Why The Mint Julep? 5 Fun Derby Facts To Test Your Knowledge

Written By Frank Weber on May 6, 2022

Whether you’re a fan of horse racing or simply just a fan of fancy hats, then the Derby is for you.

The 148th running of the Kentucky Derby is coming up this weekend and will kick off at 6:57 PM.

If you’re headed to a Derby watch party this weekend and want some fun facts to impress your friends with, then you came to the right place. And while you are impressing friends, why not place a bet on your favorite horse? No need to leave the party, hit up the TVG online platform.

Here’s some interesting Kentucky Derby trivia you should know coming into this Saturday’s race.

When did the Kentucky Derby start?

The first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875 and was held by Colonel M. Lewis Clark. Clarke needed some races for his newly formed Louisville Jockey Club, so he decided to hold three races at the track’s first meet.

The three races were:

  • The Kentucky Derby
  • Kentucky Oaks
  • Clark Handicap

The very first winner of the Kentucky Derby was a horse named Aristides. For the first two decades of the Derby, the race was 1.5 miles long. It wasn’t changed to 1.25 miles until 1896.

What is the origin of the mint julep?

The mint julep is the traditional drink of the Derby, and it’s rumored that over 120,000 are sold and consumed at the race every year. The Derby’s Julep is made with:

  • Old Forester Bourbon
  • Simple syrup
  • Mint leaves
  • Mint sprigs

The mint julep first became the official drink of the Derby back in the 1930s. This is when Churchill Downs first started serving the drink in an exclusive souvenir cup, which made it a hot commodity.

Juleps have a deep-rooted history in horse racing, however. In an 1816 race, a Julep cup was even rewarded as the grand prize to the first-place finisher.

All Kentucky Derby horses share same birthday (kind of)

Regardless of when a racing horse is born, they all have the same birthday — January 1st.

This isn’t just to save money on birthday decorations and cake. It’s all to make it easier to keep track of horses’ ages.

Horses born in the Northern Hemisphere all share the Jan. 1 date, while horses born in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate their birthday on Aug. 1. The difference in birth dates is based on the mare breeding cycle, which is affected by the seasons.

The rule is a bit unforgiving — a horse born (in the Northern Hemisphere) on Dec. 1, 2021, will be considered one year of age on Jan. 1, 2022 — even though it’s technically only a month old. However, a horse born on Jan. 2, 2021, will also be considered one year of age on Jan. 1, 2022.

This becomes essential in horse racing due to the age restrictions that are on many races.

The Kentucky Derby, for example, is only available for horses that are three years of age. The inexperience of the horses keeps the playing field level and makes for a more exciting Triple Crown chase.

Fastest and slowest winning times

You’ve probably heard the name Secretariat before, and here’s why. Even though he won almost 50 years ago, Secretariat remains the fastest horse in Kentucky Derby history.

His 1973 winning time of 1 minute and 59.4 seconds has never been broken. Secretariat remains only one of two horses to ever break the 2-minute mark at the Derby. And he makes our list of the best Derby races ever.

The slowest winner of all time came in 1891 when the winner, Kingman, finished the (at the time) 1.5-mile race in 2 minutes and 52 seconds.

The luckiest starting spots

Starting posts #5 and #10 have proven to be the luckiest throughout time. Riders have won from these starting spots more often than any other spot in the grid.

The horses in those spots for this year’s race are:
#5 Smile Happy (20-1)
#10 Zandon (3-1)

Photo by Associated Press
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Written by
Frank Weber

Frank Weber is a US-based gambling writer with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He loves baseball, football, basketball, soccer, and the UFC, and even collects sports cards and memorabilia in his spare time. In his free time, you could find Frank either out at a concert with friends, or at home sweating out all his bets.

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