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Kentucky Derby 2016

  Kentucky Derby Trivia

   Part 1 | Part 2

By C. Ray Hall

Let�s start with the scariest odds of all: It�s even money that Louisville could be known the world over as the home of horse racing�s most famous event, the Kentucky Bunbury.

Bun � bury.

If not for the flip of a coin, that could be our fate: Home of the Bunbury. Let�s go back to the beginning. In 1779, Edward Smith-Stanley, the 12th Earl of Derby, and Sir Charles Bunbury saw the first running of the Epsom Oaks in England. They were incited to start their own race the next year. They flipped a coin for naming rights.

Lord Derby won. So did the rest of us. When Kentuckians stoked up their own version of the race in 1875, they used the Epsom Derby as the model for a race they called the Kentucky Derby.

Herewith, some longer, but less scary, odds�.

Odds that any one thoroughbred born in North America this year will run in the 2008 Derby: 1,700-1 or greater. There are about 34,000 thoroughbreds born annually in North America. And an untold number born in the rest of the world. At most, 20 will run in the Derby.

Odds the crowd will get it right and pick the winner: 2.6-1

They�ve run 130 Derbys over the semi-sacred sod of Churchill Downs. In 50 of those races, the favorite won. So the crowd�s hitting .385 � big-league numbers.

But most of the people who put up the big numbers are dead. The crowd hasn�t been good at this since the 1970s.

From 1875 to 1979, the crowd hit almost half the time: 48 for 105. Since then, it�s 2 for 25 (a 92 percent failure rate).

From 1980 to 1999, the crowd had a perfect record: 0 for 20. Twenty straight years of picking losers. That changed in 2000, when a favorite, Fusaichi Pegasus, finally won.

The 1990s, in particular, were the pits for prognosticators. From 1990 to 1995, the crowd favorite finished, on average, eighth, a dozen lengths behind the winner.

Odds that Kato Kaelin would be among the celebrities on Millionaires� Row: 65-1 It happened twice. Once more than it happened to, say, Jack Nicholson. Or two more times than it happened to Madonna.

Odds that Richard Nixon would be in the house the only time the Derby winner is disqualified for cheating: 1-1 It happened in 1968, when Nixon was a presidential candidate making his first Derby appearance.

Dancer�s Image finished first but was disqualified because of illegal medication. Forward Pass was declared the winner. Oddsthe winner will go wire-to-wire: 6-1

It�s happened 22 times, most recently in 2002, when War Emblem was content to lead by a length or two most of the race, then surged for a four-length victory over Proud Citizen.

Odds the Derby winner will be adorned in a blanket of carnations and ferns: Infinity, now. It was not always so. That�s allegedly what the 1902 winner, Alan-a-Dale, wore.

Odds a horse will run dead last from wire to wire: 146-1

Eleven of the 1,616 Derby starters have achieved this dubious distinction. It hasn�t happened since 1941, when Swain swooned.

In 1896, a horse going by the misnomer of Ulysses was a steady eighth all the way. Ulysses was the only opponent that an equally misnamed horse � The Winner � managed to defeat. Odds the winner will be a filly: 43-1

Three fillies have won: Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980 and Winning Colors in 1988.

Odds a black horse will win: 33-1 Four black horses have won: Halma (1895), George Smith (1916), Black Gold (1924) and Flying Ebony (1925).

Odds that the Derby winner is as likely to be from, say, Montana, as from, say, New York: 1-1

Each state has had one: Montana�s Spokane (1889) and New York�s Funny Cide (2003).

Odds the winner and trainer will have the same name: 130-1

It happened in 1929, when Clyde Van Dusen, the horse, won for Clyde Van Dusen, the trainer. The trainer did not name the horse in a fit of vanity. The horse, a son of Man o� War, was named by Herbert Gardner, its breeder and owner. �Clyde is a little horse, and that is why Mr. Gardner named him after me,� said Van Dusen, a former jockey. Van Dusen ended up owning his namesake after his racing career, using the Derby winner as an exercise pony.

Odds the winning margin will be a nose: 16-1 It�s happened eight times, most recently when Grindstone got a nostril ahead of Cavonnier at the wire in 1996, turning trainer Bob Baffert�s hair a whiter shade of white.

Odds a horse who enters the Derby undefeated will leave undefeated: 3.6-1 Eighteen horses have brought perfect records into the race. Only five left undefeated. They are: Regret (1915) Morvich (1922) Majestic Prince (1969) Seattle Slew (1977) Smarty Jones (2004) Odds the Derby winner was born in Kentucky: 1.3-1 Ninety-seven of the 130 winners were born in the Bluegrass state.

