Five interesting, lesser known facts about the Kentucky Derby - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Five interesting, lesser known facts about the Kentucky Derby

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- We all know the Derby started in 1875 and American Pharoah is the latest Triple Crown winner.

Candyce Clifft found some lesser-known fun facts to impress your Derby guests.

Number one: The winning trophy had an important makeover in 1999. The winner's gold cup trophy from 1925 is on display at the Kentucky Derby Museum. But if you look closely, you'll see the horseshoe is pointed down. "The trophy stayed that way until 1999 when they turned the tines up. and, the reason they did that is that horseman's lore says a horseshoe with tines turned down makes the luck run out," said Chris Goodlett, Curator of Collections. One more note about the trophy--the very first gold cup, from 1924, was stolen and never recovered.

Fact number two: The infield has supported American wars. In 1918, potatoes were grown in the infield to support World War One. In the 1940s, during World War II, Sherman tanks were tested at Churchill Downs while soldiers from Ft. Knox stayed in green tents in the infield.

Fact number three: The electric starting gate was first used at CD in 1940, and the original is in the Kentucky Derby Museum. It was pulled by mules and later draft horses, but that was before tractors became and option in 1950. Before that, a flag, a drum, and a whip were all used to start the races.

Fact number four: The photo finish was introduced in 1936. That took human error out of the equation. Before that, judges determined the race, and bettors were sometimes not happy with the outcome.

Fact number five: In 1875, when the first Derby was run, the grandstand was on the backside where the track kitchen now sits. "It took them 20 years, but they finally realized they were looking into the sun and were down wind of the stables. So that's when they decided to move over here and the twin spires were built in 1895," according to museum tour guide Barry Northern.

And your last fun fact: Legend holds the Derby got its name from a coin flip. In the late 1700s in England, the Earl of Derby hosted a race for three-year-old colts. He and his guest, Sir Charles Bunbury, flipped a coin to decide the name of the race. If the Earl of Derby had won the coin flip, we might be looking at the Kentucky Bunbury.

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