Despite all the excitement of Derby Day, the race usually isn't close. Alysheba won by only three-quarters of a length over Bet Twice last year, but there hasn't been a photo finish in the Derby since Majestic Prince beat Arts and Letters by a neck in 1969.
Of course, you could say a muddy track and a photo finish are both overdue. So is a winning favorite. The last eight public choices have failed. The last winning favorite was Spectacular Bid, $3.20 in 1979.
The other Triple Crown races are the Preakness, to be run May 21 at Pimlico, and the Belmont Stakes, June 11 at Belmont Park.
Here are some other facts and figures about the Derby that you knew but probably forgot:
* A crowd estimated at 10,000 saw Aristides win the first Derby in 1875 and collect a purse of $2,850. The 13 male starters each carried 100 pounds; the two fillies each carried 97 pounds, and finished 10th and 15th. The distance was 1 1/2 miles, modeled after the original Epsom Derby in England.
* The Derby distance was shortened to 1 1/4 miles in 1896 on the theory that the original distance was too far for 3-year-olds to run so early in the year.
* The weight was changed to 126 pounds in 1920, for reasons no one seems to remember.
* The Derby is run on the first Saturday in May, with the Kentucky Oaks, the filly counterpart, on the preceding Friday. The Oaks is open only to 3- year-old fillies, but fillies not only can race against colts and geldings in the Derby, but get a 5-pound weight concession.
* Thirty-four fillies have run in the Derby. Only two have won - Regret (1915) and Genuine Risk (1980) - but that's not really a bad percentage considering how many colts and geldings have run.
* Seven geldings and 104 colts have won, but the last gelding to win was Clyde Van Dusen in 1929. Geldings were barred from the Derby for many years.
* Man o'War never ran in the Derby. The Derby wasn't such a big deal in 1920, and Man o'War made his first start of the year in the Preakness.
* Donerail paid $184.90 to win in 1913, still the longest price in Derby history.
* D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of the sensational filly and Derby co-favorite Winning Colors, has topped the national standings in stable earnings for the last five years, but he is 0 for 12 in the Derby. His best finish was with Partee, third in 1981, his first starter. He hasn't finished in the money since.
* Woman trainers in the Derby: Dianne Carpenter (Kingpost) would be the first to saddle two Derby horses; she finished 12th with Biloxi Indian in 1984. Other woman trainers: Mary Hirsch, 13th with No Sir in 1937; Mrs. Albert Roth, 13th with Senecas Coin in 1949; Mary Keim, sixth with Mr. Pak in 1965; Patti Johnson, fourth with Fast Account, 1985.
* Woman jockeys: Diane Crump, 15th with Fathom in 1970; Patti Cooksie, 11th with So Vague, 1984.
* John Longden rode Triple Crown winner Count Fleet in 1943 and trained 1969 Derby winner Majestic Prince. He is the only person to both ride and train a Derby winner.
* Bill Hartack and Eddie Arcaro have ridden the most winners, five each. Hartack was 5 for 12, Arcaro 5 for 21.
* The only jockey to win both the Kentucky Derby (Affirmed, 1979) and the Epsom Derby (Slip Anchor, 1985, and Reference Point, 1987) is Steve Cauthen.
* The leading trainer is Ben Jones, who won six times from 11 starters. His son Jimmy won twice.
* Leading owner: Calumet Farm, eight.
* Oldest winning trainer: Charlie Whittingham, 73, with Ferdinand, 1986. Whittingham will start Lively One this Saturday. Woody Stephens, 74, will start the entry of Forty Niner and Cefis.
* Oldest winning jockey: Bill Shoemaker, 54, Ferdinand. Shoe, who has won four times, has ridden in the Derby a record 25 times and will be aboard Lively One.
* Seattle Slew came to the Derby undefeated in six starts in 1977 and is the only Triple Crown winner to complete the sweep unbeaten.
* The 11th and last winner of the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978.
* Two New Jersey-breds have won the Derby: Regret (1915) and Cavalcade (1934).
* The first radio network broadcast of the Derby was in 1925, the first telecast in 1952.
* The Derby continued uninterrupted during World War I and World War II, but the 1943 running was known as the Streetcar Derby because of travel restrictions, and only 65,000 saw Count Fleet win.
* Largest field: 23 in 1974 (the 100th Derby); smallest field: 3 in 1892 and 1905.
* Bay horses have won 53 times, chestnuts 36, browns 16, blacks 4, grays 4.
* In the last 40 years, the only Derby winners to be voted Horse of the Year in the same year were Spend A Buck, 1985; Affirmed, 1978; Seattle Slew, 1977; Secretariat, 1973, and Citation, 1948. Ferdinand, the 1986 winner, was voted the national laurels in 1987.