Before there was the NBA Finals, the Super Bowl, the World Series or Lord Stanley’s Cup, there was the Kentucky Derby.
Since the Kentucky Derby was first run in 1875, 13 states have been admitted to the Union (Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii).
The Kentucky Derby is the longest running, uninterrupted sporting event in America. War, peace, feast, famine, rain or shine, on the first Saturday in May, there has been the Derby for 143 years. A lot of folks from outside of Kentucky like to poke fun at all of the pomp and circumstance that accompanies the Derby. My answer to that is: the city of Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky are not the only entities that celebrate silly things. If you know who Puxatawney Phil is, my point has been made.
On Saturday, Always Dreaming became part of the ongoing legacy of the Derby by winning the 143rd edition. The track was muddy due to rain for most of the weekend, but like out of a movie, jockey John Velazquez kept himself and horse remarkably clean. Trainer Todd Pletcher joined Velazquez in winning his second Derby, silencing critics that said he couldn’t win the big one. Pletcher’s 48 Derby starters are tied for the most all time with the legendary D. Wayne Lukas. Always Dreaming was the fifth straight favorite to win, tying the longest stretch since 1892-96.
The announced crowd at Churchill Downs was 158,070. That attendance number, which annually hovers over the 150,000 mark, and the two week buildup may seem like overkill, but for most Kentuckians it’s just right. It’s a time when the Bluegrass State can show the rest of the country and the world what we do best: horses and hospitality. Celebrities from all over flock to Louisville to party, to bet, to drink some good bourbon and to see the best two minutes in sports.
If you’ve never been to the Kentucky Derby, I suggest you add it to your bucket list. And if you’re a Kentuckian that has never been, I’m not sure there’s a prouder moment when, after the call to post, the horses parade by the grandstand and the crowd stands and sings “My Old Kentucky Home.” There may be moments as good in sports, but I know there’s nothing better.