The History of the Kentucky Derby

June 22, 2020

There is perhaps no better celebration of the sport of horse racing in America than the Kentucky Derby. It has been held in the United States of America since before the first world war, it began in the nineteenth century and has grown in prominence since then. It is an annual sporting event that has not been affected by the occurrence of that have affected other annual sporting events in the United States and even the world, such occurrence like the world wars. Over the decades the Kentucky Derby has become an aspect of the culture in America, it has garnered millions of fans all over and remains strong. In this article, we are going to explore the history of this great sporting event called the Kentucky Derby.

Arrival of the Kentucky Derby to America

The derby has its origins in England, in the year 1872, a man named Meriwether Lewis Clark traveled to England to attend a derby that had been in England since the eighteenth century, referred to as the Epson Derby, this derby was notorious in England and all of Europe. After Mr. Meriwether returned to the United States of America he sought to create a derby in America, one that would be great and stand the test of time like the derby in England. Pleased with his desires Henry Churchill and John Churchill which were his uncles gave him all the land he would need to build a racetrack for horses and start the derby. This land was located in Kentucky, specifically Louisville, Mr. Meriwether built the racetrack which holds the reputation of being the first racetrack built permanently for horses in America.

Over time people began to call the track the Louisville Jockey Club. In the year 1875, this club hosted what became known as the Kentucky Derby. This Derby race had about fifteen horses that competed and over nine thousand fans watched it live. The race was won by a horse named Aristides making this Derby very successful.

Because of how fast horses race at the derby, it is often referred to as the fastest form of sports entertainment.

The Development of the Kentucky Derby Over Time

There are stringent rules a person must follow for them to qualify for this Derby, simply qualifying can be considered a great achievement. Several horse races happen all around the year and horses that finish in the first four positions in each race get points. At the end of the qualifying races, the top twenty horses with the highest points automatically qualify to compete at the Derby.

At the inception of the Derby, most of the jockeys were of African descent but toward the 1900s most of the riders of African descent left the derby because of discrimination. The last rider of African descent that won the Derby won in 1902, his name was Winkfield Jimmy. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, complaints were voiced about the length of the official racetrack which was 1.5 miles precisely,  this was reduced by 0.25 miles and it has been that way till today.

As technology advanced some of it was incorporated to further the course of the Kentucky Derby. When radio transmission started, it was used, the Kentucky Derby was first covered in the year 1925. When national broadcasting on television started this technology was used also to broadcast the 1952 Kentucky Derby. This was broadcasted to the whole nation and ever since every year the Kentucky Derby is broadcasted all over.

The development of the Kentucky Derby also reached the amount of money that is won by the five riders that finish top. Today the prize is about $3,000,000 but this was not the case in the 1950s when the prize money was around a hundred thousand dollars.

 There are several traditions that are practiced by the fans of the Kentucky Derby, these include:

  • The fans usually drink what is called mint julep, this is a drink that is a combination of sugar syrup, bourbon, and mint.
  • Attendees and fans of the Kentucky Derby usually eat the meal that is called Burgoo, this a kind of stew that is made with vegetables, chicken, beef, and pork.
  • The areas to sit are two, the general place that makes it hard for attendees to see the race and what is popularly called the row for millionaires; this is a place that wealthy people sit, the cost of sitting there is very expensive.
  • The hats that women wore to the Derby in the 1800s are still worn by women that go to the derby now and is a big part of the tradition..
  • Since the 1920s the marching band of the University of Louisville plays a song that Stephen Foster wrote, the song is titled “My Old Kentucky”, fans love this song.

The Kentucky Derby holds the reputation of being the most notorious horse race event in the world. Millions of fans also bet on the races in the Kentucky Derby, it has become the greatest horse racing event in the world.

In the world of horse racing what is called the Triple Crown is the greatest accomplishment a jockey could ever hope to win.

Famous Horses From the Kentucky Derby

As mentioned above, the achievement that is greatest in the world of horse racing and professional jockeys is what is called the Triple Crown, in order to win this a particular horse has to win these three championships:

  • First, win the Kentucky Derby.
  • Preakness Stakes must be won two weeks after the first.
  • Belmont Stakes must be won three weeks after.

This is a great achievement that only a handful of people have won, they are:

  • The first horse to win it is Sir Barton that won it in the year 1919.
  • Gallant Fox won in 1930
  • Omaha won it in 1935.
  • War Admiral won it in 1937.
  • Whirlaway won it in 1941.
  • Count Fleet won it in 1943.
  • Assault won it in 1946.
  • Citation won in 1948.
  • Secretariat which is regarded as the most popular horse in the Kentucky Derby won the Triple Crown in 1973.
  • Seattle Slew won it in 1977.
  • The last horse that won the Triple crown in the twentieth century is Affirmed that won it in 1978.
  • American Pharaoh was the first horse to win the triple crown in the 21st century, in 2015.
  • The last horse that won the Triple crown is Justify in 2018.

Good stuff buddy! RT @jonathanstettin: Racing’s not Dead.

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