The Official Offshore Betting Guide

Kentucky Derby History

Kentucky Derby History and remarkable moments

As the longest continually held sporting event in the United States, the Kentucky Derby spans over the course of three centuries and boasts some of the most memorable events in sporting history. Here are a few of the most special Kentucky Derby races that describe just how the Kentucky Derby earned its moniker, “the most exciting two minutes in sports”

Aristides, 1875

On May 17th, 1875, history was made, and the very first Kentucky Derby race was run. In front of a crowd of approximately 10,000 fans, fifteen three-year old Thoroughbreds raced for 1 and a half miles on a fast track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. A chestnut Thoroughbred named Aristides won the race, finishing in just over 2 minutes and thirty-seven seconds. Aristides was ridden by a jockey, Oliver Lewis, who was only nineteen years old at the time, and would never race in the Kentucky Derby again. Lewis traded in his saddle and crop for a career in training and bookmaking. Aristides was the first Kentucky Derby winner, earning a purse of just $2,850.

1913, Donerail,

the underdog in the 38th running of the Kentucky Derby race, upset the field, with 91-1 odds.

Donerail still stands as the biggest long-shot victory, paying $184.90 on just a $2 win bet.

Second, in 1914, Old Rosebud won the Kentucky Derby with the fastest recorded time in its 40 year history, just over 2 minutes and three seconds. Old Rosebud won the race 8 lengths ahead of the second place finisher, setting another record, for the longest distance between the 1st and 2nd place finishers, which would take another sixteen years to break.


1957, Iron Leige

1957’s running of the Kentucky Derby is remembered for two reasons. First, it is one of the best horse fields, with some of the most athletic Thoroughbreds racing against one another – including two hall of fame horse inductees, Bold Ruler and Round Table. Second, it was one of the most dramatic finishes in Kentucky Derby race history.

Coming down the finishing stretch Kentucky Derby contender, Gallant Man, ridden by hall of fame jockey Bill Shoemaker, was neck-and-neck with fellow contender Iron Leige, ridden by jockey Bill Hartack. As the two horses were racing towards the finish line, Bill Shoemaker on Gallant Man misjudged the finish line pole and stood up to celebrate the race before it was actually over. Shoemaker’s haste to rejoice his “victory” caused his horse Gallant Man to pull up and slow down, and Iron Leige won the Kentucky Derby by just a nose.

1973, Secretariat

In 1973, most likely the greatest race horse of all time, Secretariat, won the Kentucky Derby. Nicknamed “Big Red”, for his reddish brown color, Secretariat broke several records in his 16 month racing career.

Secretariat didn’t go undefeated in his career, but he did finish “in the money” in all but one of his 21 lifetime races. One of Secretariat’s defeats was to a horse named Sham, another one of history’s greatest race horses. Sham beat Secretariat in the Wood Memorial, just weeks before the Kentucky Derby, so each of the horses’ connections was eager and anxious to face one another, again, on the first Saturday in May. In a field of 14 horses, Sham led in the Kentucky Derby race until Secretariat caught up with him half way down the finishing stretch. Secretariat went on to win the Kentucky Derby, two and a half lengths ahead of Sham, and with a world-record finish time of 1:59 2/5 – “Big Red” cracked the two minute race time, as did Sham as the second place finisher.

Even more impressive was Secretariat’s response to the pressure of his fans and the media to be the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. Just two weeks following the Kentucky Derby, Secretariat won the Preakness Stakes. Then, just a few weeks later, only 4 horses went on to challenge Secretariat in the Belmont Stakes. He did more than win the Belmont, Secretariat set two more world–records — he finished the Belmont’s one and half mile race in 2:24 seconds, and he won the race 31 lengths ahead of the second place finisher. Secretariat’s victory was by such a large margin, that not even the widest camera angle could show him in the same shot as the next nearest horse.

To this day, the greatest race horses are compared to the performance of Secretariat.

