Nicknamed ‘The Run for the Roses’, due to the garland of red roses traditionally draped around the winning horse, the Kentucky Derby is the first leg of North American Triple Crown. Established in 1875, the race is run annually, on the first Saturday in May, over a mile and a quarter on dirt at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
The horse that still holds the record for the fastest winning time in the Kentucky Derby is Secretariat, who, in his three-year-old season, won the aforementioned Triple Crown. Bred and owned by Christopher Chenery and trained by Lucien Laurin, Secretariat was surprisingly beaten by stable companion Angle Light in his preparatory race for the Kentucky Derby, the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct in Queens, New York City, two weeks beforehand.
However, ‘Big Red’, as the horse was popularly known, was suffering from a mouth abscess on that occasion and, at Churchill Downs on May 5, 1973, any doubts about him were quickly dispelled. Sent off joint-favourite, alongside Angle Light, Secretariat was settled at the rear of the field by jockey Ron Turcotte, before taking closer order at the halfway stage. At the top of the home straight, Sham took over from the pace-setting Shecky Greene, but was soon challenged and passed by Secretariat, who took off down the outside to win by two and a half lengths, under just hands and heels riding. Our Native finished third, beaten a yawning eight lengths, and the winning time, 1:59.4, set a record that has now stood for a little over half a century.