The Kentucky Derby: “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports”
“This Kentucky Derby, whatever it is—a race, an emotion, a turbulence, an explosion—is one of the most beautiful and violent and satisfying things I have ever experienced.”
On the first Saturday of May, all eyes turn to Churchill Downs racetrack for the Kentucky Derby, the first jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown. This guide prepares you for Kentucky Derby Day, linking to best sources for race history and traditions, race coverage, travel advice and party-throwing tips, as well as where to bet the Kentucky Derby.
Held annually since 1875, the Kentucky Derby is rich in history and colorful tradition. This section will review its history, explain its traditions and relate what others have had to say about the Derby.
For the history of the Kentucky Derby …
The Official Web Site of the Kentucky Derby
has a comprehensive database of historical stats and records. It includes lists of winners and race charts for every year, as well as records for horses, jockeys, trainers, owners and breeders. There are also articles chronicling the history of the race and profiling the role of women and African-Americans.
For traditions of the Kentucky Derby …
University of Virginia
tells the history of “My Old Kentucky Home,” the official song of the state of Kentucky. It was written in 1853 by Stephen C. Foster in response to the publication of “Uncle Tom,” by Harriet Beecher Stowe
. The original title of the song was “Poor Uncle Tom, Good Night.” Since the 1920s, it has been sung by sentimental fans as the field of horses enters the racetrack for the Kentucky Derby.
For famous words about the Kentucky Derby ...
features a column by William Faulkner, who covered the 1955 Derby for the magazine. On the winning horse Swaps, Faulkner writes, “And now he stands beneath the rose escarpment above the flash and glare of the magnesium and the whirring film of celluloid immortality. This is the moment, the peak, the pinnacle; after this, all is ebb.”
ran an article in 2005 in which retired jockey Gary Stevens asked several participants about their remembrances of the race and received some colorful responses.
“The First Saturday in May”
is a critically acclaimed film that follows six trainers for a year as they prepare their horses for the 2006 Kentucky Derby. One of the trainers is Michael Matz, whose horse Barbaro won the Derby impressively, only to suffer a tragic breakdown in the Preakness Stakes.
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