It’s Derby time in the Bluegrass

Published 11:55 am Friday, May 5, 2017

On the first Saturday of May, all eyes turn to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby.

This year is no different, with post time set for 6:34 p.m. Saturday. Twenty horses will run the 1-1/4 mile track in Louisville with one earning eternal fame and glory as the winner of the 143rd Derby.

For the uninitiated, the Derby is a stakes race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds and is the first leg in the Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes and then the Belmont Stakes.

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The race itself dates back to 1875 when it was created by Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., grandson of explorer William Clark. After being inspired by horse racing in Europe, Clark Jr. returned to Kentucky and created the Louisville Jockey Club to raise funds to build a track. John and Henry Churchill donated the land for the project, and the track was named in their honor in 1937.

For the first 20 years of its existence, the Derby was 1-1/2 miles. In 1896, it was shortened to its current length.

Unlike the other two legs of the Triple Crown, the Derby has run every year since its inception.

This year, there is a $2 million guaranteed purse with $1.425 million and a blanket of 554 roses going to the winner. Only the top five finishing horses receive prize money.

The race record still belongs to Secretariat, set in 1973 at 1:59.4. Since then, only one winner has broken the 2-minute mark (Monarchos in 2001 with a time of 1:59.97). Last year’s winner Nyquist completed the race in 2:01.31.

For those staying at home, the race will be broadcast on NBC beginning at 2:30 p.m.

If you make the trip to Louisville, remember:

— Cans, coolers, glass bottles, umbrellas, selfie sticks, laptop computers, cameras with detachable lenses, hoverboards, drones and tents are not allowed inside Churchill Downs.

— Food and non-alcoholic drinks are allowed as long as they are in clear plastic containers. Drinks must be unopened and sealed. Strollers and diaper bags are allowed, as long as you have a child to accompany them. Seat cushions are allowed, as are “small personal music systems, radios and televisions,” according to track officials.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email or call 859-759-0051.

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