-- Since its inception in 1875, the Kentucky Derby has played witness to some of horse racing's greatest triumphs and ultimate downfalls.
On Saturday, Churchill Downs will host the 142nd "Run for the Roses."
One year ago, American Pharoah exhilarated the sports world, becoming horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. This year, all eyes are on a new competitor, Nyquist.
The 3-year-old colt is the race's top contender and a potential successor to American Pharoah’s famed sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
The Kentucky Derby breeds a level of competition that owners, trainers, jockeys and spectators meticulously prepare for and anxiously await all year. American Pharoah's historic run, and the 12 other races at Churchill Downs that day, set a gambling record in 2015, bringing in a record-breaking $194.3 million in total wagers at tracks and off-track betting outlets last year, including a record $137.9 million on the Kentucky Derby alone.
Nyquist has 3-to-1 odds heading into Saturday’s race as the only undefeated champion in the field. His 7-0 record has earned the colt more than $3.3 million.
Nyquist's owners Paul and Zillah Reddam, trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez have their sights set on the winner’s circle at the famed 1¼ mile track. If they find themselves adorned with the garland of red roses, they will take home an estimated $1.24 million. But ESPN reporter Darren Rovell believes you can’t put a price on winning this race.
“If you win the Kentucky Derby, if you win these races it’s been about a stallion career and that is still the true financial prize,” said Rovell.
Another horse aiming to become racing royalty this weekend is 3-year-old Exaggerator. With 4 wins out of 9 races, Exaggerator is still hot on Nyquist's hooves with 8-to-1 odds.
The race may only last 2 minutes, but it is an all-weekend event for spectators. Last year’s crowd for Friday's Kentucky Oaks and Saturday's Derby celebrated with 49,000 derby pies, 5,000 liters of bourbon and 127,000 mint juleps over the Derby weekend, according to the Kentucky Derby's calculations.
For a sport by the numbers, this year’s event is sure to draw more staggering statistics straight out of the gates.