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Kentucky Derby versus the Grand National Horserace

Taking place on the first weekend in May each year the Kentucky Derby is one of the most famous horse races in the world, taking place at Churchill Downs race track annually. Similar to the Kentucky Derby, the Grand National offers live horse racing viewing annually at the Aintree Racecourse every April. These two competitions have their differences including in the distance, type of races and weight. One significant difference is the betting favorites. The Kentucky Derby favorites have done quite well in recent years, but less than 10 favorites have won the Grand National horse race since World War II. 


Racecourse Distance & Competing Horses

Starting from their distance; the Grand National is much longer, to be more specific it is 2 ¾ miles longer than the Kentucky Derby (1 ¼ miles). Many American horse racing lovers consider the Kentucky Derby as “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” as it lasts around two minutes. Another difference between them is the number of horses competing in the race; the Grand National race has double the horses as the Kentucky Derby, which has just 20 competing horses. These horse races also differ on the age of the horse; while the Grand National only allows horses over the age of 7 years old, the Kentucky Derby qualifies horses as young as 3 years old. 


Race Track Location & History

The Grand National is held at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England (which if you’re interested in learning more about you can do so here: Whereas the Kentucky Derby is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. Both races are very old but the Grand National predates the Kentucky Derby by over 30 years. Neither of the races has ever been canceled but in 1993 the results of the Grand National were declared void because of two false starts and protests. Probably, the most recognizable tradition for both events which has been followed from the start is the headwear for the ladies. In the beginning, the ladies were encouraged to wear their extravagant headwear to show their wealth and class but now it’s more of a fashion statement that fascinates many people. Another tradition at the Kentucky Derby ever since 1875 has been the traditional command of ‘Riders Up!’ from the Paddock Judge for jockeys to mount their horses before a race. 


Winning Stats

Starting with the Grand National only one horse was ever able to win the Grand National 3 times in 1973, 1974 and 1977. In the Kentucky Derby, one horse (Secretariat) was able to complete the 1 ¼ mile course in 1:59:40 and still holds this record to date. 

The Triple Crown is a series of 3 horse races and is considered one of the most difficult accomplishments in horse racing. As of May 2020, only 13 horses have taken the Triple Crown victory, one of which was Secretariat. 

The most won races by jockeys were George Stevens (Grand National jockey), Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack (both Kentucky Derby jockeys) of 5 races each. 


Prizes of Horse Racing

There is a massive prize to be won at both horse races. At the Kentucky Derby, the winner takes home around $1.86 million and 10% goes to the jockey. While the Grand National prize is lower, the winner still takes home around $1.25 million home. 

Over £300,000,000 was wagered on the Grand National race in 2019. The Kentucky Derby hit a record in 2019 with $165.5 million being wagered, which was up 10% from 2018. 


Similarities Between Kentucky Derby and Grand National

Despite being on the opposite ends of the pond these two horse races still have some similarities between them. This includes the attire racegoers wear to the traditions that they both celebrate. 

Many people enjoy watching these amazing horse races all around the world. The Grand National has been broadcast live for free since 1960 in the UK, where an estimated 500 to 600 million people watch the Grand National in over 140 countries. Even though there are much fewer viewers of the Kentucky Derby its popularity has been growing with 6 million viewers, more than in the previous years. Both horse races have similar attendance numbers at the race track of around 150,000 people each year. Many spectators also enjoy both horse races from home, pubs and cafes. 

No matter where you are in the world both the Grand National and the Kentucky Derby are fantastic races to be enjoyed and watched by any horse racing lover. Horse racing is one of the most exhilarating sports to watch especially when the horses are getting closer to that finish line where betting tickets are either thrown down or clutched happily in wagerers’ hands. The atmosphere at these events is astronomical where you could celebrate and spend your time with family and friends. These events have been occurring annually for quite a few years, so it has become a long-standing tradition for horse racing lovers to watch it every year and make a holiday of the races!


Tours & Events Around the Kentucky Derby offered by Mint Julep Experiences

As a full-service tourism and destination management company based in Louisville, Mint Julep Experiences combines deep expertise, long-term partnerships and complete hospitality services to help you experience the richness of Kentucky culture, especially during the Kentucky Derby.

Leading up to the Kentucky Derby, Mint Julep offers public Derby week tours and custom tours through Bourbon Country and Horse Country. Guests can also celebrate Derby with social Derby events the Thursday before the race (aka Thurby) and a social event the eve of the horse race.

Kentucky Derby Museum
Kentucky Bourbon Trail Bourbon Tasting
Group Dressed for Kentucky Derby Horserace