The 145th Kentucky Derby – Betting Preview
April 22, 2019
The 145th Kentucky Derby classic is set to take place on Saturday, May 4, 2019 on the historic soil of Churchill Downs in Louisville, commonly referred to as ‘the greatest two minutes in sports’ by fans of the American equivalent of the Grand National.
This year, the top three favourites at the time of writing are:
Followed in close order by:
- Tacitus (10/1 with Betfred)
- Maximum Security (10/1 with SportNation)
- Vekoma (12/1 with Unibet)
- Code of Honor (16/1 with 888 Sport)
On the other end of the table sits a few impressive long shots that would stand a good chance of winning on any normal race day, like:
But as we know, the Kentucky Derby is far from a normal day at the races.
The Derby has the unique distinction of being the longest running sporting event in the States, having spanned in various iterations over the past three centuries (which may not seem overly impressive in the UK, but is a pretty big deal in a country that is only 240-ish years old). It has the reputation of being the most prestigious of the top three U.S. horse racing events that have been coined as the Triple Crown (made up of the Derby, The Preakness and The Belmont Stakes). Only 13 horses have won all three races, making it the most illustrious equestrian title on the other side of the pond.
Much like the Grand National and Cheltenham, the race is one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year for horse enthusiasts and novices alike. Let’s take a look at a few trademarks the Yanks have adopted for the jewel in their horseracing Triple Crown.
One of the most recognisable features of Churchill Downs are the architectural features of the Spires that adorn the grandstand, which was something of an afterthought when the track was designed. Remarkably, the blueprints for Churchill Downs were the creation of a 24-year-old architect named Joseph Baldez, who felt he needed to add a little extra oomph to the building design and landed on the idea of the spires. Since 1895, the hexagon spires have cast their famous and dramatic silhouette against the Kentucky skyline in spectacular style.
The Garland of the Roses
A little-known fact is the evolution of how the traditional Garland of Roses came to be. The first hints of it began in 1883 when red roses were given to the well-heeled women at the trendy Derby parties thrown by the Louisville elite. Starting in 1896, the first recipient of a floral arrangement was Ben Brush, the winning jockey that year (although the flowers were made up of pink and white roses). It wasn’t until 1904 when the red rose was adopted as the official flower of the Derby, and a symbolic sash of red roses has been one of the most iconic features of the Kentucky Derby since. Hence, the race earned a new moniker of the ‘run for the roses.’ and the rest, as they say, is history.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the tradition of donning a gigantic, ornate women’s hats dates back to the origins of the race itself, with turn-of-the-century American fashionistas adopting British fashion as inspiration for their headwear. Indeed, the whole concept of the race was to attract the upper echelons of society to the fledgling high-class event and women were very keen on out-doing each other with dresses, shoes, hats and parasols.
The race became televised in the 1960s, when fashion was experiencing an explosion of colour and prints around the world, and suddenly, the Derby was a place for egocentric women to stand out and possibly capture the cameraman’s eye with slightly outlandish headwear. Each year, the bar has raised, and the hats became more and more spectacular.
No one is quite sure exactly when the first trophy was handed to the winning jockey of the Kentucky Derby, but we do know the official gold trophy was presented in 1924 on the 50th running of the race.
In 1999, officials chose the auspicious 125th birthday of the race to change the appearance of the horseshoe on the trophy. Aside from changing from 14 to 18-carat gold for the handcrafted cup, the decision to rotate the horseshoe from pointing down to up was made, as legend has it that pointing down in a bad omen for the luck of the jockey.
The Winners Circle
The humble beginnings of the Winner’s Circle sprang from a rounded shape made from chalk dust with the words ‘Winner’s Circle’ denoting where the winning jockey and his noble steed should position themselves to receive their Garland of Roses. Eventually, the area was moved to adjoin the clubhouse. However, the phrase ‘Winner’s Circle’ has become an idiom in everyday vernacular and has also been adopted by big business to signify the best performing employees, often accompanied by a trophy, monetary bonus, company trip or a combination of the three.
Possibly the one thing of all Derby trademarks to personify the pride of the South, this delightful libation is enthusiastically consumed trackside and elsewhere in celebration of the annual event. Urban legend has it that over 100,000 Mint Juleps are served during the two-day festival, and over 450 kilos of mint leaves are used in this Southern cocktail classic.
If you want to get yourself buzzing for the Derby, you can watch some of the greatest moments from the greatest two minutes of sport right here.
Here are all the bookmakers offering Kentucky Derby betting odds
As an experienced sports writer, Josh has been published across various different platforms, writing about his beloved club Manchester United and other footballing topics. He also covers a range of other sports, specialising in UFC and Formula One.