What's the Difference Between the Kentucky Oaks® and Kentucky Derby®?

Posted by Evan Chronis on Wed, Aug 8, 2018 @ 12:03 PM

As the thoroughbred horse racing season is reaching it's tail end, we're already looking towards the start of next year. While horses compete throughout the calendar year, it's the annual stop at Churchill Downs® in May that typically is the first time the sport catches the eye of the general public. 


While the Kentucky Derby® is the most famous scamper in the thoroughbred racing circuit, the race that takes place the day before the Saturday special also carries a heavy significance. The Kentucky Oaks® is a race doused in history, but very few in the general public know what it is, or at least know the difference between it and the Derby. 

Well, you've come to the right place. 

While you may not notice the differences while spectating on the two races, they are unique, while also being linked together. 

Let's get right into it. 

Additional blog: How Much Does it Cost to Go to the Kentucky Derby?

The Oaks vs. The Derby 

The main distinguisher between the two races is what horses can qualify to compete. Both trots are for three-year-old steeds, but it ends up coming down to gender. The Oaks is a gender-specific race, allowing only female horses, or fillies, to qualify and compete. 

The Derby, however, is open to eligible colts, geldings or fillies. While non-male horses are able to compete in the Kentucky Derby®, it's an oddity to this day in the sport. For reference, colts and geldings normally carry 126 pounds, while fillies carry 121 pounds, typically. 

The two races are also run at different lengths. The Kentucky Oaks® is 1 1/8 miles long, while the Derby is a furlong longer at 1 1/4 miles. There is no official reason given for the differing distances, it's generally held that the Oaks is a shorter race due to the fillies being less capable to go the extra furlong. 

Lastly, there is a large discrepancy between the purse and first-place prize for the two races. Take a look:

Kentucky Derby® — Purse: $2 Million, First-Place Prize: $1,425,000

Kentucky Oaks® — Purse: $1 Million, First-Place Prize: $600,000


Want to Be at Churchill Downs® in 2019

Instead of choosing between the Kentucky Oaks® or Kentucky Derby®, enjoy both races with an Official Ticket Package from Derby Experiences! An Official Ticket Package will plan out your trip to Churchill Downs® so that you can enjoy everything the weekend has to offer. Interested? Click the link below.

Take Me to the Oaks & Derby

Topics: The Kentucky Derby

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About the Bloggers

Kristen Doolan

Kristen Doolan was born and raised a Florida State Seminole. Making her way from Florida to North Carolina, Kristen achieved her B.S. in Business Administration, Marketing at The University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is an avid traveler, college football addict, beach bum and loves spending time with her family and friends. 


Jazzy Morgan

Jazzy Morgan is originally from London, England and a die-hard Manchester United Fan. She grew up in Connecticut and made the move down south in 2011 where she attended Winthrop University and received her B.S. in Family & Consumer Sciences and a minor in Marketing. Jazzy enjoys traveling, working out, reading her monthly Vogue & Cosmo and keeping up with fashion trends.


Evan Chronis

Evan Chronis was born in Omaha, Nebraska but has made his home in south Charlotte for almost two decades. A Tar Heel born and bred, Evan received his B.A in Media and Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill. He is an avid Boston sports fan thanks to his family’s New England roots, and a fanboy of Wes Anderson films.