Some call it the “most exciting two minutes in sports,” in reference to the speed of good, old-fashioned horse power and the millions of dollars that ride on the outcome. Others call it the “run for the roses,” given the giant floral garnish donned by the fastest pair in the winner’s circle. But you probably know this annual celebration of hats, horses and hooch as the Kentucky Derby, or the first leg of the Triple Crown. While this sporting event will have a limited capacity this year due to COVID-19, plenty more people will view it from home; 8.3 million people watched the race on TV last year.
This year marks the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby, held each May at Louisville’s historic Churchill Downs Racetrack. Yet only 36 mounts have followed up a Derby victory with a win in the Triple Crown’s second leg, the Preakness Stakes. A mere 13 have then sealed the deal in the Belmont Stakes, including the 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify. The chance to see history is nevertheless just one element of what makes the Kentucky Derby so special.
More than 120,000 Mint Juleps are served each year, for one thing. The most fashionable headgear also is on display, as roughly 90% of female attendees embrace the time-honored tradition of big hats at the race track. To help get you in the spirit for this year’s festivities, we analyzed the event from all angles. We researched everything from betting slips and boozing to spectator fashion and stud fees in search of the best Kentucky Derby facts and stats out there.
You can check out all of our Kentucky Derby fun facts in the infographic below. We also convened a panel of industry experts to get some Derby scouting reports and insights into major issues facing horseracing.
5 Kentucky Derby Facts for 2021:
- 30K – Number of attendees are expected for the 2021 Kentucky Derby (at half capacity due to COVID-19).
- $122 Million – Ticket revenue loss during Derby Week in 2020.
- $126 Million – Total amount wagered on the 2020 Kentucky Derby (50% less than in 2019).
- $500 to $1,000 – Price of a high-end Kentucky Derby hat (90% of female spectators wear hats).
- $805 Million – Sales of thoroughbred horses in 2020 (down 26% from 2019).
We posed the following questions to a panel of leading horseracing experts in order to better understand both the Kentucky Derby and the equine industry more generally. You can check out their bios and responses below.
- What measures should be adopted to better protect the health and well-being of race horses?
- Will the Kentucky Derby be different in 2021, in light of last year’s racial justice demonstrations following the death of Breonna Taylor and the demand to cancel the event?
- Who do you think will win this year’s Kentucky Derby?