Before the effects of the Great Depression impacted the Kentucky Derby. Every year since 1875, this race has been held at Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. Horse breeding and racing are extremely popular in Kentucky. Horse racing in Louisville dates back to 1789, when races were held down Market Street. During a trip abroad in 1872-1873, 26-year-old Colonel M. Lewis Clark came up with a plan to create the Louisville Jockey Club for conducting race meets, after meeting with prominent racing leaders in France and England. When he returned, Clark developed a racetrack, which would become known as Churchill Downsand would showcase Kentucky's breeding industry.
The Kentucky Derby, held the first Saturday in May, is the first "leg," or competition, of horse racing's "Triple Crown." Can you name the other two races? They are the Preakness Stakes in Maryland and the Belmont Stakes in New York.
Today the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs face serious challenges from other gambling arenas and most of the same issues it has always faced. By 1996 the purse for the Kentucky Derby had reached $1 million. The Churchill Downs' board has committed itself to a $50 million makeover, while the track's name and twin-spired logo are zealously guarded corporate trademarks. But whatever the difficulties the board faces, whatever challenges confront racing, the Derby or the Downs, the fact remains the Derby has been run every year since 1875. It is a national treasure, and one which the state of Kentucky and city of Louisville cherish as an integral part of its culture. Simply put, and without exaggeration or insincerity, there is no greater moment in the state than the call to the Derby post. The excitement, the sentimentality, the Derby betting and the Derby parties, the mint juleps after a two-week Dery Festival--there is simply no other sporting event in the world whose spirit flows more thoroughly through the blood of its fans.
Did you know?
Horse racing in Kentucky is rich in history, dating back to 1789 when the first race course was laid out in Lexington. However, it was almost 100 years later, in 1875, that Churchill Downs officially opened and began its tradition as "Home of the Kentucky Derby