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The Kentucky Derby

Tom Law 03:10 Jul 18th, 2018 Horse Racing

The Kentucky Derby is America’s most celebrated horserace. The first leg of the annual American Triple Crown is the only one of the American ‘Classics’ explicitly modeled on an English Classic. Like the Epsom Classic, the Kentucky Derby is contested by only the finest 3-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies.

Similarities between the Kentucky Derby and Epsom Derby end at age restrictions. The American Classic is run over dirt rather than turf, and over 1 mile 2 furlongs on the left-handed racetrack at Churchill Downs Racecourse. The race occupies a special place in the hearts of American racing enthusiasts and is variously described as the “Fastest Two Minutes in Sports" and "The Run for the Roses".

The Kentucky Derby caps off the two week long Kentucky Derby Festival. The race is known to attract the largest attendance figures in American thoroughbred racing, and has attracted crowds in excess of 100,000 spectators during its distinguished history. The winner of this race earns instant recognition as a world class thoroughbred, and is draped with a blanket of roses after the race.

The American Classic

Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. is credited with the creation of the Kentucky Derby. Clark is believed to have been inspired to create the race after witnessing the running of the Epsom Derby during a visit to England. Before heading back to the United States, Clark played an instrumental role in setting up the French version of the Derby – the Grand Prix de Paris. 

Upon returning to Kentucky, Clark embarked on a vigorous program to establish thoroughbred racing in the state. Clark’s relatives, the Churchills, provided the funding to set up a racetrack outside Louisville, and Clark established the Louisville Jockey Club. It took over a decade of organization before the Kentucky Derby made its debut in 1975. 

For much of its early history the Kentucky Derby was afflicted by the financial problems that confronted the owners of Churchill Downs Racecourse. By the turn of the century, however, the race had become established as one of the most important races in the United States. The race distance had been cut to 1 mile 2 furlongs, and the substantial prize fund on offer began to attract the nation’s finest thoroughbred racehorses.

Betting on the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby attracts interest from around the globe. Many bookmakers in the United Kingdom offer antepost fixed odds on the Kentucky Derby months in advance of the race. Racing enthusiasts in the United States tend to bet on the race using totes, with betting pools running into millions of dollars.

Some would argue that the best place to bet online would be Bovada for Kentucky Derby betting, which is tougher than betting on the other American Triple Crown races. Antepost favourites win around 4 out of 10 starts, and the race has a tendency to throw up long-odds winners in a regular basis. Many racing fans look to entries that performed well in the Florida Derby when betting on this race.

Racing at Churchill Downs

Famed for the landmark twin spires atop its grandstand, Churchill Downs Racecourse is regarded by many as the spiritual home of American thoroughbred racing. The racecourse is rated as the 5th finest racing facility in North America, and hosts the Kentucky Derby on its 1 mile 6 furlong dirt track.

Watching the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is a pilgrimage for any serious fan of thoroughbred racing in North America, a fact attested to by the 150,000 or so spectators who pack Churchill Downs to watch the race every year. The racecourse is easily accessible from the city of Louisville in Kentucky, and is also screened live by cable provider, ESPN. Use our site to find hotels near Churchill Downs.

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