Department of Travel
Kentucky, Derby and Thoroughbreds -- Facts Behind the Image

Press Release Date:  Wednesday, April 11, 2012  
Contact Information:  Bob Adams

FRANKFORT, Ky. – There’s only one Kentucky Derby. The world’s image of Kentucky is often of thoroughbreds grazing in white-fenced bluegrass pastures under the watchful eyes of owners, trainers and staff  -- with Derby aspirations on their minds. But what are some of the facts behind this image?

*The 138th Kentucky Derby will be run Saturday, May 5, at Louisville’s Churchill Downs, a thoroughbred racing venue since 1875. Its 2012 spring meet runs April 28-July 1 (no races generally on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays; exceptions are Derby week.)

*Each May, up to 20 3-year-old thoroughbreds answer the call to the post for the Kentucky Derby. The vast majority of these highly-trained horses are Kentucky-bred.
*They are the cream of the crop of more than 8,000 registered thoroughbred foals born every year in Kentucky, by far the leading state in the U.S. for producing this breed of horse.

*Kentucky accounts for about 30 percent of thoroughbreds foaled in the country, while Florida comes in a distant second with about 2,000 or 9 percent.

*There are about 450 thoroughbred farms in Kentucky, with the largest concentration found in the Bluegrass region around Lexington, Midway, Paris and Georgetown.

*Racing, the specialty of thoroughbreds, has been a favorite sport in Kentucky since it became the 15th U.S. state in 1792.
*According to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, Kentucky-bred horses have accounted for 76 percent of Kentucky Derby winners, 75 percent of Breeders’ Cup winners, and eight of the 11 winners of the Triple Crown.
*2012 marks the 76th spring meet at Lexington’s Keeneland Race Course, where racing is being held for 15 days from April 6-27 (no races Mondays or Tuesdays).

*When top thoroughbreds retire from the track, they often stand at stud on Kentucky farms. Fees to breed with top stallions range from $1,150 to as much as $150,000, depending on the sire’s lineage and racing history, according to the thoroughbred association.

*It’s easy to visit thoroughbred farms in the Bluegrass region. You can join in a group tour to several farms, customize your tour with the help of a private guide, or visit on your own (only with advance arrangements, though). The Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau website ( features listings of tour operators, guides and farms that admit individual visitors.

Even if you’re not bound for Churchill Downs, you can still get in the Derby spirit with your own party -- whether you prefer a traditional theme, something more modern or just good friends and family getting together for an afternoon of fun. The Derby is not just about horse racing. It's about the magic that makes the first Saturday in May unique in sports, fashion and style and how people come together to honor Southern traditions. Visit for ideas on how to celebrate Kentucky’s signature day.



The Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism is an agency within the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, which promotes the Commonwealth as a travel destination. Tourism in Kentucky has an economic impact of $11.3 billion, supports about 170,000 jobs and generates $1.2 billion in taxes.