The Kentucky Derby is often referred to as the “greatest two minutes in sports.” The race does have a running time of about two minutes in length, and is 1 1/4 miles long. The 2017 winner, Always Dreaming, finished the race in two minutes and three seconds. The race takes place every year on the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It features the top three-year-old thoroughbred horses in the world.
According to CNN, the race is also called the Run for the Roses thanks to the winning horse getting draped with garland full of 554 red roses. The actual race may be just two minutes, but there is an entire week of festivities. The Friday before the Kentucky Derby is known as the Kentucky Oaks Day, which features the top fillies in races beginning in the morning and running into the evening.
The Kentucky Derby Day is full of other races as well. The 2018 Kentucky Derby Day features a total of 14 races with 11 races preceding the main event with two more races following it. The Kentucky Derby’s unique race length makes it difficult to predict who will win. The majority of the prep races leading up to the Derby are shorter, causing a lot of projections on how each horse will perform in a race a bit longer than they are accustomed to.
The Kentucky Derby is the first of three Triple Crown races in American horse racing. Length wise, the Kentucky Derby sits in the middle of the other two American Classics. The Belmont Stakes is the longest at 1.5 miles, while the Preakness run at Pimlico is the shortest at 1 3/16 miles.
Originally, the Kentucky Derby started as a longer race at 1.5 miles when the first race took place in 1875. Over two decades later, the distance was thought to be too long, and the race was modified in 1896 to its current length. The Kentucky Derby details the decision.
It is thought that the distance of the Derby race is too long for three year old Thoroughbreds that early in the spring, so the distance of the Derby race is shortened from one and a half miles to one and a quarter miles. Ben Brush wins the Derby, and he receives a floral arrangement of white and pink roses.
According to the Kentucky Derby, it is the longest running American sporting event. Sports fans can thank the grandson of William Clark (from the explorers Lewis and Clark) for the idea of the Kentucky Derby. The race website details its origins.
The Kentucky Derby’s long history began in 1872, when Meriwether Lewis Clark, the grandson of William Clark – of the famed pair Lewis and Clark – traveled to Europe. While there, Clark attended the Epsom Derby in England, a well-known horse race run since 1780, and also fraternized with the French Jockey Club, a group that developed another popular horse race, the Grand Prix de Paris Longchamps. Clark was inspired by his travels and experiences, and, upon his return, was determined to create a spectacle horse racing event in the States. With the help of his uncle’s John & Henry Churchill, who gifted Clark the necessary land to develop a racetrack, and by formally organizing a group of local race fans to be named the Louisville Jockey Club, Clark and his new club raised funds to build a permanent racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. On May 17th, 1875, the racetrack opened its gates and the Louisville Jockey Club sponsored the very first Kentucky Derby. A total of fifteen three-year-old Thoroughbred horses raced one and a half miles in front of a cheering crowd of approximately 10,000 spectators. Aristides was the first winner of the Kentucky Derby
Source: Heavy Sports