Yes, you can attend the Derby or a Derby party for the glamour, food, cocktails and fun - but it really takes it up a notch when you know a little about the horses running.
First, let's discuss the basics. The Kentucky Derby is without a doubt the Super Bowl of horse racing. It is the first jewel in what is called the Triple Crown. It is run every year (with the exception of WWII and COVID 19, which saw delay's in the race) on the first Saturday in May. Two weeks later, the Preakness is run in Baltimore, Maryland, and then two weeks after Preakness is the Belmont Stakes in New York. The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Justify in 2018. There have been only 13 horses to win the Triple Crown since 1875. Many believe Barbaro was on his way to winning the Triple Crown in 2006 but sadly, was put down after being hurt at the start of the Preakness. My favorite, like many, is Secretariat who still holds the record for being the fastest horse clocking in at 1.59.40 for the mile and a quarter race.
Contenders are three year old horses. A fun fact I learned on my recent "Behind The Scenes" tour of Churchill Downs is that a horses' birthday is factored not on the actual date of birth but by the new calendar year. So if a colt is born in October, he would be considered "one year" on January 1st. Fillies (female horses) are allowed to run in the Kentucky Derby if they qualify. However, most fillies will run in Friday's Kentucky Oaks (another fun day of horse racing the day before Derby Day).
So how does a horse qualify for the Kentucky Derby? There are 35 "qualifying" races that offer a point system and horses win points for the top four spots in each race. At the end of the season, the top 20 horses gain entry into the Kentucky Derby. From there, the owners can decide if they wish to run in future races. There are 14 races on Derby Day with the Kentucky Derby being race 12 usually around 7:00 pm.
So who are the horses and how do you bet? Click here to learn all about the 2021 Derby Contenders.
Betting, however, is a whole other beast. People have different strategies - they pick the frontrunner, the stalker or the closer. It helps to have knowledge of the horse's style and obviously, success with being able to be the frontrunner and maintain. Perhaps your horse is more successful stalking the frontrunner and then surging ahead at the finish line. The most exciting race to watch (and nerve wrecking for the owners) is the closer- the horse that takes his/her time and comes from behind to win.
Another strategy is loyalty to a farm or trainer. Breeding plays a huge part in horse racing and is a lucrative business in its own right. Trainers and jockey's clearly play a role in bringing out the best in a race horse as well. So by reading up on the horses, how they performed in the qualifying races and who owns them, trains them and rides them will all help in making your decision. Click here and here for resources to bring you up to speed.
As in most cases, a little research goes a long way. I'll be sharing fun ways you can incorporate wagering into a home viewing party next week.
Enjoy and as they say at the track.....
Go Baby Go!