There are few more prestigious sporting events on the calendar than the Kentucky Derby. The event is staged annually in early May, with the race being one of few that is able to attract the attention of all sporting fans, regardless of their interest in horse racing. 

The Kentucky Derby will celebrate its 150th year in 2024, with a record-breaking attendance likely for the historic landmark. It has been staged annually since 1875, and it kicks off the Triple Crown series in the United States. The race is typically labelled the ‘most exciting two minutes in sports’, with horses aged three looking to land victory over the 1 ¼ mile distance at Churchill Downs. 

Despite having been staged annually since its introduction, it has been moved on the calendar on two occasions. The most recent of those came in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, what are some of the most surprising and interesting facts surrounding the race ahead of its 150th anniversary in 2024?

Donerail Is The Biggest Longshot To Win The Race

Betting on the Derby is always exceptionally popular, with millions wagered on the race annually. However, you need to go back to the 1913 running of the race for the biggest-priced victor at Churchill Downs. Donerail was a rank outsider for the race in 1913, as he was priced up at a staggering price of 91/1. His Derby preparations would have been highly unusual, as the runner was housed at Douglas Park, which is around three miles from the track. 

However, he was one of the most impressive winners of the Derby, with Roscoe Goose keeping Donerail away from the pacesetters, before taking the lead close to the line to win by half a length from Ten Point. The Derby would be one of just ten victories that the horse achieved in 62 starts, and there is unlikely to ever be a bigger priced winner of the Triple Crown race.

Female Jockeys In The Derby

Female jockeys have made international headlines in some of the world’s biggest races, with Rachel Blackmore making new ground by landing victories in prestigious races such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National. However, there is yet to be a winning female rider in the Derby, with Rosie Napravnik holding the best finish after claiming fifth in the race in 2013. 

In fact, throughout Derby history, there have only been six female riders. Diane Crump became the first woman jockey to ride in the race in 1970. Female horses also have achieved limited success throughout Derby history, with Winning Colors becoming the third and most recent filly winner in the race in 1988. 

Alonzo Clayton Is The Youngest Race Winner

The age of the rider is also an interesting trend, with the youngest winning jockey coming in the form of Alonzo Clayton in 1892. The jockey achieved the feat when he was just 15. 

He would only achieve one victory in the Triple Crown series, but his accomplishments on the track were later honoured when he was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. As for the oldest, that would be Bill Shoemaker, who landed a fourth win in the race in 1986 aboard Ferdinand when he was aged 54.

Gate Superstitions 

The starting positions now make up a lot of the conversation before the Derby, with connections looking to ensure that they stand the best chance of victory in the race. Since the Derby started using starting gates, gate five has produced the most winners in the history of the Triple Crown race with ten victories. 

However, not all starting stalls have experienced such success. Throughout history stall 17 is yet to produce a Derby winner, while stalls eight and eleven have a success rate of just 2.2% and 2.4%. 

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Horses Starting With An ‘S’ Have The Best Record

One of the most interesting Derby trends is the fact that horses starting with the letter ‘S’ have scored victory on 19 occasions throughout history. That includes two winners since the start of 2000 with Street Sense landing victory in 2007 and Super Saver scoring success in 2010. The most successful letter in recent history is ‘C’, with Country House and California Chrome both landing victory since the start of 2014. 

As for letters with poor records in the Derby, history shows that the only letters yet to produce a Derby winner are ‘Q’ and ‘X’. There is limited chance that this streak will be ended in 2024, as no runner in the betting currently starts with either letter. However, there are a number of chances for the letter ‘C’ extending its advantage, with Catching Freedom, Conquest Warrior, and Coach Prime all ranking among the early leading contenders in the betting at this stage. 


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