My Favorite Kentucky Derby Trivia


by Kristin Berkery

It’s that time of year again! Grab a mint julep, put on a flamboyant hat (considered to be good luck), and join the millions who will watch the Kentucky Derby on TV this Saturday. In honor of the Derby, I’ve dug up some of my favorite Derby trivia for you to ponder…

Aristides, the first Kentucky Derby winner.

How many horses have won the Triple Crown — the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes?
A total of 11 horses have won the Triple Crown: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), and Affirmed (1978).

Another interesting bit of trivia is that three of the jockeys of those horses, William Saunders on Omaha, Warren Mehrtens on Assault, and Steve Cauthen on Affirmed, rode the Kentucky Derby only once in their careers — and won!

Assault wasn’t the favorite in any of the three races of the Triple Crown. He was from Texas and there was obvious bias against Texan horses winning the big three races.

Everyone in racing knows Secretariat was the first horse to finish the Derby in under two minutes, but many people mistakenly believe he’s the only horse to do this. The truth is, two other horses finished the Derby in under two minutes, and one of them didn’t even win! Who were they?
Sham ran the Derby in less than two minutes, but finished second to Secretariat in 1973. Monarchos (2001) won the Derby in 2001 in less than two minutes, but didn’t beat Secretariat’s record of 1:59 2⁄5.

Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., founder of Churchill Downs and grandson of General William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Who built Churchill Downs and founded the Kentucky Derby?
Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., grandson of General William Clark of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, built Churchill Downs on property given to him by his cousins, John and Henry Churchill. “Lutie,” as he was called, had a volatile personality and managed to get himself in trouble with his family as a result. Even though he built and managed Churchill Downs and wrote many racing rules that still exist today, he was fired from his position and became a steward at the track. He committed suicide in 1899 after struggling with poverty, isolation from his family, and aging.

What Kentucky Derby winners sired a Kentucky Derby winner?
Twelve horses that won the Kentucky Derby went on to sire a Derby winner: Halma (1895), sire of Alan-A-Dale (1902); Bubbling Over (1926), sire of Burgoo King (1932); Reigh Count (1928), sire of Count Fleet (1943); Gallant Fox (1930), sire of Omaha (1935); Bold Venture (1936), sire of two Derby winners — Assault (1946) and Middleground (1950); Pensive (1944), sire of Ponder (1949); Count Fleet (1943), sire of Count Turf (1951), the third generation to win the Derby in his sireline; Ponder (1949), sire of Needles (1956), also the third generation in his sireline to win the Derby; Determine (1954), sire of Decidedly (1962); Swaps (1955), sire of Chateaugay (1963); Seattle Slew (1977), the only undefeated Triple Crown winner and sire of Swale (1984); and Unbridled (1990), sire of Grindstone (1996).

What fillies have won the Kentucky Derby?
Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980), and Winning Colors (1988). Genuine Risk is the only Derby-winning filly to have finished in the money in all three Triple Crown races. has a list of all the fillies that finished the Derby.

Who is currently the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner?
Sea Hero (1993), who stands at stud in Turkey. Strike the Gold (1991) was previously the oldest living Derby winner, but he had a heart attack and broke his leg on December 13, 2011.

For more fascinating facts and anecdotes, including one about John Wayne refusing to use urinals in public restrooms, visit Animal Planet also has a Kentucky Derby quiz that grades your score. See all the winners of the Derby at Wikipedia.

About Kristin Berkery

Kristin is a freelance graphic designer and writer in Sacramento, California, with a life-long passion for horses. She designs websites and marketing materials for businesses. In her spare time she's active with her daughter and son. See Kristin's online portfolio and LinkedIn profile.

2 thoughts on “My Favorite Kentucky Derby Trivia

  1. Johnna Burton says:

    Is the horseshoe hung with the open ends down or up. As a kentucky girl, IL have heard that originally they hung them down –BUT considered it luckier to hang them with the open ends up for luck. Do you know?

  2. Kristin says:

    I was always told to hang them with the ends pointing up, otherwise the luck ran out if the ends pointed down. Thanks for your question 🙂

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