My Field of 19 (Sort of) Things to Love About the Derby

So this week, my local sports DJs were discussing what athletic event is the most over-rated. Soccer’s World Cup got more than a few votes, as did the WNBA. But the Kentucky Derby came in pretty much as win, place, and show. Apparently, the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”…isn’t. Unless you’re from Louisville or wicked rich.

I’m definitely not the latter, but I have spent a fair amount of time in the Bluegrass State. So in honor of My Old Kentucky Home (for four years of college) I’ve compiled a list in honor of today’s field of 19 Thoroughbreds, of why the Derby is, in fact, awesome. (And any two-minute event that necessitates its own bourbon drink can’t be too shabby.)

1) The Derby was founded in 1875 by Col. Meriweather Lewis Clark, Jr., grandson of Lewis and Clark’s own William Clark.

Philip Treacy Large Upturn hat

$1050? This is why it’s called “Millionaire’s Row.”

2) Those beautiful Derby hats come with a price: this Philip Treacy “Large Upturn” model (see photo) runs £675, or $1050 American dollars. But…

3) Luckily, the Derby “infield” allows pretty much anyone general admission, even if you don’t get a good view of the race. (The infield also has its own jail. Trust me on this.)

4) Guess what, gals? Derby colts race with 126 pounds; fillies carry 121. Finally a job where women actually make the same amount of money for less work!

5) Three fillies have won the Derby: Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980), and Winning Colors (1988).

6) Speaking of ladies, jockey Rosie Napravnik is no joke has a strong shot at becoming the first female Derby-winning rider today on horse Mylute.

7) The first female Derby jockey, Diane Crump, rode in 1970.

8) Rick Pitino, coach of the national champion Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball team, co-owns one of the thoroughbreds, Goldencents, currently at a very favorable 6-1 odds.

9) Goldencents is ridden by Kevin Krigger, hoping to become the first African-American jockey since 1902 to win the Derby.

10) A horse named “Fear the Kitten” had to drop out. This really bums me out. How cool would it be for that name to win? On the other hand, “Charming Kitten” is ready to pick up the ball of yarn and run with it.

10) The race is a mile and a quarter long, or up and down the Empire State Building four and a half times.

11) After personal struggles with addiction, legendary jockey Gary Stevens returns to the track today at age 50, mounting Oxbow.

12) Thoroughbreds began in 17th-century England from native mares crossbred with imported stallions of Arabian, Barb, and Turk breeding. (Who says we all can’t get along?)

13) Mint juleps require mint, sugar, crushed ice, and bourbon—95% of which comes from Kentucky. According to USA Today, Kentucky has roughly 4.9 million currently aging barrels—a figure that exceeds the state population.

OK I have to stop there because I’m on my second julep, and 19 is a lot. But, I can’t leave it on unlucky number 13 so let’s remember this on the best note of all:

14) We won’t see any broken legs because Louisville basketball star Kevin Ware’s compound fracture pretty much sucked that one up for the entire future of sports.

So happy hats, beautiful bluegrass, and safe racing to the horses, riders, and fans. Boston Strong (and Kentucky Tough)!

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