Little Bits of History

“And They’re Off”

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 17, 2010

Churchill Downs in 1901

May 17, 1875: The first Kentucky Derby, or The Run for the Roses, is held at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. Aristides, ridden by Oliver Lewis in front of a crowd of approximately 10,000 fans won the race. However, Aristides did not get the blanket of roses. They weren’t added until later.

Col. M. Lewis Clark, grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, had visited England, seen the Epsom Derby and wished to bring this type of race to America. The Kentucky area had been known for horse breeding and racing prior to Clark’s dream. The higher calcium content of the grasses helped produce a stronger and faster race horse. This factor helped to select the region in which to hold the race.

The race was originally 1 ½ miles long. In 1896 it was shortened to 1 ¼  miles. That was also the year that the blanket of roses was added for the winner. The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continually held sporting event in the US. Today, there are about 155,000 fans at the race held on the first Saturday in May. The colorful silks, the brightly colored shirts of the riders, were instituted by King Charles II so he and fellow race watchers could keep an eye on their horses even across the track. The early silks were of a single color: red for one duke, blue for another, etc. Today, with more owners, the jockeys’ silks are far more colorful.

National television coverage of the race was instituted in 1952. By 1954, the purse was greater than $100,000 for the first time. In 1968, Dancer’s Image won but was later disqualified for drug use, the only horse to be stripped of the title. Secretariat has the fastest time ever for the race, completing the circuit in 1 minute, 59.4 seconds in 1973. The Mint Julep (made from bourbon, mint, and sugar syrup) is the traditional beverage for race day both at the race and for those watching on TV.  The winner for the Kentucky Derby 136, held in May 2010, was Super Saver ridden by jockey Calvin Borel. The horse is owned by WinStar Farms and was trained by Todd Pletcher. Winning time was 2.04.45.

“The spirited horse, which will try to win the race of its own accord, will run even faster if encouraged.” – Ovid

“The Kentucky Derby is the greatest day in horse racing–it is a magnificent experience whether you are in the infield or Millionaire’s Row. For everyone who wants to take part in the experience, we offer a complimentary punt.” – Nevis Leonard Manley

“Money, horse racing and women, three things the boys just can’t figure out.” – Will Rogers

“The best pedigree in the world won’t sell a lame race horse.” – unknown

Also on this day:
In 1963
Bruno Sammartino and Buddy Rogers met at Madison Square Garden.
In 1863 Rosalia de Castro published
Canteres gallegos.


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