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Kentucky Derby History

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The Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Derby is held annually on the first Saturday in May.  It culminates the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival.  The race is known as "The Run for the Roses" for the blanket of 554 roses draped over the winner.  It is also referred to as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" or "The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports" for its approximate duration.

Kentucky Derby
  Grade:  1 (best purse & prestige) Stakes Race
  Location:  Churchill Downs Louisville, Kentucky, USA
  Inaugurated:  1875
Race information
  Qualification:  3-year-oldThoroughbred
  Distance:  1 miles (10 furlongs) over a dirt track
  Jockey Weight:  Colt/Gelding: 126 lbs (57.2 kg)
  Jockey Weight:  Filly: 121 lbs. (54.9 kg)
  Purse U.S:  $2 million
  1st Place:   $1,425,000
  "The Run For The Roses"
  "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports"

  Most wins by a jockey
    5 - Eddie Arcaro
         (1938, 1941, 1945, 1948, 1952)
    5 - Bill Hartack
         (1957, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1969)
  Most wins by a trainer
    6 - Ben A. Jones
         (1938, 1941, 1944, 1948, 1949, 1952)
  Most wins by an owner
    8 - Calumet Farm
         (1941, 1944, 1948, 1949, 1952, 1957,
          1958, 1968)
Stakes Record
  1:59.40 - Secretariat (1973)
  Longest length to win a race
    8 lengths - Assault (1946)
    8 lengths - Whirlaway (1941)
  Longest shot to win the Derby
    91 to 1 - Donerail (1913)
  No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Derby
    without racing at age two.

Adapted from Wikipedia
There are a number of traditions surrounding the Kentucky Derby: 
By far, The Mint Julep, an iced drink of bourbon, mint and a sugar syrup, is the iconic beverage.  Also, burgoo, a thick stew of beef, chicken, pork and vegetables, is a popular Kentucky dish served at the Derby.
As the horses are paraded before the grandstands, the University of Louisville Marching Band plays Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home," a tradition which began in 1924.
The infield, the spectator area inside the track, offers little opportunity to see the race, but that was never the reason to be there.  Revelers show up in the infield to party with abandon.
By contrast, "Millionaire's Row" refers to the expensive box seats that attract the rich, the famous and the well-connected. Women appear in fine outfits lavishly accessorized with large, elaborate hats. 
Run For The Roses
The Derby is frequently referred to as "The Run for the Roses," because a lush blanket of 554 red roses is awarded to the Kentucky Derby winner each year.  The tradition originated in 1883 when New York socialite E. Berry Wall presented roses to ladies at a post-Derby party that was attended by Churchill Downs founder and president, Col. M. Lewis Clark.  This gesture is believed to have eventually led Clark to the idea of making the rose the race's official flower.  However, it was not until 1896 that any recorded account referred to roses being draped on the Derby winner.  The Governor of Kentucky awards the garland and the trophy. Pop vocalist Dan Fogelberg composed the song "Run for the Roses" which was released in time for the 1982 running of the race.
Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing
The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the U.S. Triple Crown.  It is followed by the Preakness Stakes two weeks later; then, by the Belmont Stakes, three weeks after the Preakness. A horse must win all three races to win the Triple Crown. This is a demanding challenge: 3 races with 3 different race lengths in 5 weeks. 
Up to 20 horses may be entered in the Kentuck Derby.  The horse entrees for The Preakness and The Belmont is not this large.  By the time the Belmont is run, often the field of horses is less than 8. 
Attendance at the Kentucky Derby surpasses the attendance of all other stakes races including the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and the Breeders' Cup, which is considered the World Series of current Thoroughbred track champions.
In 1919, Sir Barton became the first horse to win all three races. However, the term Triple Crown didn't come into use for another eleven years. In 1930, when Gallant Fox became the second horse to win all three races, sportswriter Charles Hatton brought the phrase into American usage. Fueled by the media, public interest in the possibility of a "superhorse" that could win the Triple Crown began in the weeks leading up to the Derby.
Two years after the term was coined, the race, which had been run in mid-May since inception, was changed to the first Saturday in May to allow for a specific schedule for the Triple Crown races. Since 1931, the order of Triple Crown races has been the Kentucky Derby first, followed by the Preakness Stakes and then the Belmont Stakes. Prior to 1931, eleven times the Preakness was run before the Derby. On May 12, 1917 and again on May 13, 1922, the Preakness and the Derby were run on the same day. On eleven occasions the Belmont Stakes was run before the Preakness Stakes


Year Name Jockey Trainer Owner


Sir Barton

John Loftus

H. G. Bedwell

J. K. L. Ross


Gallant Fox

Earl Sande

James Fitzsimmons

Belair Stud



William Saunders

James Fitzsimmons

Belair Stud


War Admiral

Charley Kurtsinger

George Conway

Samuel D. Riddle



Eddie Arcaro

Ben A. Jones

Calumet Farm


Count Fleet

John Longden

Don Cameron

Mrs. J. D. Hertz



Warren Mehrtens

Max Hirsch

King Ranch



Eddie Arcaro

Ben A. Jones

Calumet Farm



Ron Turcotte

Lucien Laurin

Meadow Stable


Seattle Slew

Jean Cruguet

William Turner, Jr.

