The Kentucky Derby began over 100 years ago when Meriwether Lewis Clark traveled to America. Inspired by his experiences in Europe, Clark set out to create a horse racing event in the United States. He developed a racetrack on lands gifted to him by his uncles John and Henry Churchill and organized a Louisville Jockey Club full of local horse racing fans. The racetrack opened on May 17th,1875 and 10,000 spectators came to witness the first Kentucky Derby.
Bringing Derby to the Masses
In 1952 the Kentucky Derby had live national television coverage for the first time in its history. It has since become an American cultural event that spurs many parties (like Polo for Philanthropy’s Derby Day Affair!)
Every year, Mint Juleps are served. The bourbon and mint concoction supposedly became the Derby staple that it is after a famous Polish actress, Helena Modjeska, ordered the drink at a pre-Derby breakfast and fell in love with it.
The hats seen at Derby are extravagant. This tradition stems from the English horserace the Epsom Derby. The Kentucky Derby was created to emulate the Epsom. The fashion seen at these events is one of their main draws.
And we can’t think about the Derby without thinking of roses. In the 1890s roses became props in the post-race presentation. They are now presented as a garland for the winning horse. Hence, the Kentucky Derby is also called “The Run for the Roses”.
Changes to the Kentucky Derby
Originally scheduled on an undetermined date in mid-May, the race is now held on the first Saturday in May. This allows for a Triple Crown winner, a horse that wins both the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. While the details surrounding the Derby have changed from year to year, its essence stays the same.