• Annie Lovelock

Beginner's Guide to the Kentucky Derby [Green Sheet Racing]

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What Is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is the most-watched horse race of the year and is the first of the American Triple Crown races. The Derby itself dates back to the 1870s, while the Triple Crown was first officially launched in 1930. Winning the Triple Crown is one of the most prestigious accomplishments any racer can earn — to date, only thirteen horses have done so.

The Kentucky Derby is known for more than just racing — every year, spectators gather at parties and galas to showcase their spectacular hats and southern fashion. Several traditions have evolved around the race; for instance, mint juleps are the traditional beverage of choice during the Derby weekend.

The mint julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby since 1939.

Where Is the Kentucky Derby?

Each year, the Kentucky Derby is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It typically attracts upwards of 150,000 visitors to Louisville as racing enthusiasts gather to watch the race live.

When Is the Kentucky Derby 2022?

The Kentucky Derby is held on the first Saturday of May, with the 2022 derby being held on Saturday, May 7th. The festivities aren’t just limited to the day of the Derby — on Friday, May 6th, the running of the Kentucky Oaks will take place. This race of 3-year-old fillies attracts large crowds and the race organizers will partner with a charity to raise money for breast and ovarian cancer awareness (spectators traditionally wear pink in honor of the cause), making it an exciting and impactful way to kick off the weekend.

Prior to the race, owners and trainers participate in a “walkover” from the barns to the Churchill Downs paddock, showing off their competitors to fans. Photo by Bill Brine.

How Many Horses are in the Kentucky Derby?

The only horses eligible for the race are three-year-old thoroughbreds, meaning every Derby represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for each racer on the track. Only twenty horses get a spot at the Derby’s opening gate each year, making it a highly competitive qualification process.

Derby hopefuls participate in a series of 35 preparation races known as The Road to the Kentucky Derby. During each race, horses earn Derby points based on their performance. Once all races in the Road have finished, the top twenty point earners are offered a spot in the Kentucky Derby. The only exception to this is in the event of a withdrawal, at which point the following four horses in the point standings are eligible to enter in order of their ranking.

Fashion is a big part of Kentucky Derby weekend, with spectators going all-out with intricate hats. The Green Sheet Racing team is no exception!

How Many Laps are in the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is a 1.25-mile race held on a one-mile-long dirt track, meaning the race itself is roughly one and quarter laps in distance.

The Kentucky Derby is often called the Run for the Roses, as each year, the first-place finisher is given a garland of red roses in the winner’s circle. Photo by Bill Brine.

What to Expect at This Year’s Kentucky Derby

Lots of fun! The Kentucky Derby is the biggest horse racing event of the year, filled with music, get-togethers, unique fashion and passionate bettors. You can follow this year’s Derby hopefuls on their journey down The Road to the Kentucky Derby on our points leaderboard.


Betting on the Kentucky Derby is one of the most exciting aspects of horse racing, as the event attracts more wagers than any other race of the year — meaning that you have a chance to win big. If you want the best possible chance of earning a major payout at this year’s Kentucky Derby, Green Sheet Racing's expert handicappers have the strategy and insights you'll need to take your betting to the next level.