Kentucky Derby History

Well over a hundred years ago a group of people gathered together to race three year old thoroughbred horses around a 1.5 mile track. On May 17, 1875, at that first race Aristides and his rider, Oliver Lewis, finished in first place. They won over 15 other jockeys, 13 of whom (in addition to Clark) were African American.

The horse race has come a long way since that first race, but it retains some of the flavor of that first race. The track was eventually changed to 1.25 miles (where it still is today), but the Kentucky Derby has managed to retain many of the best practices and traditions that have been built up over the years - especially the fancy parties.

Beginning of the Kentucky Derby

The first race was on a track built by Meriweather Lewis Clark in 1874. Around ten thousand people were at the first Kentucky Derby. Over the years, that number continued to grow. Today, well over one hundred thousand people attend the race every year. Even more watch the race or listen to it on radio. It has become one if not the premiere horse race.

Around the turn of the 20th century, owners began to send their teams to the Preakness Stakes in Maryland and the Belmont Stakes in New York in the months following the Kentucky Derby. It wasn't until 1930, however, that the term "Triple Crown" was coined by Charles Hatton to describe the three races taking place in succession with the same horses and jockeys.

50 Years of Horse Racing

Throughout the 20th century, the Kentucky Derby gained popularity with people from all different walks of life. While the millionaire's row became a traditional area well known at the race, the famous infield with seating for everyone also become associated with the race in a big way. Prices certainly changed over the years - with it becoming more and more expensive to get the best seats for the race. Still, the race has managed to be a passion for many people.

The Modern Kentucky Derby

In the 21st century, the Kentucky Derby continues to be the most exciting two minutes in sports. With 20 horses set to race in the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby 2017, there are a lot of teams who are preparing to take home the crown with a first place finish.

Traditions like fancy hats and drinking mint juleps continue to be a bit part of the race, but other modern traditions - like online Kentucky Derby betting - are evolving all the time. It is easier than ever before to learn more about the top Kentucky Derby contenders and know the exact odds on the various horses and riders.