Everything You Need to Know About the 142nd Kentucky Derby

Exercise rider Jonny Garcia works Kentucky Derby hopeful Nyquist during workouts in advance of the 2016 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Jamie Rhodes/USA Today/Reuters

Welcome to the 142nd Kentucky Derby. Welcome to an extremely rare iteration of the Run for the Roses in which the hangover precedes the race. Mint juleps usually do in the partisans at Churchill Downs, but this year's morning-after stupor comes courtesy of American Pharoah.

Last spring, the then 3-year-old ended a 37-year Triple Crown drought, providing a sorely needed (and legal) injection of enthusiasm into the sport of kings. American Pharoah won the hotly contested Derby by a length, then easily won the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes by seven and five-and-a-half lengths, respectively. Now living the good life in retirement at a stud farm in Kentucky, American Pharoah will be remembered as the colt who ended the longest Triple Crown famine in thoroughbred racing, and also for being hell on autocorrect.

Now what? Here are a few questions and facts to swap as you and your friends Google "How To Make a Mint Julep."

How many horses are in the field?

Churchill Downs accepted 22 entries for Saturday's 1 ¼ mile race, but two horses scratched. Post time is 6:34 p.m., and the event will be televised by NBC.

Who's the favorite?

That would be Nyquist, currently getting 3 to 1 odds, which is about what American Pharoah was laying last year on the first Saturday in May. Named in honor of Detroit Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist, the colt is owned by Detroit native Paul Reddam, who bought him last spring for $400,000. Reddam is a die-hard Wings fan who was in the locker room the night the Wings clinched the 2002 Stanley Cup.

Reddam offered Nyquist—the skater, not the galloper—two tickets in his private box to watch the race, but Nyquist declined: he is in Russia playing for his native Sweden in the World Championship. In place of the Detroit forward, Reddam has arranged to have the Stanley Cup pay a visit to the colt's stall before the race.

Nyquist is undefeated in seven races and has already earned $3.3 million in purses. He will be starting in 13th position.

Who's the least favorite?

The longest odds belong to Trojan Nation, a 50-to-1 shot who is starting on the rail.

Women in traditional derby hats line up before the 2016 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Jamie Rhodes/USA Today/Reuters

Who's your daddy?
That would be the misleadingly named Uncle Mo, who has sired three of the entrants in the Derby: the aforementioned Nyquist as well as Outwork, a 15-to-1 shot who is starting in 15th position, and Mo Tom, a 20-to-1 shot in fourth position. Uncle Mo was quite the champion himself, winning all three of his races as a two-year-old in 2011 by more than 10 lengths. Illness forced his owner, Mike Repole (the founder of Vitamin Water), to shut him down before he had his shot at the Derby.

Uncle Mo is not the only proud papa at the Derby. Tapit, a ghost-white stallion who commands the highest stud fee in the United States, $300,000, also has sired three of the day's entrants: Creator (10 to 1), Lani (30 to 1) and Mohaymen (10 to 1). All three colts have gray coats. A fourth gray colt, Destin, not from Tapit, is also entered. The last time that many grays, or roans, have run in the Derby was 2001, and the last time a gray won was 2005, when Giacomo did so. Giacomo entered the chute as a 50-to-1 longshot, the longest odds ever overcome by a Derby winner in the Triple Crown era (tied with Mine That Bird in 2009). In 1913 Donerail won the race as a 91-1 shot.

Who are the most renowned horses to not win the Kentucky Derby?

Begin with Man o' War, who in 1920 set a course record at the Preakness and then won the Belmont by 20 lengths. Man o' War was denied the Triple Crown, an appellation the trio of races would not gain for another 10 years, because his owner, Samuel D. Riddle, did not enter him in the Derby. Riddle did not like racing in Kentucky and also was not in favor of three-year-olds racing that mile and one-quarter distance that early in the season.

Other renowned thoroughbreds who never entered the Derby are Seabiscuit, who did not come to prominence until he was a five-year-old in 1938, and Ruffian, the great filly who died in 1975. Ruffian never lost a race and was leading that year's Derby winner, Foolish Pleasure, in a match race at Belmont Park in July when she snapped two bones in her right forelimb and had to be euthanized.

What is the purse?

A minimum of $2 million will be distributed, beginning with $1.24 million to the winner. The second-place finisher receives $400,000, the third-place finisher $200,000 and the fourth-place horse $100,000. The lowest payout, to the fifth horse, is $60,000.

How much will be wagered? Last year's Derby drew a record $137.9 million in legal wagers, with countless millions more passing hands via other channels.

Is there a Triple Crown winner in this field?

Possibly. Nyquist is the overwhelming favorite. It's also worth remembering that the Triple Crown winner that preceded American Pharoah, Affirmed in 1978, repeated the feat after Seattle Slew had done so in 1977.

About the writer

John Walters is a writer and author, primarily of sports. He worked at Sports Illustrated for 15 years, and also at NBC Sports where he won two Sports Emmys for his on-air writing at the Athens and Beijing Olympics. He has also worked at AOL Fanhouse and The Daily, as well as waited at a popular Manhattan steakhouse. Walters is the author of The Same River Twice: A Season With Geno Auriemma and the Connecticut Huskies. He is the founder of mediumhappy.com, a pop culture blog that he updates daily. He holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame, where he studied pre-med and rowed crew.

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