The Kentucky Derby
From Wikipedia, www.wikipedia.org
When is the Kentucky Derby Held
The Kentucky Derby is a stakes race for three-year-old
thoroughbred horses, staged yearly in Louisville, Kentucky. It's on the
first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby
How long is the Kentucky Derby Race
The race currently covers one and one-quarter miles
(2.012 km) at Churchill Downs; colts and geldings carry 126
pounds (57 kg), fillies 121 (55). The race, known as "The Most
Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" for its approximate time length,
is the first leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing in
the United States. It typically draws around 155,000 fans.
Kentucky Derby Traditions
In addition to the race itself, a number of traditions have
played a large role in the Derby atmosphere. The Mint Julep, an
iced drink consisting of bourbon, mint and sugar, is the
traditional beverage of the race. Legal gambling on the race is
done through parimutuel betting at the track. The infield, a
spectator area inside the track, offers low general admission
prices but little chance of seeing much of the race. Instead,
revelers show up in the infield to party. By contrast,
"Millionaire's Row" refers to the expensive box seats that
attract the rich and famous. Elegant women appear in long
dresses, big hats, and carrying fancy umbrellas. As the horses
are paraded before the grandstands, "My Old Kentucky Home" is
played by the University of Louisville marching band while the
crowd stands and sings along.
The Derby is frequently referred to as "The Run for the Roses,"
because a garland of red roses is awarded to the Kentucky Derby
winner each year. The tradition is as a result of New York
socialite E. Berry Wall presenting roses to ladies at a
post-Derby party in 1883 that was attended by Churchill Downs
president, Col. M. Lewis Clark. This gesture is believed to have
eventually led Clark to the idea of making the rose the race's
official flower. However, it was not until 1896 that any recorded
account referred to roses being draped on the Derby winner. The
governor of Kentucky awards the garland and the trophy.
History of the Kentucky Derby
Organized horse racing in the State of Kentucky dates as far back
as the late 1700s when several different race courses were built
in and around the city of Louisville. In 1872, Col. M. Lewis
Clark, traveled to England, visiting the Epsom Derby, a famous
race that had been running annually since 1780. From there, Clark
went on to Paris, France, where in 1863 a group of racing
enthusiasts had formed the French Jockey Club and had organized
the Grand Prix de Paris, which eventually became the famous Prix
de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Returning home to Kentucky, Clark organized the Louisville Jockey
Club for the purpose of raising money to build quality racing
facilities just outside of the city. The track would soon become
known as Churchill Downs, named for Lewis Clark's relatives, John
and Henry Churchill, who had provided the land for the racetrack.
Officially, the racetrack was incorporated as Churchill Downs in
The Kentucky Derby was first run at 1½ miles, the same distance
as the Epsom Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris. In 1896 the
distance was changed to its current 1¼ miles. On May 17, 1875, in
front of an estimated crowd of 10,000 people, a field of 15
three-year-old horses contested the first Derby. Under
African-American jockey Oliver Lewis, a colt named Aristides who
was trained by future Hall of Famer, Ansel Williamson, won the
inaugural Derby. Later that year, Lewis rode Aristides to a
second-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.
Although the first race meet proved a
success, the track ran into financial difficulties and in 1894
the New Louisville Jockey Club was incorporated with new
capitalization and improved facilities. Despite this, the
business floundered until 1902 when Col. Matt Winn of Louisville
put together a syndicate of businessmen to acquire the facility.
Under Winn, Churchill Downs prospered and the Kentucky Derby
became the preeminent thoroughbred horse race in America.
Between 1875 and 1902, African-American jockeys won 15 of the 28
runnings of the Kentucky Derby. On May 11, 1892, African-American
jockey Alonzo "Lonnie" Clayton, age 15, became the youngest rider
to win the Derby. The 1904 race was won by Elwood, the first
Derby starter and winner to be owned by a woman, Laska Durnell.
In 1917, the English bred colt "Omar Khayyam" became the first
foreign-bred horse to win the Derby.
As part of gaining income, horse owners began sending their
successful Derby horses to compete a few weeks later in the
Preakness Stakes at the Pimlico Race Course, in Baltimore,
Maryland, followed by the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York. The
three races offered the largest purse and in 1919 Sir Barton
became the first horse to win all three races. However, the term
Triple Crown didn't come into use until for another eleven years.
In 1930, when Gallant Fox became the second horse to win all
three races, sportswriter Charles Hatton brought the phrase into
American usage. Fueled by the media, public interest in the
possibility of a "superhorse" that could win the Triple Crown
began in the weeks leading up to the Derby. Two years after the
term was coined, the race, which had been run in mid-May since
inception, was changed to the first Saturday in May to allow for
a specific schedule for the Triple Crown races.
On May 3, 1952, the first national television coverage of the
Kentucky Derby took place. In 1954, the purse exceeded $100,000
for the first time. Set by the great Secretariat in 1973, the
fastest time ever run in the Derby (at its present distance) is 1
minute 59 2/5 seconds.
The 2004 Derby marked the first time that jockeys, as a result of
a court order, were allowed to wear corporate advertising logos
on their clothing.
In 2005, the purse distribution for the Derby was changed, so
that horses finishing fifth would henceforth receive a share of
the purse; previously only the first four finishers did so.
Winning Horses of the Kentucky Derby
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