The arrival of the first Saturday in May means that it is time for the Kentucky Derby, known around the world as the most exciting two minutes in sports. The Derby has been run continuously since 1875, which makes it America’s longest running sporting event. Its rich traditions – sipping a mint julep, donning a beautiful hat, and joining fellow race fans in singing “My Old Kentucky Home” – elevate the Kentucky Derby from just a sporting event, making it a celebration of southern culture and a true icon of Americana itself.
The Kentucky Derby’s long history began in 1872, when Meriwether Lewis Clark, the grandson of William Clark – of the famed pair Lewis and Clark – traveled to Europe. While there, Clark attended the Epsom Derby in England, a well-known horse race run since 1780, and also fraternized with the French Jockey Club, a group that developed another popular horse race, the Grand Prix de Paris Longchamps. Clark was inspired by his travels and experiences, and, upon his return, was determined to create a spectacle horse racing event in the States. With the help of his uncle’s John & Henry Churchill, who gifted Clark the necessary land to develop a racetrack, and by formally organizing a group of local race fans to be named the Louisville Jockey Club, Clark and his new club raised funds to build a permanent racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. On May 17th, 1875, the racetrack opened its gates and the Louisville Jockey Club sponsored the very first Kentucky Derby. A total of fifteen three-year-old Thoroughbred horses raced one and a half miles in front of a cheering crowd of approximately 10,000 spectators. Aristides was the first winner of the Kentucky Derby.
As with any major event, the Kentucky Derby has undergone various changes over the course of three centuries. From shortening the distance of the race, the introduction of traditions like draping the winning horse in a garland of roses, to the growing size of Derby crowds, the Kentucky Derby has embraced the change of time, while honoring the integrity of the spectacle race set forth by Meriwether Lewis Clark. Today is has become a week-long event and some people come just to mingle and watch all the hats in the always-capacity crowd. It is truly a one of a kind event that everyone should attend at least once in their lifetime.
– The Pawn Company Insider