The 142nd annual Run for the Roses, better known as the Kentucky Derby, took place this past weekend in Louisville, Kentucky. The race for 3-year-old Thoroughbred horses began in 1875 and takes place annually at Churchill Downs. Each year horses compete in 35 preliminary races for 1 of 20 coveted spots in the Derby.
Location of the Kentucky Derby, base map created in Surfer 13.
This year the win went to Nyquist, who is currently undefeated. Nyquist finished with an impressive time of 2:01.31, which is the 14th fastest finish of all time! The graph below shows the top 10 finishers of the Derby and the year of the race next to each bar. I found it interesting that there is no clear correlation of year and time. I was expecting to see a trend of faster times over the years as breeding and training have changed. But, this expectation did not fit the reality of the finish times. The race is commonly called “the most exciting two minutes in sports” and only 2 horses have ever finished in less than 2 minutes, and only 1 was in the last 20 years!
Ten fastest Derby finishes, created in Grapher 12.
Many great traditions come along with the Kentucky Derby, including eating a stew called burgoo and wearing lavish clothing and hats. The greatest tradition of all, however, may be the imbibing of the mint julep. The mint julep is a simple cocktail consisting of bourbon (native to Kentucky), mint, sugar, water, and crushed ice. For the Derby, it is traditionally served in a silver cup, and the water, sugar, and bourbon are combined in a ready-to-pour cocktail mix from Old Forester. Each year, Churchill Downs serves nearly 120,000 mint juleps to its attendees, and 2016 had the second highest number of attendees at 167,227 people. Just what does it take to serve up so many drinks? See the graph below.
Ingredients needed for mint juleps at Churchill Downs, step graph created in Grapher 12.
As a Southerner, the Run for the Roses is a big part of ringing in the spring! You can bet I enjoyed a mint julep while wearing my largest, most obnoxious hat this weekend! I hope you’ve also enjoyed this graphical look at the 2016 Kentucky Derby. We’ll have to wait another month to see if Nyquist is able to remain undefeated at Belmont and Preakness to take the Triple Crown!
If you aren’t a horse racing enthusiast, you can still have fun around race time. As you may know, race horses have some interesting names. Nyquist, Exaggerator, and Gun Runner were the top three horses at the Kentucky Derby this year. Continue the Derby spirit, and find out what your derby horse name is here, courtesy of The Des Moines Register! (Mine was Buttermilk Blur!)
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