a 1.25-mile race
for three-year-old thoroughbred horses held on
the first Saturday in May
In 1874, a group led by M.
Lewis Clark (grandson of explorer William Clark)
built a horse racing track on a Louisville,
Kentucky, farm owned by a family named Churchill.
Churchill Downs opened on May 17, 1875, and on
that day almost 10,000 people watched 15 horses
run the inaugural Kentucky Derby. Aristides,
ridden by Oliver Lewis, was the first winner of
the Kentucky Derby, and his owner collected the
lion's share of the $2,850 prize purse. Clark
modeled the race after the English Derby, held
every year in Epsom, England. From 1875 to 1895,
the horses raced 1.5 miles; the distance was then
shortened to 1.25 miles, which remains the race
distance today. The track was officially
incorporated as Churchill Downs in 1937.
By the early 1900's, the owners
of Kentucky Derby winners began sending the
winners to the Preakness Stakes in Maryland and
the Belmont Stakes in New York. In 1919, Sir
Barton became the first horse ever to win all
three of those races in a single year. That feat
would not be repeated until 1930, by Gallant Fox.
Sportswriter Charles Hatton used the term
"Triple Crown" to describe Gallant
Fox's accomplishment, and it is still used to
refer to what is considered the highest point
achievable in the world of thoroughbred racing.
In 1933, to better accomodate a "Triple
Crown" schedule, the race date for the
Kentucky Derby was changed from mid-May (in which
it had been run since the first race) to the
first Saturday in May.
Qualifying for the
To qualify for the Kentucky
Derby, a horse must be registered with the
Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and
be no more or less than three years old. Then,
the horse must win or place in as many races
sanctioned by the American Graded Stakes
Committee as possible in the year preceding the
Kentucky Derby. The more prize money the horse
wins in that year the greater the chances
Kentucky Derby organizers will give the horse one
of the coveted starting positions. If a properly
registered horse has been truly outstanding on
the satellite circuit, the Kentucky Derby may
extend an invitation to its owner, but such
invitations have historically been rare.
Records and Trivia
Between 1875 and 1902,
African-American jockeys won 15 of the 28
Kentucky Derbys; 13 of the 15 jockeys in the
first race were African-Americans.
The most Kentucky Derby wins by
a jockey is 5, a record shared by Eddie Arcaro
and Bill Hartack.
On May 11, 1892, 15-year-old Alonzo Clayton
became the youngest jockey ever to win the
Kentucky Derby, aboard Anza.
The only jockey to ride a Kentucky Derby
winner and train a Kentucky Derby winner was John
Longden, who rode Triple Crown winner Count Fleet
in 1943 and trained Majestic Prince in 1969.
The first woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby
was Diane Crump in 1970. Her mount, Fathom placed
15th in the 96th Kentucky Derby.
Ben A. Jones holds the record
for training the most Kentucky Derby winners --
James "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons and
Ben Jones are the only trainers to train two
Triple Crown winners. Fitzsimmons trained Gallant
Fox in 1930 and his son Omaha 1935. Jones trained
Whirlaway 1941 and Citation in 1948.
The youngest trainer to win the Kentucky Derby
was James Rowe Sr., who was 24 when he won the
Derby with Hindoo in 1881.
Calumet Farm holds the record
for owning the most Kentucky Derby winners -- 8.
The first woman to own a
Kentucky Derby winner was Laska Durnell, whose
Elwood won in 1904.
The oldest winning owner was Mrs. Francis
Genter, who at the age of 92, won the 1990
Kentucky Derby with Unbridled.
Secretariat holds the record for the fastest
Kentucky Derby ever, at 1:59.40, which he ran on
his way to the Triple Crown in 1973.
The last Kentucky Derby winner
to sire a Kentucky Derby winner was Unbridled
(1990), whose son Grindstone won in 1996.
Fusaichi Pegasus, who was purchased for $4
million by Fusao Sekiguchi at the Keenland
Yearling Sales, was the most expensive horse to
win the Kentucky Derby (2000).
Out of the 135 Kentucky Derby winners, 100 of
them were bred in Kentucky.
Three maidens have won the Kentucky Derby --
Buchanan (1884), Sir Barton (1919), and Brokers
The first Kentucky Derby to be
televised live was run on May 3, 1952.
Questions or comments about