Odds and Ends / Kentucky Derby

The event known as “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” has meaning to every sports fan in the world. It doesn’t matter if you are a $2 show player, or a big punter. You get two minutes to watch, and the rest of the year to talk about what happened. That is the Kentucky Derby.

If you are looking for answers to all things Derby, start your search right here:  www.kentuckyderby.com  – I’ll bet you’ll find just what you’re looking for. Here are some neat facts as we close in on the first Saturday in May.

** Odds that Richard Nixon would be in the house the only time the Derby winner is disqualified for cheating: (1-1)  – It happened  in 1968, when Nixon was a presidential candidate making his first Derby appearance.

** Odds a horse will run dead last from wire to wire: 146-1.

** Three fillies have won: Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980 and Winning Colors in 1988.

** Odds the winner and trainer will have the same name: 130-1.  It happened in 1929, when Clyde Van Dusen, the horse, won for Clyde Van Dusen, the trainer.

** Willie Simms rode in two Derbies, and won them both. Ben Brush in 1896, and Plaudit in 1898. Simms is the only African-American rider to win all three races that became the Triple Crown.

** At 91-1, Donerail was the longest shot ever to win the Derby in 1913.

** There have been 26 U.S. presidents since 1875, when the Derby started. Only once did a sitting president appear. Richard Nixon came in 1969.

** The typical thoroughbred horse is capable of running only a quarter of a mile (400 meters) or so at its peak speed. So, it is really important in determining when to use that precious turn-of-foot.

** Thoroughbred horses typically stand 16 hands tall from hoof to withers, the highest point on the horse’s back. A hand equals four inches (10 cm), the average width of a man’s hand.

This is the time of year when casual fans become racing enthusiasts. Long before simulcasting, or wagering accounts. You had to make your way down to Churchill Downs, or have a connection to the local bookie. For me, it was the latter. I would get up early with my Dad, and he would stop by to see relatives who wanted to get their bets down. The neighbors were easier, as they would just come over to our house, and hand my old man a piece of paper and some money.  It was our special day, and we would gather around our black and white television to make out the runners. It was the start of my love affair with Thoroughbred racing. We would listen to races on the radio, read the results in the paper, and make treks to the local tracks. But nothing matched the magic of Derby day, and for me, I guess it never will.