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

Posted by Evan Chronis on March 09, 2020

While many horses compete throughout the calendar year, it's the annual stop at Churchill Downs® that typically is the first time the sport catches the eye of the general public.

While the Kentucky Derby® is the arguably the most famous 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. 


READ: How Much Does it Cost to Go to the Kentucky Derby®?

The Kentucky Oaks vs. The Kentucky 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 3-year-old 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 race, it's an oddity in the sport. For reference, colts and geldings normally carry 126 pounds, while fillies typically carry 121 pounds.

The two races are also run at different lengths. The Kentucky Oaks is 1 1/8 miles long, while the Derby is extended a furlong at 1 1/4 miles. Although 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: $3 Million, First-Place Prize: $1,860,000

Kentucky Oaks — Purse: $1.25 Million, First-Place Prize: $750,000


Be there for both the Kentucky Oaks & Kentucky Derby! 

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