It’s almost May and you know what that means. Time to start getting ready for the Kentucky Derby! I thought I was help set the mood this year by a look back at the history of the race. By looking back, maybe you can make accurate Derby picks like these guys and cash in more of your bets.
There isn’t an American sporting event with a richer history than the Derby. Mint juleps, the hats, and the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” are just a few. It’s the longest running sporting event in the United States. The first Derby ran in 1875 and hasn’t taken a break since.
The idea for the Derby came from Meriwether Lewis Clark. He was the grandson of William Clark of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition. While traveling in Europe he attended the Epsom Derby and was determined to bring a major horse racing event back to the United States. He convinced his uncles John and Henry Churchill of his idea, they gifted him the land, and the Louisville Jockey Club opened in 1875.
Things have progressed steadily ever since, but not even Clark could probably have imagined how big the race has become now. The distance of the race has been shortened, the winning horse is now draped in a garland of roses, and there are thousands of people flooding the gates to get a view either from the stands or the outfield. That’s not to mention the millions of people who will watch the race on television.
In 1883 the name Churchill Downs was first used to mark the home of the Derby.
In 1894 a 285-foot grandstand was build to accommodate the growing crowds to the event.
In 1896 the race was shortened from 1.5 miles to 1.25. This was due to the race being ran early in the spring, so they wanted to shorten it for the three-year olds.
1904 is when the red rose became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby.
The first filly, Regret, won the race in 1915.
The first Triple Crown winner was Sir Barton back in 1919. He won the Derby, the Preakness, the Withers Stakes, and the Belmont in a span of just 32 days.
The first network broadcast of the race was in 1925 and the phrase “Run for the Roses” is coined.
In 1931 the date of the race was set as the first Saturday in May.
1932 marked the first time the winner was draped in roses, and the first time the race was broadcast internationally.
The infield was created in 1938.
1952 marked the first nationally televised race and up to 15 million viewers tuned in.
The first horse to be disqualified after winner was Dancer’s Image in 1968. He tested positive for an illegal medication, and second-place finisher Forward Pass is crowned champion.
The first female jockey, Diane Crump, rode in 1970.
Secretariat won in 1973. He set a record time of 1:59:40.