Monday, June 17, 2024

How long is the Kentucky Derby? How many miles is the race at Churchill Downs?

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Editor’s note: Follow along for live coverage of the 150th Kentucky Derby.

They don’t call the 2024 Kentucky Derby “the most exciting two minutes in sports” for nothing. 

The 150th edition of the “Run for the Roses” is almost off to the races, but before we get the show on the road, just how long is the legendary racetrack at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky? We have your answer. 

The Kentucky Derby was first run in 1875 at 1 1/2 miles long or 12 furlongs, a commonly used metric in horse racing that’s equivalent to 660 feet each. The length was changed in 1896 to 1 1/4 miles (10 furlongs).

There have been only two horses in Kentucky Derby history that have completed that distance in less than two minutes – Secretariat, the eventual Triple Crown winner, recorded a final time of 1:59.4 in 1973 and Monarchos finished in 1:59.97 in 2001.

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Here’s everything to know about the length of the Kentucky Derby:

How many miles is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is 1 1/4 miles long, the equivalent of 2,200 yards.

How long does the Kentucky Derby last?

The Kentucky Derby is commonly referred to as the “most exciting two minutes in sports” because that’s normally how long it lasts. Since 2013, the average time for Kentucky Derby winners is 2:02.69, according to TwinSpires Horse Racing. Last year, Mage, the 2023 Kentucky Derby winner, finished in 2:01.57.

Is the Kentucky Derby a long race?

The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the Triple Crown, but it is not the longest race. The Belmont Stakes, held in June, is the longest of the three races at 1 1/2 mile, while the Preakness Stakes in mid-May is 1 3/16 mile long.

What are the fastest Kentucky Derby times?

Secretariat set the record for the fastest Kentucky Derby time in 1973 and it still stands five decades later. Here are the fastest Churchill Downs times in history, according to TwinSpires Horse Racing:

  1. 1973, Secretariat – 1:59.40
  2. 2001, Monarchos – 1:59.97
  3. 1964, Northern Dancer – 2:00.00
  4. 1985, Spend A Buck – 2:00.20
  5. 1962, Decidedly – 2:00.40
  6. 1967, Proud Clarion – 2:00.60
  7. 2020, Authentic – 2:00.61
  8. 1996, Grindstone – 2:01.06

Note: Medina Spirit had a time of 2:01.02 in 2021 but was later disqualified after testing positive in a post-race drug test.

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