Horse racing in general, and the Kentucky Derby in particular, is chalk full of terms and phrases that will likely be unfamiliar to the uninitiated. Thankfully, you need not be an expert to enjoy the Kentucky Derby. Learning just a handful of important Kentucky Derby vocabulary words is really all you need to enjoy a fun and profitable Kentucky Derby day.
Triple Crown—The Kentucky Derby is the first leg in a series of three races that makes up the Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby is followed two weeks later by the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland and concludes three weeks after that with the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in New York. Only 11 horses in history have managed to sweep all three races. The first was Sir Barton in 1919 and the last was Affirmed in 1978.
Run for the Roses—This is one of many nicknames that are often applied to the Kentucky Derby. It refers to the blanket of roses that is draped over the winning horse immediately following the race. The rose garland was first presented to Ben Brush, the 1896 Kentucky Derby winner. According to Churchill Downs, more than 400 roses are hand sewn into the garland each year.
Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports—The Kentucky Derby gained this nickname because it usually takes the winner around two minutes to complete the 1 1/4-trip around the Churchill Downs oval. Only two horses in the history of the Kentucky Derby have ever cracked the two-minute barrier. The legendary Secretariat won the 1973 Kentucky Derby in a time of 1:59.43; and Monarchos, the 2001 Kentucky Derby winner, sped to the wire in 1:59.97.
Graded Stakes—Horses hoping to reach the Kentucky Derby starting gate must first earn enough money in graded stakes races, which are horse racing's most prestigious and important races. Only 20 horses are allowed to compete in the Kentucky Derby and if more than that enters, the horses with the most earnings in graded stakes races get in.
Across the Board—This is a betting term that refers to betting on a single horse to win, place (finish second) and show (finish third). This can be a solid betting strategy for a race like the Kentucky Derby. Horses in the Kentucky Derby are all very accomplished, but because of the large field some will be ignored and their odds will float up. If you make an “across the board” bet on one of these types and they come in second or third you'll still make money. If the horse wins, you'll collect on all three of the bets.
This is just a small sampling of terms that will help increase your Kentucky Derby vocabulary and overall enjoyment of America's greatest horse race. Of course, there is much more to learn and we'll have you covered between now and the 2012 Kentucky Derby.