History was made in 1875 when the first Kentucky Derby horse racing came into inception. It all happened for the first time in front of 10,000 spectators, as they witnessed for the first in history, 15 three-year-old thoroughbred horses race for one and a half miles on a fast track. The race happened for the first time at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky still remains today at the same location.
The Kentucky Derby over the years has been dubbed by two names firstly, “the most exciting two minutes in sports”, and the “Run for the Roses”. Traditions, however, have also remained unchanged, about 150,000 mint julep are always shared amongst thousands donning beautiful statement hats singing “My Old Kentucky Home.”
To that is a short introduction to the event and we would be looking at five of the greatest moments in the history of the derby.
Arms & Whips Grabbed to Fight to the Finish
In horse racing, it’s a known fact that also happens frequently more than any other surprising moment for colts to fight to the finish line but not when the jockeys join in the fight. That’s exactly what occurred in the 1938 Kentucky Derby. Herb Fisher with Head Play and Don Meade with Brokers Tip grasped one another’s arms as they approached the finish line in a fight to finish tussle. Both jockeys received 30-day suspensions as a result of their fight. And while Brokers Tip still took the first place, Meade and Fisher’s added tussle fight helped to make the race special.
Celebrated Too Soon
In the 1957 Kentucky Derby, despite having been warned not to celebrate too soon, Willie Shoemaker with English-bred Gallant Man did exactly this. The legendary jockey mistook the 16th pole for the race finish line and in the same manner, stood up in his saddle celebrating. While behind him was Willie Hartack driving an 8-1 shot Iron Liege at a blazing speed. Realizing his mistake, Shoemaker spontaneously resumed running his horse, but Gallant Man was unable to reclaim the lead and ended up placing behind Iron Liege. Willie Shoemaker and Gallant Man lost the race in the thinnest distance ever which to this day is one of the most controversial moments in the history of the Derby.
Secretariat’s 1:59.40 Unbelievable Record
In 1972, Secretariat as a two-year-old horse was named the horse of the year. What made this honor so special is the fact that it rarely goes to such a very young colt. Despite finishing third in the Wood Memorial Horse Racing being his last racing performance before the 1973 Kentucky Derby, Secretariat was a subject of doubt heading into the year’s Derby event. Despite the negativity surrounding him, the 2-year-old entered Louisville as a 3-2 favorite to win the Derby. Trailing in the field of 13 legendary horses, Secretariat who would later become the Michael Jordan of horses, pace grew stronger as the race went on. Bursting into the contention in the stretch turn, Secretariat came from trailing 12 horses to winning the race by two and a half lengths. His finishing record of 1:59.40 running time remains unbroken to this day. In today’s horse betting, the single winning with a $10,000 stake on odds to Bet on the Kentucky Derby that would have Secretariat winning the Kentucky Derby, would be high enough to purchase a 2022 Lamborghini Urus.
Raw Emotions of Achievement In Descriptive Words
When Unbridled won the 1990 Kentucky Derby, it wasn’t just the usual feeling you have when a horse wins the derby, but instead, the thrill of a lifetime he gave his elderly owner Frances A. Genter made it an unforgettable moment. Genter, who was 92 years old, was too small to see above the crowd and her poor eyesight prevented her from seeing race via the monitors. She then received a race play-by-play from trainer Carl Nafzger. Unbridled, a field-relative long shot, made his move on the outside and took control at the top of the stretch. Nafzger gave Genter a bear hug as Unbridled started to retreat. He said, “He’s going to win! Oh, Mrs Genter, I love you!” The joy of horse racing can be best described as the raw emotion of realizing a long-held desire. One of the most heartwarming moments in Kentucky Derby history was listening to Nafzger describe the race for Genter.
Barbaro was the sixth unbeaten horse to compete in the Kentucky Derby in history. He was the second favorite with 6-1 odds and easily won the 2006 Kentucky Derby despite a five-week break with no preps. Shortly before Barbaro broke his leg in the Preakness Stakes, there were high hopes that he would become the newest Triple Crown champion. The accident ultimately resulted in his demise. Due to his competitive spirit on the racecourse and heroism in overcoming his leg injury, Barbaro gained worldwide adoration from the general public. The owners of Barbaro were aware of the uniqueness of his life in the eyes of his countless followers. They subsequently had his remains buried at Churchill Downs’ main entrance. A 1,500-pound bronze statue was built there to honor his Derby triumph. The statue is still regularly visited by Barbaro’s fans.