Facts and History of The Kentucky Derby

Written by Ian Kimbell

Coming up soon on May 3 will be the Kentucky Derby. It has been more than a month leading up to this day. With the Kentucky Derby Festival Spelling Bee, the Pegasus Parade, Thunder Over Louisville, the Taste of Derby festival, and many other events as a part of the Kentucky Derby Festival, the Derby has high expectations. All of these events have been celebrating and raising excitement for America’s favorite horse race. The 140th annual Kentucky Derby is sure to be a blast. However, it had to come from somewhere. How did the Kentucky Derby begin?

The Kentucky Derby begins with Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., the grandson of William Clark, a leader of the Corps of Discovery. M. Clark, Jr. was the son of Abigail Prather Churchill. The Churchills bought 300 acres of land in Kentucky, which is partly modern-day Churchill Downs. Later when Abigail died, Clark, Jr. was sent to live with his aunt and his cousins, John and Henry. They were the ones who inherited most of Abigail’s property. Clark, Jr. developed a large and sophisticated interest in horse racing at an early age. After a trip to Europe, Clark, Jr. presented a plan to his family about building a racetrack with the Churchill land. The family agreed, and proceeded to take the steps required to make the horse races a success. The track was called Churchill Downs, and was a huge success. The horse race was a part of a larger event at first, but after people saw the record speed of the horses, the race instantly gained popularity. Horses who won the Kentucky Derby usually went on to run the Belmont Stakes in New York and the Preakness Stakes in Maryland. A horse that won all three races was known as a Triple Crown winner.

Now that you know a basic history of the Kentucky Derby, it is time for some fun facts. The fastest Derby mile was ran by Spend A Buck, who ran a mile in one minute and thirty four seconds. The fastest ever Kentucky Derby race (1.25 miles) was won by Secretariat, who completed the race in one minute and fifty-nine seconds. Secretariat went on to win the Triple Crown. Ben Jones holds the record for training the most Derby winners. He trained six. There have been 135 Kentucky Derby winners, and 100 of them were bred in Kentucky. The oldest owner of a Kentucky Derby winner was Ms. Francis Genter, who was 92 when her horse, Unbridled, won the Derby.

Well, now you know some fun facts about the Derby, and know a brief history of how it all began. This Kentucky Derby is sure to be an exciting event. Hopefully, you will enjoy Kentucky’s largest event.