The Kentucky Derby /ˈdɜːrbi/ is a horse race that is held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, United States, on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The race is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles (2.0 km) at Churchill Downs. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds (57 kilograms) and fillies 121 pounds (55 kilograms).
The race is often called “The Run for the Roses” because of the blanket of roses draped over the winner. It is also known in the United States as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports” or “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” in reference to its approximate duration. It is the first leg of the American Triple Crown and is followed by the Preakness Stakes, then the Belmont Stakes. Unlike the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, which took hiatuses in 1891–1893 and 1911–1912, respectively, the Kentucky Derby has been run every consecutive year since 1875. The Derby, Preakness, and Belmont all were run even every year throughout the Great Depression and both World Wars (when the Olympics and nearly all professional sports seasons were canceled).
A horse must win all three races to win the Triple Crown. In the 2015 listing of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), the Kentucky Derby tied with the Whitney Handicap as the top Grade 1 race in the United States outside the Breeders’ Cup races.
The attendance at the Kentucky Derby ranks first in North America and usually surpasses the attendance of all other stakes races including the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and the Breeders’ Cup.