For horselovers, spring holds a special excitement…the running of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing or as we know it…The Triple Crown. Each yearl we wonder, will we have a triple crown winner this year or not? Hearts soar just thinking of another Secretariat. I still can see that horse making the last turn at the Belmont and heading for the straightaway to the finish line. I also remember actually going to Calumet Farms in Kentucky and seeing this animal grazing in his acre pasture alongside other great horses from that farm. Wow, just to touch the same turf that horse had. 

I’ve never been to any of the race tracks during the Triple Crown but Joe and I have gone to a few famous ones a time or two. We’ve been to Churchill Downs, Del Mar, and Aksarben and Kansas City’s own Woodlands. (The last two are no longer running.) Now, I’m not a gambler so I enjoy these races in a different way…I just love watching the horses run and watching how the jockeys work the track. My hubby likes the clubhouse with its air conditioning, nice tables, delicious buffet, fancy drinks, and a better view of the finish line.  I love being in what I call the ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken Section’ or down by the fence with the local folk eating Kentucky Fried Chicken, drinking sodas or a beer or two at the finish line, and feeling the dirt filter over the fence as the horses race past. The thunder of their hooves is music to me.  

Now, if I had my way, I’d even be down in the barns cleaning the stalls, scrubbing tack or, if really trusted, walking one of the thoroughbreds after a race. That ain’t gonna happen. These animals are more valuable than my house on any given day. And the horses running during the Triple Crown, well, that’s no cheap change either.   So I got to thinking about how much I really knew about this jewel of the thoroughbred racing world and I thought’s I’d share what I found out…and it’s no way near everything about this fascinating event. That would take volumes.

History of the Triple Crown

 The Triple Crown Stakes did not always happen in the  order of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and finally the Belmont. That’s only been that way since 1931.  Prior to that date, the Preakness ran before the Derby eleven times. And, on May 12, 1917,  and on May 13, 1922, the Derby and the Preakness ran on the same day.  In 1919, Sir Barton won all three races thus making him the first winner of all three races in one year. However, Gallant Fox created the first recognition of the Triple Crown title by being the “superhorse that could win the Triple Crown  in 1930.Thus, the journalist of the Daily Racing Form, Charles Hatton coined the title and only eleven horses have one this crown. 

History of the Kentucky Derby 

Let’s start with the important stuff….traditions and facts. The Derby  or as it’s known as “the most exiting two minutes in sports” or ‘the fastest two minutes in sports’ is one and a quarter-mile long or ten furlongs. The horses are three years old and is run at Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. This track is still ranked the most attended race in North America including the Preakness and Belmont. Here, the wealthy purchase seats in the Millionaires Row and the ladies wear lavish outfits and very large elaborate hats. Everyone sings “My Old Kentucky Home”  while the horses parade onto the track while they drink sip a drink that has graced this race at Churchill Downs for nearly a century–the Derby’s Mint Julep. 

The Kentucky Derby Mint Julep
2 C Sugar
2 C water
6-8 sprigs of fresh mint
crushed ice
Kentucky Whisky as Maker Mark or Early Times
Silver Julep cup
Make a syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool in covered container with 6-8 sprigs of fresh mint and refrigerate overnight. Fill a julep cup with crushed ice, add one  tablespoon mint syrup and 2 oz of whisky. Stir rapidly to frost cup and garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.

 Approximately 120,000 mint julep are served on Derby day, using 10,000 bottles of Early Times Mint Julep cocktail, 1000 pounds of fresh mint, and 60,000 pounds of ice.

The Derby’s  nickname is the “Run for the Roses” because  in 1883,  E. Berry Wall presented roses to all the ladies at the Post Derby party and the tradition of the roses began. However, it wasn’t until 1896 that the first drape of 554 roses covered the withers of the winning horse, Chant  ridden by Frank Goodale won in 2:41.00.

The Derby is one of the oldest Thoroughbred races in America–the Travers Stakes being the oldest, 1864.  In 1872, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr (grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark team) traveled to England and was there for the Epsom Derby and later to Paris for the Gran Prix de Paris. He came home with the idea of such a race for America thus the Louisville Jockey Club was built at Churchill Downs named after John and Henry Churchill who provided the land for the first race that was a mile and half long like the Epsom and Gran Prix.  $10,000 was the first winning purse and fifteen horses ran. Aristides won in 2:37.75. (1875)  Super Savor won 2:04.45. (2010) with a winning purse of $1,425,000. The first televised race was in May 3, 1952 with a purse winnings of $100,000. Secretariat still holds the records for  the speed record 1:59.40.

Thank you: Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, Derby,