The Kentucky Derby, also referred to as the most exciting two minutes in sports, is the longest continuously held sporting event in the United States. It takes place every year on the first Saturday in May in Louisville, Kentucky. Three-year-old thoroughbreds are competing in the race, which used to be 1.5 miles, but was reduced to 1.25 miles in 1896. Whether you’re planning a visit to the Kentucky Derby, or just want to know more about it, there are several facts that you might find interesting.
Churchill Downs Racetrack is the home of the Kentucky Derby. It was founded in 1875 by Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. After visiting prominent race tracks in France and England, this southern aristocrat decided that starting a horse racing track would be a good way to showcase the Kentucky breeding industry. His cousins, John and Henry Churchill agreed back him financially and turned part of their family’s 300-acre estate into the race track that’s now known as Churchill Downs.
The First Race
Churchill Downs opened on May 17, 1875. There were four races scheduled that day. The featured race, which was the Kentucky Derby, was won by Aristides, a 3-year-old chestnut colt. He beat fourteen other thoroughbreds and was trained by Ansel Williamson and ridden by Oliver Lewis, both African American. Aristides was owned by H.P. McGrath.
The Kentucky Derby is also referred to as “Run of the Roses.”This reference stems from the blanket of 554 red roses that has been draped over the winner of the Derby since 1896. It’s believed that the rose became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby after its president and founder Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. Attended a post-Derby party where he witnessed socialite E . Berry Wall gift roses to the ladies.
The official drink of the Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep, an iced drink that consists of mint, bourbon and sugar syrup, traditionally served in an ice-frosted silver julep cup. Nowadays, Churchill Downs patrons enjoy drinking Mint Julep from souvenir glasses that reflect the names of past Derby winners.
The fastest race of the Kentucky Derby stands at 1:59:24 seconds. This 40-year-old record was set by Secretariat, an American thoroughbred racehorse that won the derby in 1973. This horse actually ran faster as the race progressed, which is unheard of and hardly ever happens.
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