Odds (since 1919) that the Derby winner will win the Preakness and Belmont to complete racing�s Triple Crown: 8-1 (11 Triple Crowns in 85 years) The last time a horse won the Triple Crown: 1978 (Affirmed) Odds that the Derby winner will win the Preakness but not the Belmont: 4-1 (21

Odds that the Derby winner will lose � or not enter � the Preakness and win the Belmont: 8.5-1 (10 times) Oddsthat a Derby jockey is more likely to be nicknamed �Tiny� than �Shorty�: 9-1 Frank �Shorty� Prior, rode winner Elwood in 1904. George B. �Tiny� Quantrell rode in 1882 and �83. Robert �Tiny� Williams rode seven Derby mounts from 1891-1902.

One-Of-A-Kind Jockeys

Jockeys who rode only once in the Derby and made the most of it, winning the race

1875: Oliver Lewis, Aristides

1879: Charlie Shauer, Lord Murphy

1880: George Garrrett Lewis, Fonso

1893: Eddie Kunz, Lookout

1895: James �Soup� Perkins, Halma

1897: Fred �Buttons� Garner, Typhoon II

1904: Frank �Shorty� Prior, Elwood

1908: Arthur Pickens, Stone Street

1910: Robert �Fred� Herbert, Donau

1911: George Archibald, Meridian

1921: Charles Thompson, Behave Yourself

*1935: William �Smokey� Saunders, Omaha

*1946: Warren Mehrtens, Assault

*1978: Steve Cauthen, Affirmed

1979: Ronnie Franklin, Spectacular Bid

2004: Stewart Elliott, Smarty Jones* Triple Crown winners And that goes double for Willie Simms.

Willie Simms rode in two Derbys, and won them both � aboard Ben Brush in 1896 and Plaudit in 1898. Simms is the only African-American rider to win all three races that became the Triple Crown. �He has beautiful hands and is especially quick and clever in an emergency,� The Thoroughbred Record said of Simms, who was elected to racing�s Hall of Fame in 1977.

The Earl of Derby came to the Kentucky Derby in 1930. The Duke of Windsor came in 1951. Other royalty has come and gone, outfitted with big hats and big titles. But the Derby has been host to just one Duke.

John Wayne�s all-American persona made him the logical � and emotional � choice for the 1976 Derby, when the country was awash in bicentennial bluster. Wayne was grand marshal of the Pegasus Parade, waving a 10-gallon hat at the crowd.

He was ensconced on the 25th floor of the Galt House, where he eschewed the local favorite, bourbon, for his own drink, tequila. Jack Guthrie, who was executive vice president of the Kentucky Derby Festival, accompanied Wayne around town. In �Derby Fever,� a 1995 book by racing historian Jim Bolus, Guthrie told about Wayne�s crowd-management style. In public, he wanted to be nice, but keep moving.

Guthrie recalled Wayne�s words: �I don�t mind meeting and talking to anybody, but I don�t like the crowds to form because we don�t have control of the situation.� Even in places where a man might reasonably expect privacy, the Duke still had some crowd control issues.

�When we�d go someplace and he�d go in the restroom, he�d go in the stall,� Guthrie told the author. �He�d never stand there at the urinal�. At times he would explain why he did something, and he said, �I�m sure you�ve noticed I don�t go up to the urinal. I go into the stall�.

Well, let me tell you, years and years ago, after people began to know who I was, on three different occasions I�d go up and I�d be standing there and somebody would look up to me and say, �My God, you�re John Wayne.� �

The author takes it from there: �Wayne proceeded to explain that, in these situations, the person noticing him would turn to his direction and � well, you get the picture. Needless to say, three such experiences �and several dry-cleaning bills � were enough to convince Wayne to head for the stall when he entered a restroom.�

Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown � the Derby, Preakness and Belmont. And only one inspired such scant faith in the betting public as Assault, who went off at 8-1 in the 1946 Derby. (Maybe it was his Texas roots; nobody could imagine a Texas horse winning the Derby. Or maybe not. Assault had never been favored in any race.) The entry of Lord Boswell, Knockdown and Perfect Barham was an odds-on favorite, but Assault brushed them aside and handily won over other horses whose names had been inspired by the war: Spy Song, Marine Victory and Wee Admiral. Assault�s 8-length victory matched the record held by three other horses, including 1941 Triple Crown champion Whirlaway.

There have been 26 U.S. presidents since 1875, when the Derby started. Only once did a sitting president appear, when Richard Nixon came in 1969. Candidate Nixon had come to the 1968 Derby as a guest of Gov. Louie Nunn, vowing to return if he won the White House. It was a campaign promise he kept.

At 91-1, Donerail was the longest shot ever to win the Derby, in 1913. But his victory created buzz, or whatever folks called it in those days, and the Derby was on its way to becoming the world�s premiere horse race. Donerail�s victory was so far off the charts that the next-closest winning long shot was Gallahadion, at 35-1, in 1940.

They changed the Derby distance to 1� miles in 1896. It took 12 years to set the enduring record for the slowest winning time � Stone Street�s 2:15 1/5 in 1908. He was three lengths faster, so to speak, than Sir Cleges. Stone Street�s record has stood for 97 years, and appears unassailable.

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