The Kentucky Derby race may be short, but the list of traditions is long (video) | VailDaily.com

The Kentucky Derby race may be short, but the list of traditions is long (video)

By Tricia Swenson | Vail Today

The Kentucky Derby may be short, but what's been dubbed "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" has a long history full of traditions.

According to the official Kentucky Derby website, nearly 10,000 spectators looked on as 15 thoroughbred horses ran a one and a half mile course the first year it was held in 1875. The next year, the length of the race was shortened by a quarter of a mile. Today, the Kentucky Derby draws an average of 150,000 visitors.

Each year, 20 3-year-old thoroughbred horses compete. Despite all the festivities surrounding the Derby, the race itself usually takes just over two minutes. Secretariat, the racehorse holding the Kentucky Derby record, ran it in 1 minute, 59 seconds in 1973.

The race, founded by Col. M. Lewis Clark Jr., was designed to rival European horse races. The day before the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks race is held, which features fillies, but fillies can also race in the Kentucky Derby. In the history of the Kentucky Derby, only three winners have been fillies; Winning Colors in 1988, Genuine Risk in 1980 and Regret in 1915.

Traditionally, women wear the lavish hats, but more recently, men have gotten in on the fun with colorful suits and fedora hats. Hats are thought to bring good luck for all those betting at the track.

Each year, a garland of more than 400 red roses is sewn into a green satin backing with the seal of the Commonwealth on one end and the Twin Spires and number of the race’s current renewal on the other.

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No other president has witnessed more Kentucky Derby races than Gerald R. Ford. Beginning in 1977, Ford and his wife Betty attended almost every Kentucky Derby for 10 years as guests of longtime friend John Galbreath, a former Churchill Downs chairman of the board.

If you can't make it to the real Kentucky Derby, the Vail Valley has gotten into the spirit of hosting fetes of its own. The 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company had a lively party complete with mint juleps, southern barbeque and raffle prizes. Maya restaurant at The Westin in Avon played host to the Vail Derby Party, which benefits the Children's Garden of Learning preschool located in Vail. Check out today's video to view some of the local derby flair.

BY THE NUMBERS – Mint Juleps
120,000 – mint juleps served at Churchill Downs
1,000 – pounds of fresh mint leaves
60,000 – pounds of ice
10,000 – bottles of Old Forester mix