winning. The second-place finisher got only $200.

Of all the horses who have run the Derby, which had the fastest time?

While he ran in the Derby decades ago in 1973, Secretariat still holds the record for the fastest win at the Kentucky Derby. He finished the race in 1:59:40. He's one of only two winners to come in at under 2 minutes.

The purse for the race recently increased. How much is at stake?

In addition to the glory of victory, there's also a lot of money at stake in the Kentucky Derby. In total, there's a purse of $3,000,000, of which $1,860,000 goes to the winner.

How old are the horses that race in the Derby?

There are plenty of high-profile races for different aged horses, but the Kentucky Derby is just for 3-year-old horses. It has been like that for well over a century, since the first running of the Kentucky Derby.

What's the signature drink of the race?

The mint julep has long been the signature drink for the Kentucky Derby, since it began getting promoted in 1938. Thousands of attendees (and viewers at home) consume these drinks that are made up of bourbon, sugar, water, ice and mint.

Which year was the first that jockeys were allowed to wear corporate advertising logos?

That's right, jockeys weren't allowed to wear corporate advertising logos on their uniforms for the first 100+ years of the Kentucky Derby. It wasn't until 2004 that a court order allowed it.

How many people went to the very first Kentucky Derby nearly 150 years ago?

Despite the first running of the Kentucky Derby taking place in 1875, a respectable 10,000 people were believed to have been at the race. This is low by today's standards but impressive for the very first running.

What's the record for most wins by an owner?

There have been many great owners and trainers in the horse breeding and racing world, but none more so than Calumet Farm. Over their near-100 years in the space, they've had 8 horses win the Kentucky Derby.

Thousands attend the race, but what is the all-time highest record for attendance?

The all-time record for attendance at the Kentucky Derby was set in 2015. During that race, over 170,000 people attended to watch. Most of the highest attendance records were set in the last decade or so, so don't be shocked to see this record be broken soon.

A blanket of what type of flower is given to the race winner each year?

The Kentucky Derby is sometimes referred to as "The Run for the Roses," as a blanket of 554 roses is put around the winner of the race. This idea originated in 1883, but there's no evidence roses were presented to the winner any earlier than 1896.

What's the name of the racetrack where the Kentucky Derby is held?

The Kentucky Derby takes place at Churchill Downs. The track was founded in 1875 and has been the home of the Kentucky Derby since the beginning. It has also hosted several other large races.

Which item of clothing is the event famous for?

Since the beginning, it's been a tradition for women to wear large, over-the-top and fancy hats to the Kentucky Derby. This started back when dressing in extravagant clothing and large hats was common for large events, and the tradition has continued.

How many horses have won the Triple Crown over the years?

Since the Triple Crown has been introduced, a total of 13 different horses have won it. The most recent was in 2018, and from 1978 to the present day, there have only been two Triple Crown winners.

What crazy events took place at the end of the 1933 running of the Kentucky Derby?

The 1933 races had among the craziest finishes ever. Two horses were side by side nearing the end of the race, and the jockeys began to grab and whip one another down the stretch. They later fought in the jockey room and both were suspended for 30 days.

Since the use of the starting gate began in 1930, which gate position has the most wins in race history?

Starting at the 5 position at the Kentucky Derby has proven to be the best spot. 10 Kentucky Derby winners have started in the 5th position. Second place is the 10th gate with 9 winners.

How many female horses have won the race?

While it's usually male horses (colts) that race in the Derby, there's also the occasional female horse (filly) that races. Only three times in the history of the Kentucky Derby has a female horse won the race. The last time it happened was in 1988.

Which horse was the biggest underdog to win the Kentucky Derby?

While there have been many underdogs win at the Kentucky Derby, none was as big an underdog as Donerail. Back in 1913, Donerail won the Kentucky Derby despite being a 91-1 underdog.

What was the name of the horse that won the first running of the race?