Karen L. Taylor



Steve Cauthen

Lazaro S. Barrera

Harbor View Farm

Thirty-Seven Years Of Waiting For Another Triple Crown Winner
We finally have one on the 37th year.

2015, American Pharoah, Victor Espinoza, Bob Baffert, Ahmed Zayat

WSJ / YouTube

American Pharoah vs Secretariat in The Belmont Triple Crown Run

Founding History
The Derby is one of the USA's oldest Thoroughbred horse races --the Phoenix Stakes being the oldest, first run in 1831.  
In 1872, Col.Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition, traveled to England, visiting the Epsom Derby, a famous race that had been running annually since 1780.  From there, Clark went on to Paris, France, where in 1863, a group of racing enthusiasts had formed the French Jockey Club and had organized the Grand Prix de Paris, which at the time was the greatest race in France.

Returning home to Kentucky, Clark organized the Louisville Jockey Club for the purpose of raising money to build quality racing facilities just outside of the city. The track would soon become known as Churchill Downs, named for Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr.'s relatives, John and Henry Churchill, who had provided the land for the racetrack.  Officially, the racetrack was incorporated as Churchill Downs in 1937.
The Kentucky Derby was first run at 1 miles (2.4 km), the same distance as the Epsom Derby.  In 1896, the distance was changed to its current 1 miles (2 km).  On May 17, 1875, in front of an estimated crowd of 10,000 people, a field of 15 three-year-old horses contested the first Derby. 
Although the first race meet proved a success, the track ran into financial difficulties and in 1894 the New Louisville Jockey Club was incorporated with new capitalization and improved facilities.  Despite this, the business floundered until 1902 when Col. Matt Winn of Louisville put together a syndicate of businessmen to acquire the facility.  Under Winn, Churchill Downs prospered and the Kentucky Derby then became the preeminent stakes race for three year old Thoroughbred horses in North America.
Other Interesting Timeline Facts
Between 1875 and 1902, African-American jockeys won 15 of the 28 runnings of the Kentucky Derby. 
May 11, 1892, African-American jockey Alonzo "Lonnie" Clayton, age 15, became the youngest rider to win the Derby. 
In 1904, the race was won by Elwood, the first Derby starter and winner owned by a woman, Laska Durnell.
In 1915, Regret became the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby (of only three in the history of the race).
In 1917, the English bred colt "Omar Khayyam" became the first foreign-bred horse to win the race.
On May 3, 1952, the first national television coverage of the Kentucky Derby took place, aired from then-CBS affiliate WHAS.  
In 1954, the purse exceeded $100,000 for the first time. 
In 1968, Dancer's Image became the first (and to this day the only) horse to win the race and then be disqualified after traces of phenylbutazone, an analgesic and anti-inflammatory drug, were found in the horse's urinalysis.  Forward Pass won after a protracted legal battle by the owners of Dancer's Image (which they lost). Forward Pass thus became the Eighth winner for Calumet Farm.  Unexpectedly, the regulations at Kentucky Thoroughbred race tracks were changed some years later, allowing horses to run on phenylbutazone.
In 1973, the fastest time ever run in the Derby (at its present distance) was set at 1 minute 59 2/5 seconds when Secretariat broke the record set by Northern Dancer in 1964.  Not only has Secretariat's record time stood for 38 years and counting, but in the race itself, he did something unique in Triple Crown races: each successive quarter, his times were faster.  Though times for non-winners were not recorded, in 1973 Sham finished second, two and a half lengths behind Secretariat in the same race. Using the thoroughbred racing convention of one length equaling one-fifth of a second to calculate Sham’s time, he also finished in under two minutes. Another sub-two minute finish, only the third, was set by in 2001 by Monarchos at 1:59.97.
Since 2002, Norman Adams has been the designer of the Kentucky Derby Logo.
The 2004 Derby marked the first time that jockeys, as a result of a court order, were allowed to wear corporate advertising logos on their clothing.
In 2005, the purse distribution for the Derby was changed, so that horses finishing fifth would henceforth receive a share of the purse; previously only the first four finishers did so.
On February 1, 2006, the Louisville-based fast-food company Yum! Brands, Inc. announced a corporate sponsorship deal to call the race "The Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands."
In 2007, HM Queen Elizabeth II, on a visit to the United States, joined the racegoers at Churchill Downs.
In 2010 Calvin Borel set a new record, being the first jockey to win 3 out of 4 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.