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Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, Louisville

Kentucky Derby – America’s Greatest Race

There are few American sporting events with the history of the Kentucky Derby. It’s rich traditions – sipping a mint julep, donning a beautiful hat and joining fellow race fans in singing “My Old Kentucky Home” – makes the Kentucky Derby not just a sporting event, but a celebration of Southern culture and a true icon of Americana.

About The Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is the longest running sporting event in the United States, dating back to 1875. The race is also known as "The Run for the Roses®" and  is “the most exciting two minutes in sports”; uninterrupted, even when coinciding with profound historical events like The Great Depression and World Wars I & II. The race takes place every year on the first Saturday in May and is a top rank, Grade I stakes race for 3 year old Thoroughbred horses. It is one and one-quarter miles long and is run on the dirt racetrack at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Colts and geldings in the race carry 126 pounds (57 kg) and fillies in the race carry 121 pounds (55 kg).

Kentucky Derby History

The Kentucky Derby’s long history began in 1872, when Meriwether Lewis Clark, the grandson of William Clark – of the famed pair Lewis and Clark – travelled to Europe. While there, Clark attended the Epsom Derby in England, a well-known horse race run since 1780, and also fraternised with the French Jockey Club, a group that developed another popular horse race, the Grand Prix de Paris Longchamps. Clark was inspired by his travels and experiences, and upon his return, was determined to create a spectacle horse racing event in the States. With the help of his uncle’s John & Henry Churchill, who gifted Clark the necessary land to develop a racetrack, and by formally organising a group of local race fans to be named the Louisville Jockey Club, Clark and his new club raised funds to build a permanent racetrack in Louisville. On 17th May 1875, the racetrack opened its gates and the Louisville Jockey Club sponsored the very first Kentucky Derby. A total of fifteen three-year-old Thoroughbred horses raced one and a half miles in front of a cheering crowd of approximately 10,000 spectators. Aristides was the first winner of the Kentucky Derby.

The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sport

Today for many the Derby is the most prestigious thorough-bred horse race in the world. Ask any owner, trainer and jockey if they could win only one race – the Kentucky Derby would be the unanimous answer. Perhaps few things say Louisville quite like the Kentucky Derby. The tradition and magic that surrounds the first Saturday in May event is legendary. And, while it is a spectacular event the Kentucky Derby Museum and Churchill Downs are experts at capturing the Derby Experience any day of the year.

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