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What makes the Kentucky Derby the most exciting 2 minutes in sports?

My wife Susan is from Louisville, Kentucky. She is the youngest of eight girls. One common thread shared by every sister is their love for the Kentucky Derby. It’s in their DNA. But they aren't the only ones. The Derby is loved by millions around the world. It captivates us and suspends time from when the horses come from the backside all the way to the Winner's Circle. But why? Perhaps it’s another example of the incredible power of story. Just look at how perfectly the Kentucky Derby fits into Freytag’s Pyramid story structure.


145th Kentucky Derby contenders and their extended horse "families" walk from their barns on the far side of the track to the paddock in preparation for the Kentucky Derby. Every group of horses, owners, and trainers bring with them their own rich story of the trials and tribulations they’ve overcome to arrive at this moment.

Approximately 4:06p.m. MST

The Inciting Moment (The break in the routine and the start of the rising action.)

The call rings out, "Riders Up!” The jockeys are instructed to mount their horses and take to the track. Approximately 4:33p.m. MST

Rising Action

The post parade brings horses and jockeys onto the track as they are greeted by the roar of the fans. The anticipation and excitement build.

The University Of Louisville Marching Band strikes up "My Old Kentucky Home" and in this moment 160,000 people are singing. Tears stream, the passion is palpable, the fervor grows. The horses' ears are perky - they, too are excited for this moment. They are ready to perform. Approximately 4:35p.m. MST

Call to the post by the Kentucky Bugler Steve Buttleman

The horses are loaded into the starting gate.

POST 4:50pm MST


Charging out of the gates, horse and jockey battle for early position as they stream past the famed Twin Spires of the Churchill Downs main grandstand. Only one lap to go to complete the 1 ¼ miles.

They fly down the backstretch cheered on by the crowd. Horses head into the final turn and onto the last of the 10 furlongs. The crowd hits a fevered pitch, swept up in the emotion of the moment, cheering their horses on, even if they have long been out of contention. Shoulder to shoulder the jockeys urge on their three-year-old thoroughbreds. Neck n’ neck the horses battle valiantly towards the finish line.

The Climax

4:52pm MST

The winner flies past the iconic Churchill Downs Finish Pole in a blur. The race is won.

Falling Action

For the first time in two minutes the crowd remembers to breathe. Simultaneously they release a massive collective exhale. Shoulders drop in unison as the rush of adrenaline subsides.

The winning jockey celebrates and is interviewed while trotting back to the main stands to be reunited with the jubilant owner and trainer.


The Kentucky Derby winning horse is draped with the garland of roses and the owner is presented with the Kentucky Derby Trophy, the winner of the Run for the Roses.

The story is complete.

No wonder we can’t resist. We love to ride the arc of a story.

The next time you find yourself drawn to an event, ask yourself, is it a story?

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