Popularly known as ‘the run for the roses’ due to the blanket of roses spread over the winner, the Kentucky Derby is a race that is held in Louisville, Kentucky, United States every year. It is a stakes race for three year olds and above run over a distance of 10 furlong . The Kentucky Derby festival itself stretches over a time period of two weeks. The commencement of the race was in 1875, making it the oldest sports event run in the United States.
Having visited and explored the leading horse racing sites in England and France in 1872, William Clark , the grandson of Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr of Lewis and Clark expedition fame, was inspired to start an event with the same kind of excitement and prestige attached. He was first and foremost inspired by the Epsom Downs racecourse in England. The Louisville Jockey Club was founded by Clark after returning back to Kentucky with a substantial amount of money raised for the construction of a racetrack on the land bestowed upon him by his Uncles, Henry and John Churchill. Initially, the racetrack was visualised as a gathering place for the families and people of the city.
During the inceptive years, the race was mostly dominated by black riders which were successfully proven by the fact that black riders won more than half of the first 25 Kentucky Derby runs. This pattern continued for decades unless backward thinking Jim Crow laws resulted in many of these individuals losing their jonbs. The running distance was cut from 12 furlong to 10 furlong after complaints from the racing community in 1896.
In 1919, Sir Barton was the first one to win the prestigious Triple Crown which conists of winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. Since that time 12 more horses have won all three triple crown races, most recently Justify in 2018.