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Show some horse sense with a Derby quiz

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The 140th Kentucky Derby happens on Saturday, May 3, 2014, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Though millions of people have seen it in person or on TV and millions more have bet on the outcome, most of them don’t know as much as they think about America’s most famous horse race or the festivities associated with it.

Below is a ten question True or False test to measure your knowledge about Saturday’s “Run for the Roses.” The correct answers appear in the list that follows.

  1. True or False? Though the first televised baseball game occurred in 1939, the Kentucky Derby wasn’t televised until 1952.
  2. True or False? America’s Kentucky Derby was modeled upon England’s Epsom Derby named for the Earl of Derby who won naming rights after a game of bridge at the Epsom Downs Jockey Club.
  3. True or False? The Kentucky Derby has always been run on the first Saturday in May.
  4. True or False? The length of the race has always been one and one-quarter miles.
  5. True or False? California Chrome is the early favorite to win Saturday’s race. Favorites have won the race over 35 per cent of the time.
  6. True or False? The fastest time for the Derby was Northern Dancer’s in 1974 at two minutes flat.
  7. True or False? The alcoholic drink traditionally associated with the Kentucky Derby is a Bloody Mary.
  8. True or False? The nickname for the general admission tickets in the racetrack infield is called “Millionaires’ Row.
  9. True or False? There has never been a disqualification for rough riding in the Kentucky Derby.
  10. True or False? “Gonzo journalism” originated with Hunter Thompson’s coverage of the 1970 Kentucky Derby.
  11. (Bonus Question: True or False? Calvin Borel is the jockey who has won the most Kentucky Derbies.)

Knowing the answers to such trivia may not help to select the winner of this year’s race, but it they might help in regaining equanimity after your betting choice loses in one of America’s most famous sporting events. The Derby’s popularity may have diminished somewhat like the World Series or the Heavyweight Boxing championship, but it still lives up to its billing as "The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports"

140th running of the Kentucky Derby
140th running of the Kentucky Derby kentuckyderby.com

140th running of the Kentucky Derby

1. True. Though other sports, especially major league baseball, had been televised since the late 1930s, 1952 marked the first time that the Kentucky Derby was televised. Viewers witnessed the favorite, Calumet Farms Hill Gail, win by two lengths, but an injury during the race kept him out of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. 

The 12th Earl of Derby
The 12th Earl of Derby wikipedia

The 12th Earl of Derby

2. False. The Kentucky Derby was modeled after England's Epsom Derby which was named for the Earl of Derby. Legend has it that he won naming rights from the Jockey Club Secretary Earl of Bunbury after a coin flip. 

Twin spires of Churchill Downs race track
Twin spires of Churchill Downs race track Al Bello/Getty Images

Twin spires of Churchill Downs race track

3. False. Prior to 1931 the Kentucky Derby was run in mid-May. In fact, the Preakness and Belmont were run before the Derby eleven different times and, on two occasions, the Preakness and Derby were run on the same day. Only with the excitement generated by Gallant Fox's run in all three races did sportswriter Charles Hatton coin the term "Triple Crown" which prompted the three races to be run in their current sequence.  

Seattle Slew's Triple Crown trophy
Seattle Slew's Triple Crown trophy wikipedia

Seattle Slew's Triple Crown trophy

4. False. Modeled after England's Epsom Derby, the Kentucky Derby was originally run at one and one-half miles (2.4 kilometers). In 1896 the length of the race was changed to its current distance of one and one-quarter miles (2.0 kilometers).  

2014 pre-Derby favorite, California Chrome
2014 pre-Derby favorite, California Chrome Rob Carr/Getty Images

2014 pre-Derby favorite, California Chrome

5. True. Favorites have won the Derby over 35 per cent of the time. According to kentuckyderby.ag, the bettors' favorite won almost half the time (48 out of 105 races) from the race's inception in 1875 to 1979. Since then, with many more eligible foals born each year, favorites have won just five of the 34 Derbies run (roughly 15%). 

Secretariat at Claiborne Farm
Secretariat at Claiborne Farm wikipedia

Secretariat at Claiborne Farm

6. False. Northern Dancer's time of two minutes flat in 1974 broke Decidedly's record by two-fifths of a second set two years earlier. Secretariat broke two minutes for the first time in 1973 on his way to winning the Derby and the Triple Crown. The only other horse to break two minutes was Secretariat's rival, Sham, in the same race. 

Mint julep in a silver cup
Mint julep in a silver cup wikipedia

Mint julep in a silver cup

7. False. The mint julep, a concoction of mint leaf, bourbon, sugar, and water, was a drinking staple of Southern society introduced into Washington, D.C. by Kentucky senator Henry Clay. Since 1938 it has been associated with the Kentucky Derby where it is served in specially made Derby glasses. 

VIP suite in Millionaires' Row
VIP suite in Millionaires' Row Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

VIP suite in Millionaires' Row

8. False. Millionaires' Row is a series of suites in the Grandstand of Churchill Downs reserved for wealthy race attendees. During Derby week, the infield is reserved for the antics of general admission customers.

1932 'Fighting Finish' Derby
1932 'Fighting Finish' Derby examiner.com

1932 'Fighting Finish' Derby

9. True. There has never been a disqualification for rough riding during the entire history of the Kentucky Derby. In 1968 Forward Pass was awarded the victory when Dancer's Image was disqualified for traces of phenylbutazone found in his system in the post-race analysis. This photo of Head Play (left) and Broker's Tip (right) in the 1933 Derby reveals the "Fighting Finish" between jockeys that could have disqualified Broker's Tip from winning the race. 

Hunter S. Thompson
Hunter S. Thompson wikipedia

Hunter S. Thompson

10. True. The term "Gonzo" was given to Hunter Thompson's piece on the 1970 Kentucky Derby, "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved" by Boston Globe Sunday magazine editor Bill Cardoso. Thompson's piece describes in first-person the celebration and depravity that surrounded the race.

Calvin Borel
Calvin Borel Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Calvin Borel

Bonus. False. Calvin Borel has the distinction of having won three of the four Derbies run from 2007 to 2010. Jockeys Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack have the distinction of winning the most Derbies (five) during their racing careers.

Scoring:

0-2 correct: Don't take any wooden betting tickets.

3-4 correct: Eligible for infield activities but not Grade I stakes

5-6 correct: Can pick out Chris Schenkle and Jim McKay in an announcer's lineup

7-8 correct: Have any inside tips for this year's Derby?

9+ correct: Take your seat on Millionaire's Row  

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