After weeks of waiting, yesterday was the day. The longest summer break in history came to an end as the checkered flag flew at the close of the 98th running of the prestigious Texas Motor Speedway. The excitement in the air was palpable. Fans and drivers alike were desperate to find out who would come out on top in what is widely considered the most important horse race in the world. Finally, the wait was over. At long last, we knew who would be taking the checkered flag in what is surely one of the greatest sporting events of all time. The winner of the 98th annual running of the Kentucky Derby was none other than none other than 2015 Triple Crown winner, American Pharaoh!
Pharaoh proved to be the best of the best. The horse ran the entire race ahead of the rest of the pack. It was a dominant performance that left fans and pundits alike speechless. Just one day earlier, American Pharaoh was fourth-hole chaser at the Preakness Stakes. The horse then went on to win the Belmont Stakes by a record-breaking 12 lengths. The entire U.S. horse racing world was captivated by the unprecedented triumphs of American Pharaoh. The horse’s extraordinary accomplishments during the 2015 season earned it the deserved reputation as the greatest horse in the history of the sport. The win in the Cup yesterday is yet another feather in American Pharaoh’s cap, as he continues to prove himself to be the best of the best. The colt has now won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. This makes him just the fourth horse to ever achieve the ‘triple crown’ in the modern era of horse racing!
As expected, the rest of the field was a close second. Expected winner, Magnum Moon fell just short, unable to pull off the upset victory that everyone was expecting. Third-place finisher, Exaggerator proved to be the equal of American Pharaoh, battling it out all the way for second place. The only other horse who was anywhere near Pharaoh at the finish was Country House, scoring a respectable fourth-place effort. In fact, of the 12 horses who started and finished the race, only one finished outside of the top three. That horse was Country House, who managed to limp across the line in fifth place.
The History Makes This Event Extra Special
The 98th running of the Kentucky Derby is undoubtedly one of the most important horse races of all time. The winner will go on to compete in the Preakness Stakes. This is widely considered the most important three-day horse race in the world. The Preakness Stakes is part of the Triple Crown, which also includes the Belmont Stakes and the Grand Prix. The winner of the Preakness Stakes will go on to compete in the Belmont Stakes, which is arguably even more important than the Kentucky Derby. The last five winners of the Triple Crown have gone on to win the Belmont Stakes, with the exception of Bold Ruler, who lost to Phaedra in the Preakness. The winner of the Belmont Stakes will eventually go on to compete in the prestigious Grey Cup. The trophy itself is named in honor of the legendary Grey Cup, which is played between the champions of the Canadian Football League and the American Football League. Winning the Grey Cup is the ultimate achievement in horse racing. It’s also the best way to cap off an amazing career.
This year’s 98th running of the Kentucky Derby is particularly special. Not only does it mark the 50th year of the annual derby, but it also happens to be the last running of the ‘white event’ before the transition to ‘color’ in 2021. It is also the last running of the ‘Kentucky Derby’ as we know it; the name will be changed to the ‘Garcia Handicap’ to commemorate the great Hall of Fame jockey, who passed away last year.
Despite all these important historical connotations, the Kentucky Derby is actually a rather boring race. The only excitement comes from the closeness of the competition and the anticipation of seeing who will come out on top. There are no spectacular upsets like in the other major horse races during the summer break. Truth be told, the only real drama comes from the horses who are still trying to figure out their precise racing routes, especially at the beginning of the race, when things can get a little chaotic. What this means is that even the most diehard of fans might have trouble paying close attention to the actual race itself.
Now is as good a time as any to revisit some of the greatest moments in the long history of the Kentucky Derby. Let’s take a quick look back at the winners and the stories behind their major victories.
The Most Influential And Prestigious Horse Race Of All Time
It’s fair to say that the Kentucky Derby is the most influential and prestigious horse race of all time. The roots of the derby go back to the 1800s, when New York City merchant John A. Steinmetz founded the American Jockey Club in order to come up with an annual racing meet in honor of the great American racehorse, General Tom Thumb. The first American Derby was held at the Lexington, Kentucky horse racing track in 1873 and was won by a horse named Dark Hazard. Since then, the race has been held annually, with the exception of World War I and World War II. Even during those times, the Derby went on as scheduled.
The original Derby featured 15 races for 15 minutes each, making it a very short and snappy affair. The idea was to create a quick and easy way for farmers, who were busy with other matters at the time, to earn some extra money. Racing was mostly restricted to wealthy landowners and the very upper classes. It was originally intended to be a status symbol, a way for the upper classes to demonstrate their wealth. The shorter and more convenient format encouraged people to attend races even if they didn’t have much else to do. This led to the development of the Grey Cup. It was during this time that betting on horse races became a popular pastime, especially in New York City. The invention of the telegraph in the 1870s made it easier for people to follow races from afar. This gave birth to the popularity of betting on horse races and, ultimately, the development of the ‘telly-backed’ horse. (This is where a bookie makes money by taking bets from people who don’t even know each other.) The invention of the radio in the 1920s gave people everywhere the ability to listen to live races and made attending a horse race a popular, as well as financially rewarding, summer vacation activity.
Over the years, the importance of the Derby has grown, not only because of its influential history, but because of the prestige it carries. This is most likely because of the great champions who have participated in the race over the years. The list of winners is truly extraordinary, boasting some of the greatest riders of all time. Amongst the winners, you’ll find famous horse breeders, legendary jockeys, and even a king or two.
The following is a list of the race’s illustrious participants:
1914: Prince Gallant
This year was a dramatic one, as World War I broke out the moment the horses began their race. Of the 12 starters, only two completed the entire course. The war intervened, as both horses and riders were exempt from racing for the duration of the conflict. The winner of this year’s Derby was Prince Gallant, who was owned by none other than John D. Rockefeller. The horse and its rider, Fred Lehl, had quite the heroic tale to tell. Lehl, who was 28 at the time, was a New York City department store salesman, who volunteered for service in the army in 1917. While training in England, Prince Gallant was injured in a fall. Lehl, who was now facing injury himself, decided to rush the horse back to New York, giving him one last joyride before bringing him back home.
They made it safely back to New York, but just as they were ready to part ways, the horse slipped on an icy road and went down, breaking his right leg. Lehl tried to treat the horse himself, but soon realized that he would need help. Through some heroic and selfless actions, Lehl was able to get the help he needed and Prince Gallant survived the ordeal. This is how the famous ‘Rockefeller family’ horse ended up winning the prestigious Derby. Lehl’s story is now part of American folklore. It is said that, since that day in 1914, the prince has had a special place in Lehl’s heart. The horse and its owner went on to become firm friends.