The very first horse to ever win the Kentucky Derby was Aristides. He ran it in just over 2 minutes and 37 seconds. However, the race used to be longer, so lots of these earlier runs look slower than they actually were.

While 23 horses once raced in a Kentucky Derby, what's the maximum number allowed today?

While the number of horses racing in the Kentucky Derby used to fluctuate a lot, there's now a maximum of 20 horses that can race in the Derby. While it could be less in the case of injury or disqualification, it cannot be more.

What was the smallest field for a Kentucky Derby race?

While usually around 20 or so race in each Kentucky Derby, there have been two years (1905 and 1892) in which only three horses raced. These events were considered low points for the Derby, and we'll most likely never see it go this low ever again.

Only one Kentucky Derby winner has ever been disqualified. What was the reason for it?

After the 1968 Derby, there were traces of phenylbutazone (a banned anti-inflammatory) in the urine of Dancer's Image, who was fresh off winning the race. He was immediately disqualified, and the second-place horse was given the winner.

What year did Queen Elizabeth II make an appearance at the Kentucky Derby?

Back in 2007, the Queen of England Elizabeth II made an appearance at the Kentucky Derby. This was her first visit to the U.S. in many years and said one of her dreams was to attend the Kentucky Derby.

Which leg of the Triple Crown is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes and then the Belmont Stakes. The Derby is on the first Saturday of May, so the actual day of the race will vary.

How old was the youngest jockey to ever win at the Kentucky Derby?

Back in 1892, Alonzo Clayton became the youngest jockey to ever win a Kentucky Derby. The young African-American man was making a name for himself the year before, when he begun his professional career.

What's the "sister race" that takes place a day before the Derby?

The Kentucky Oaks is a race that takes place the day before the Kentucky Derby. It's for fillies only, and the purse is over a million dollars, with the winning horse taking home a cool $750,000.

Which city in Kentucky does the race take place in?

The Kentucky Derby has taken place in Louisville since its inception. It's the largest city in the state of Kentucky by a large margin, so it makes sense for an event of this magnitude to take place there.

How long is the race?

The Kentucky Derby in its current state is a race that spans 1 and a quarter miles. In its early days, it was 1 and a half, but it was shortened in 1896 to the current length. So when looking at speeds throughout history, it's important to remember this fact.

What made the horse "Native Dancer" famous?

Native Dancer raced 22 times in their illustrious career, losing only one race. Unfortunately, that one race happened to be the 1953 Kentucky Derby. He's regularly seen as one of the best race horses in history.

Which decade saw the first (and only) father-son duo to win the Triple Crown?

Only one father-son duo has ever won the Kentucky Derby, and this took place back in the 1930s. Gallant Fox won the Triple Crown in 1930, and his son Omaha won it in 1935. They were both trained by the same person, as well.

How much money was bet on the Kentucky Derby in 2017?

The record number for the amounts bet on the Kentucky Derby race were set in 2017 when bettors spent nearly $140 million. The numbers have been steadily on the rise in recent years, not dipping below $100 million since back in 2004.

What was Alydar best known for?

In 1978, Alydar became world famous for finishing second to Triple Crown winner Affirmed in all three legs of the Crown. They were all incredibly close races, and he's often seen as the best horse to never win a championship.

How old was the oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby?

Back in 1986, 54 year-old Bill Shoemaker became the oldest man to ever with the Kentucky Derby. He was a prolific jockey during his career, partly due to his size. He was only 4'10" and weighed only 91 lbs.

The Kentucky Derby is for thoroughbred horses, but what does that mean?

There are several different horse breeds, each with their own unique characteristics. Because of Thoroughbreds being tall, slim, athletic and fast, it makes them perfect for horse races.

Which jockey won 3 of the 4 Kentucky Derbys from 2007 to 2010?

Calvin Borel is without a doubt one of the best jockeys of our generation. He won the Kentucky Derby in 2007, 2009 and 2010. He holds thousands of wins as a jockey and is still adding to this total.

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