History Of The Kentucky Derby

The Blue grass region of Kentucky has been a major horse breeding centre since way back in the 18th century, but it was not until 1875 that the first Kentucky Derby was ran.

The idea behind creating such a race was devised by Colonel Meriwther Lewis Clark, who was a prominent horse breeder from the area. Lewis Clark had travelled to England and France in 1872 to watch the Epsom Derby and the French equivalent as it was then. After returning back to America, Lewis Clark immediately formed the Louisville Jockey Club in order to raise funds to create the areas first race track. The track soon got underway and then became known as Churchill Downs; it hosted its first ‘Derby’ three years later.

The first race was won by Aristides who was ridden by Oliver Lewis and it attracted a crowd over 10,000. The race was run over the same distance as the Epsom Derby of 1½ miles, but this changed in 1896 to its current distance of 1¼ miles.

Unfortunately, while the race was a big success, the track ran into serious financial difficulties and only a rescue package provided by a group of Louisville businessmen, led by Colonel Matt Winn saved it from ruin.

From that time Churchill Downs has done nothing but prosper and these days it is regarded as the major race in the US for thoroughbred colts and forms the first leg of the now famous Triple Crown.

The first Kentucky Derby to have been televised was the 1952 race and two years later the purse for the race had been raised to a huge $100,000.

The fastest ever Kentucky Derby was timed at 1 min 59.2 in the 1973 race won by Kentucky Derby Legend, Secretariat. He went onto win the coveted Triple Crown and at the time became the most famous racehorse in the world. A list of of the last ten Kentucky Derby winners can be found by clicking the link.