Held as the capping event of the renowned Kentucky Derby Festival, the Kentucky Derby race is one of world’s top leading horse racing events, attracting the finest group 1 thoroughbred horses and the global horse racing industry’s top trainers and jockeys, all together reside at the Churchill Downs racecourse to form the “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”, a famous reference for the Kentucky Derby race.
Establishment of the Kentucky Derby Race
The Kentucky Derby race Was established in 1875 by Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. who, after visiting the UK and France in 1872 and witnessing the British Epsom Derby and the French Grand Prix de Paris (known today as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe), sought to erect a racing event that would comply in conditions and features to the other two races Meriwether was so impressed of. Upon its return to the US, Meriwether turned to the Louisville Jockey Club in order to raise money for the erection of the racecourse that will later be known as the Churchill Downs racecourse.
The racecourse was built upon lands provided by John and Henry Churchill, Meriwether’s relatives who had the course named after them. The first Kentucky Derby race was run in 1875 1 mile 4 furlong and featured 15 3 year old runners when a colt named Aristides won the race under jockey Oliver Lewis. Though declared as a great success and hosting more than 10,000 racegoers, the racecourse failed to maintain its business plans and got caught in financial difficulties, until 1894, when the New Louisville Jockey Club was incorporated with new capitalization and improved facilities. Despite all the efforts, the racecourse continued to flounder until 1920, when Col. Matt Winn established a syndicate of wealthy businessmen to support and maintain the racecourse and the Kentucky Derby race. Since then, the race and course became prominent in the history and culture of North American horse racing.
Modern Kentucky Derby and Traditions
The Kentucky Derby race is held to this very day, on the first Saturday of may every year, at the end of the Kentucky Derby Festival. The Kentucky Derby race is considered one of the most important races in the group 1 thoroughbred horse racing events and is a center of attraction to more than 150,000 racegoers and VIP’s, among them members of the royal family and well known celebrities and with many horse bettors going Kentucky Derby horse betting as a tradition many follow every year.
There are several famous traditions in the Kentucky Derby race:
- Mint Julep – An icy drink made with bourbon, mint and sugar syrup.
- Burgoo – A thick delicious stew of beef, pork and chicken served at the event.
- The Blanket of roses – A tradition in which a blanket of roses is spread over the winning horse and jockey upon receiving the Kentucky Derby Cup from the hands of the Kentucky Governor
- Every year, when the horses parade before the grandstand prior to the race, the University of Louisville marching band plays Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home”.