2006, Barbaro

Barbaro is only the sixth horse to race in the Kentucky Derby with an undefeated record. He was also the only Kentucky Derby contender in over 50 years to take a 5 week break from racing, before he entered the start gate on the first Saturday in May. Despite Barbaro’s long break before Kentucky Derby day, he went off as the second favorite with 6-1 odds, and decisively won the Kentucky Derby race. Barbaro charged ahead of his competition in the last turn of the race, finishing six and a half lengths ahead of the 2nd place finisher. What’s astounding about Barbaro’s finish was that he expanded the gap between himself and the rest of the horse field in the very last furlong of the Kentucky Derby race, even though his jockey didn’t use his whip. This was an indication that Barbaro had even more energy and more speed beyond the distance of the Kentucky Derby race, and that he was a superior athlete with a keen sense to compete and win.

Barbaro’s Kentucky Derby performance captured the attention of sports fans everywhere – he was an impressive athlete in the eyes of race fans and even gained fans that had never seen a horse race. Fans old and new were eager to watch him in the Preakness, and confidently hopeful he would be the first to win the Triple Crown since 1978. Triple Crown hopes diminished suddenly when Barbaro shattered his leg in the Preakness Stakes, but his fame propagated and he became the object of public affection.

Barbaro’s will to win on the racetrack and his heroic strength battling against his leg injury were remarkable. His story was one of hope and inspiration, and fans from across the country, and even the world, sent Barbaro cards, flowers, notes and gifts to help him in his recovery. Even national news broadcasts reported on his condition daily.

Barbaro’s owners, Roy & Gretchen Jackson, understood just how special Barbaro’s life was to millions of fans, so they arranged for his remains to be interred at the entrance of Churchill Downs where a 1500 pound, bronze statue was erected to commemorate his Derby victory. Barbaro’s many admirers visit that statue daily – taking pictures and leaving red roses and personal notes.


2009, Mine That Bird

Mine That Bird’s Kentucky Derby win is the epitome of the underdog story!

Born in Kentucky and purchased for just $9,500, Mine That Bird travelled to Canada and then the southwest United States in his early racing career. He performed well in Canada, but was out-performed in his American races, causing his ownership and training to change several times. In early 2009, Mine That Bird came under the tutelage of trainer Chip Woolley, and even though they only placed 2nd and 4th in their two races together, Mine That Bird’s lifetime victories in graded stakes races qualified him 19th, out of 20 horses, to race in the Kentucky Derby.

On a whim and just days before the Kentucky Derby race, while also recovering from a broken ankle, trainer Chip Woolley loaded Mine That Bird into a trailer on the back of his pick-up truck, and drove him over 1,000 miles from New Mexico to Kentucky to participate in the race. Barely qualified, no one thought Mine That Bird would race in the Kentucky Derby, let alone win it!

It was a rainy first Saturday in May, so by the time the Kentucky Derby contenders took to the track, it was sloppy. The race took off, and on the backstretch Mine That Bird was so far behind the rest of the field, that even the race announcer missed seeing him. By the last turn of the race, led by jockey Calvin Borel, Mine That Bird caught up with the rest of the field and squeezed between the contenders and the metal rail of the track to pass the group. His speed exploded in the finishing stretch and the announcer, again, missed Mine That Bird as he made his way through 19 horses to take the lead. The announcer didn’t identify him until he was 3 lengths ahead of the other contenders. Mine that Bird won the race 6 lengths in front of the 2nd place finisher, and became the second biggest upset winner in Kentucky Derby history (second to Donerail). A $2 win bet on Mine That Bird returned $103.20.

Mine That Bird is only one of nine geldings to win the Kentucky Derby, so his legacy lives only within his story – a story for the record books, and, even the theatre. A movie, “50-1” based on Mine That Bird’s road to the Kentucky Derby and his underdog victory was released 5 years after his win. Mine That Bird is proof that the Kentucky Derby is such an enigma – it is an attainable dream for horses and people from all walks of life!



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