The Kentucky Derby: five reasons why you shouldn’t miss it

Jockey John Valazquez, riding Animal Kingdom #16, leads the field across the finish line to win the 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Kentucky Derby: Inside the 'most exciting two minutes in sports'
01:41 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: This is an updated story first published in May 2018.

Story highlights

The Derby was first held in 1875

Secretariat, the 1973 winner, still holds the track record

CNN  — 

It’s often referred to as “The most exciting two minutes in sports.”

So what makes the Kentucky Derby so special?

Here are five reasons not to miss America’s sporting and cultural icon, which will be held on May 4 at Churchill Downs race track in Louisville, Kentucky.

READ: Riding Derby legend Secretariat was like ‘flying a fighter jet’

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It’s America’s longest running sports event

The first Kentucky Derby was held on May 17, 1875, when a crowd of 10,000 saw three-year-old chestnut colt Aristides, ridden by African-American jockey Oliver Lewis, triumph at Churchill Downs.

The Derby has been held at the same venue ever since, even during both World Wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s, making it the country’s longest continuously held sports event.

The 145th edition of the mile-and-a-quarter race for three-year-old thoroughbreds is expected to attract more than 150,000 spectators.

The Derby is the first leg of racing’s prestigious Triple Crown, which also consists of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore and the Belmont Stakes in Belmont Park, New York.

READ: The world’s richest horse races: The top six prize pots in racing

READ: Meet the racehorse superheroes