The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby is happening this Saturday at Churchill Downs.  The Derby bills itself as “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.”  (Which was a less controversial claim back in the 1800s.)  So YOU get my vacation slides! I was there last week. It was amazing. 

Here are FIVE things to know about this year’s race . . .

1.  Winnings:  The purse for the Derby was just raised to $3 million this year.  That’s up from $2 million, which had been the overall prize since 2005.  From 1996 and 2004, it was $1 million.

The winner receives $1.86 million.  The runner-up will earn $600,000, with third place worth $300,000, fourth place $150,000, and fifth place $90,000.  The winning jockey usually gets 10%, but the runners-up only get 5%.

The losing jockeys get PEANUTS . . . the ones that finish outside of the Top Five receive just “a couple of hundred dollars apiece.”

The second and third legs of the Triple Crown . . . the Preakness and Belmont Stakes . . . both offer total purses of $1.5 million.  The Preakness is happening on Saturday, May 19th, followed by the Belmont Stakes on June 8th.

2.  Favorites:  The Kentucky Derby post positions were announced yesterday.  Omaha Beach has the best odds at 4-to-1. Game Winner is close behind at 5-to-1, followed by Improbable and Roadster, both at 6-to-1.

3.  Jockeys:  Mike Smith (Those are Mike’s boots in the photo) is riding Omaha Beach . . . and if he wins, it’ll be his second straight.  He was won last year with Justify.  And they actually won the Triple Crown (last year’s trophy in photo), by also taking the Preakness and the Belmont.

It was the 13th Triple Crown in history . . . and only the 2nd in 40 years. I couldn’t believe it when they wheeled it right by me during my visit!

If Smith wins with Omaha Beach, it’ll be his third Kentucky Derby win, and he’ll become the seventh jockey to win in back-to-back years.  In addition to last year, his other win was back in 2005.

4.  Atmosphere:  The Derby attracts up to 160,000 fans to Churchill Downs . . . which is a far cry from the 10,000 spectators in attendance at the first race in 1875 when Aristides won.  This year’s race will air on NBC at 5:50 P.M. These stands will be packed!

The Kentucky Derby has been held at the SAME venue since that year, making it the nation’s longest continuously held sports event.  It also draws around 19 million television viewers.  Which is up from ZERO TV viewers in 1875. LOL!

This year, there’s rain in the forecast, so it’ll probably be a sloppy track, like last year.

5.  Betting:  Last year, $225.7 million was wagered on the horses around the country, which was up about 8% from the year before.  (For more on each horse, you can find a study guide at KentuckyDerby.com.)