They are the two most prestigious horse races in their respective countries. In the UK, the focus is on the Grand National which is a serious test of jumping and endurance.

Back in the United States, it’s all about the Kentucky Derby which is referred to as the most exciting two minutes in sports. They are memorable in their own right, but how do these great races compare?

A Boost for the Industry

Both the Grand National and the Kentucky Derby are major races in the calendar. Betting markets are published many months in advance and current Grand National odds show Corach Rambler as a clear favorite at 11/2. 2022 winner Noble Yeats is next at 8/1. The Kentucky Derby is the next major event on the calendar after this. As soon as Grand National 2023 results are in, attention will switch to Churchill Downs where Forte is the early favorite this year.

Rich Histories

The Grand National is one of the oldest organized events remaining on the sporting calendar. The first edition was held way back in 1839 and it’s been run mostly on an annual basis ever since. The Kentucky Derby can’t quite match its British counterpart, but it is one of the US’ oldest sports events. The first edition came along in 1875.

History is made by the runners and riders, and this is where the two meetings compare strongly. Over at the Grand National, three-time winner Red Rum became something of a national celebrity when he completed a unique hat trick in 1977 after previously winning in 1973 and 1974, as well as coming second in the intervening years.

Of the many horses to have won the Kentucky Derby, it’s tough to pick one that truly stands out. Secretariat may be the pick of the bunch and, as Red Rum won his first National in 1973, Secretariat set the fastest time for the Kentucky Derby at 1:59.40.
Fifty years later, that record still stands and that’s a testament to the US horse’s star quality.

Race Formats

Full House” by RNHurt

The nature of the race means that there will never be a multiple winner of the Kentucky Derby. The event is for three-year-old thoroughbreds, so the champion will not get a chance to defend their crown.

There is no such age restriction at the Grand National, but this isn’t the only difference in format. The National takes place over the jumps, while the Kentucky Derby is on the flat. The UK race is a lengthy test, over a distance of more than four miles, and it takes around ten minutes. The United States’ equivalent is a relative sprint, and it’s all done in just over two minutes.

The differences are many, but we can all agree that these are both exceptional races, and it’s worth putting both into the diary as they highlight the best of racing in completely contrasting ways.