2019 Kentucky Derby: Mint juleps, the race's history with Churchill Downs and its recent winners

One of the most anticipated sporting events of the year is here.

Even if you've never tuned in to watch the Kentucky Derby, you've probably heard of the race. And even if you have tuned in, you might not be familiar with all the details and history of the event. When did it start? Was it always so popular with celebrities? What's up with those mint juleps? And who are the best horses and trainers of recent memory?

Who is going to finish first at the Kentucky Derby? Will any long shots hit the board? Visit SportsLine now to get Jody Demling's Kentucky Derby winner, see which huge long shot contends, and get the finish positions for every single horse, all from the man who's nailed 9 Derby-Oaks doubles.

We're glad you asked, because we've got everything you need to know right here:

What is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is an annual horse race held on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. But it's not just any horse race. It's one of the longest-running events in American sports and the first leg of the American Triple Crown, a three-race schedule for three-year-old Thoroughbred horses, or horses bred for racing. It's also a Grade I stakes race, meaning it's on the highest level of North American competition. Often referred to as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" because of its one-and-a-quarter-mile distance, the Derby is also one of the most well-attended sporting events, drawing celebrity guests before and during the day's final race.

When did the Kentucky Derby start?

A long time ago! To be precise, the Derby began in 1875, and it's been run every year since, making it the longest continuous Triple Crown race -- ahead of the Preakness Stakes (third Saturday of May) and Belmont Stakes (first or second Saturday in June).

Who started the Kentucky Derby?

Some records indicate that horse racing was popularized as a sport all the way back in the 16th century, but it came to America by way of the British, who held their first-ever annual race, the four-mile Kiplingcotes Derby, in March of 1519. Told you this stuff started a long time ago! The first annual Derby started taking shape around 1872, when the grandson of William Clark (the Clark of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition) took inspiration from France's French Jockey Club and England's Epsom Derby, a three-year-old Thoroughbred race dating back to the 1700s, to organize the Louisville Jockey Club in his home state of Kentucky. With land donated from John and Henry Churchill, whose names are now commemorated through the Derby's famous Churchill Downs track, Clark gathered a field of 15 horses for the first-ever race in 1875.

Why is the Kentucky Derby so popular?

Well, for one, it's essentially the Super Bowl of horse racing, at least in terms of spotlight. And since it's a Grade I stakes event as well as the kickoff of the Triple Crown, it features "hot-blooded, high-spirited" horses that are bred, raised and trained specifically for intense racing. That's mostly why the Derby, much like other major sporting events, attracts both an unmatched betting crowd and an audience chock-full of celebrities, many of whom carry on the Derby tradition of sporting luxurious outfits and/or elaborate hats.

Has anything changed since the first Kentucky Derby?

While the location of the Derby has stayed the same, the first 21 races were actually conducted on a one-and-a-half-mile track. It wasn't until 1896 that the current distance (1.25 miles, or 2 kilometers) was implemented. Otherwise, the race is still held at Churchill Downs in Louisville on the first Saturday of every May. A tradition of draping a blanket of roses over the winning horse remains in effect. And crowds are still pouring in with fancy attire.

Who's won the Kentucky Derby?

The complete list of all 144 Derby winners can be found on the Kentucky Derby's official website, but here's the last five horses to take the Run for the Roses:

2018: Justify (2:04.20), trained by Bob Baffert
2017: Always Dreaming (2:03.59), trained by Todd Pletcher
2016: Nyquist (2:01.31), trained by Doug F. O'Neill
2015: American Pharoah (2:03.02), trained by Bob Baffert
2014: California Chrome (2:03.66), trained by Art Sherman

What is the mint julep?

We thought you'd never ask! The drink itself is a cocktail mixture containing bourbon, sugar, crushed or shaved ice and fresh mint. But it's more so a Kentucky Derby staple than it is your everyday mixed beverage. According to Town and Country Magazine, Kentucky senator Henry Clay introduced the mint julep to Washington, D.C. in 1850, and by 1938, it was the official drink of the Derby. Since then, the Derby has contracted various vendors to provide the drink, offering specially made cups and glasses to go along with the famous mixture, with as many as 120,000 served each year over the two-day period of the Kentucky Oaks and Derby. 

How do I learn more about the 2019 Kentucky Derby?

Keep it locked right here at CBS Sports to get more on this year's Kentucky Derby, which will be held on May 4 with a projected post time of 6:50 p.m. ET. We've got race-day weather forecasts, top-20 horse odds, expert predictions and a whole lot more leading up to live coverage of Saturday's big race.

CBS Sports Writer

Cody Benjamin joined CBS Sports in 2017 after time spent with SB Nation, various newspapers and his own Eagles outlet. Raised around the Philly sports scene, he now lives in Minnesota with his wife and... Full Bio

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