10 Things You Need To Know If You Want To Sound Like You Know What The Hell Is Going On At The Kentucky Derby

  • Jake O'Donnell

One Saturday every year I wake up, hungover, and am expected to go somewhere and watch horses, gamble, and day drink. Then there’s the Kentucky Derby. In case you aren’t particularly knowledgable about the whole shindig — or are terrified at the thought of horses, like me — it won’t hurt to brush up on some relevant information about the Derby, Kentucky, and horse racing in general. Worst case scenario, you’ll sound like you know something, best case you win £1.45M on a £2 bet. Though I’m not sure what you’d do with all those weird L’s.

Here are 10 things you need to know if you want to sound like a well-informed horse snob at the Kentucky Derby Party you’re going to:

10) There are two types of horses: turf/synthetic and dirt. Turf horses don’t run well on dirt unless it’s perfect. Today it’s a wet dirt track. Likewise, dirt horses aren’t as explosive as turf horses on turf/synthetic surfaces.
What you’ll say: “We’ll see how Charming Kitten does on the dirt, considering all that success he’s had has come on turf.”

9) “Scratched” means the horse isn’t racing.
What you’ll say: “…and then I hear Black Onyx was scratched at the number one post! And, no, not like that. Do you want me to explain what that means? Ok… (insert beginning of paragraph)”

8) Following up on the last tidbit, a “Post” is the lane the horse runs in. Simple enough. Unlike track and field, all spots are not equal, as they are not staggered to make up for the increased distance horses have to travel from the outer ring of the track. Given that Black Onyx was scratched at the inside post, they will leave it open.
What you’ll say: “What do you mean ‘why is that gate empty?’ I just said Onyx was scratched…they don’t just fill in the post with a Border Collie you moron!”

7) The favorite wins 36% of the time. This year’s favorite is Revolutionary.
What you’ll say: “The way I see it, with 5/1 odds on Revolutionary I’d bet at least some money on him.”

6) Kitten’s Joy sires the best race horses. At least for turf. After Fear the Kitten was scratched, KJ still has one horse-son still in the race (that we know of, this guy gets around.)
What you’ll say: “Believe it or not, Charming Kitten and Fear the Kitten are related to the world’s best sire horse, Kitten’s Joy, whose offspring have won nearly every race on the face of the Earth. Including the Olympics! I’m kidding of course, those races are for humans…”

5) A “Mint Julep” is basically burbon and sugar and mint. Maybe some lime. Definitely a headache.
What you’ll say: “No thank you, I’m fine, I have to work Monday.”

4) The owners make 60% of the total purse, and the purse is around $2M. So, a lot of money.
What you’ll say: “Hey, buying a live foal from Kittens Joy only costs $50,000. Who’s in?”

3) There is an age requirement, much like the NBA or cigarettes. All horses must be 3 years old, however, all of their birthdays are considered January 1st of the year they were born. This can make a difference, because younger horses are, obviously, better. Also, they’re more likely to crash their Dad’s Lexus.
What you’ll say: “Apparently they’re all three-year-olds. When I was three, I wasn’t nearly that handsome.”

2) The last three years have produced longshot winners, with payouts like $43 for every $1 bet. That’s freakin’ awesome. If you’re going to go with this trend, be prepared to drive a diamond car and date Rihanna.
What you’ll say: “Come on Itsmyluckyday (15-1)! Daddy needs a new pair of attractive female/male secretaries depending on my gender/orientation!”

1) The jockeys are very important. Calvin Borel, who has won 3 previous Derbys, is riding current favorite Revolutionary. John Velazquez, on Verrazano, is undefeated at the race and has 9-2 odds. Gary Stevens is the veteran who’s won 3 Derbys as well — he’ll be on 23-1 Oxbow. (That’s my pick.)
What you’ll say: “I never trust horses. Too large and power to have a brain the size of a walnut. I choose humans. I CHOOSE HUMANS!”