20 fun facts about the Kentucky Derby

A bartender makes a mint julep prior to

A bartender makes a mint julep prior to the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby. (May 1, 2010) (Credit: Getty Images)

1. The mint julep, the Derby’s traditional drink, is wildly overpriced at $8 a pop. Connoisseurs of bourbon consider it a waste of good whiskey.

2. On Derby Day the infield will hold around 80,000 revelers, making it Kentucky’s third-largest city, behind Lexington and Louisville.

3. Thirteen of the 15 riders in the first Derby were African-Americans. Black jockeys won 15 of the first 28, with Isaac Murphy taking three.

4. The winning trainers in two of the first three Derbys were former slaves -- Ansel Williamson (Aristides, 1875) and Ed Brown (Baden-Baden, 1877).

5. Former major league ballplayer Hank Allen trained Northern Wolf, who finished sixth in 1989.

6. The 1¼-mile distance has been standard since 1896. The first 21 Derbys were contested at 1½ miles.

7. Dudley Allen, in 1891, was the last African-American trainer to win the Derby.

8. Since 1946 it's been run on the first Saturday in May. In 1945, the final year of World War II, the date was June 9.

9. Of 39 fillies, only three won — Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988).

10. Fourteen female trainers have competed, with Shelley Riley (second, Casual Lies, 1992) coming closest to winning.

11. Sir Barton, who in 1919 became the first Triple Crown winner, was winless before taking the Run for the Roses. So were Buchanan (1884) and Brokers Tip (1933).

12. Four horses, including Triple Crown winners Whirlaway (1941) and Assault (1946), dominated by 8 lengths. Eight times the margin was a nose.

13. A Derby triumph guarantees a large stud fee. Unfortunately, the owners of nine geldings couldn't cash in, including the connections of Mine That Bird (2009) and Funny Cide (2003).

14. Of the last 21 Derby winners, only four were post-time favorites. Only seven finished first in their final prep, although none was worse than fourth.

15. No winner has emerged from post 17 or 19. Oddly, since 1900, post 1, often called "the dreaded rail,'' is tied for post 5 with 12 victories.

16. The oldest living winner is Strike the Gold, 23, who stands at stud in Izmit, Turkey. Sea Hero, at 21 the second oldest, also is a stallion there.

17. Thousands of elegantly dressed women will grace Churchill Downs on Saturday. The endless lines for the ladies' room will resemble runways during fashion week.

18. Southern hospitality surrenders shamelessly to greed on Derby weekend, when you can pay at least $300 a night for a Louisville motel room that costs $55 any other time.

19. The Derby debuted in 1875. Its model was the Epsom Derby, a 1½-mile grass race that has been run in England since 1780.

20. Only six women have ridden in the Derby. Diane Crump was the first, in 1970, and none finished better than 11th.

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