The History of the Kentucky Derby Race

The Kentucky Derby is the premier thoroughbred racing event on the American calendar. As a travel destination, the Kentucky Derby race is a great bet. Held on the first Saturday every May, the race has never been canceled, even during times of economic depression, war, or inclement weather.

When you attend the Kentucky Derby you will enjoy so much more than the first race in the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. The Derby is a fantastic weekend-long social event steeped in traditions that sports fans must experience at least once in a lifetime.

History of the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby has developed into one of the premier sporting events in the United States since it was first run in 1875. At that inaugural race, 15 horses ran 1.5 miles in front of a crowd estimated at almost 10,000. Aristides, a chestnut colt, won that first running.

In 1876, the length of the Kentucky Derby race was changed to 1.25 miles, which is still the distance you will see the three-year old horses run.

The Derby’s grandstand and its two famous spires, Churchill Downs, was built in 1895. The tradition of the winning horse wearing the garland of roses started in 1896. By 1904 the red rose became the official flower of the race. The trophy we see used at the race today is a replica of the one given to the winner at the 1924 Golden Jubilee Derby.

The first radio broadcast of the race aired on May 16, 1925, and during this time period the race was called the “Run for the Roses.” And in 1952, the Kentucky Derby was first broadcast on national television.

Perhaps the most famous race was in 1973 when Triple Crown Winner Secretariat broke the two-minute barrier in the 99th running in a blistering time of 1:59 2/5. On the heels of that win, the 1974 Derby set the all-time attendance record of 163,628.

Fun Traditions

  • Be sure to place your bets when you step onto the Kentucky Derby race grounds. Although there have been many attempts to stop betting at Churchill Downs, the tradition continues.
  • When the horses start their parade from to the starting gate, you can stand to sing “My Old Kentucky Home,” a tradition since the 1920s. You will join in with the University of Louisville Marching Band who strikes up the tune.
  • Be careful when you stand not to drop your mint julep or knock off your spectacular Derby hat and outfit. The Derby’s high-brow fun starts with sipping mint juleps. The bourbon cocktail has been associated with Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby race since 1938. And don’t forget to buy your souvenir Kentucky Derby glass – the silver plate and silver mint julep cups are collectible.
  • You can’t Derby without a hat, which becomes the centerpiece of your outfit. The women wear big hats, many with equally big flowers or other accessories to make it stand out, and the men can oftentimes be seen wearing hats and matching waistcoats.
  • Infield or clubhouse? Depending on your style, you’ll want to choose whether you join the party in the infield, or join in with royalty, celebrities and VIPs who prefer to observe the race from the clubhouse.

If you are interested in sipping mint juleps in the clubhouse at the 2015 Kentucky Derby to witness the best two minutes of a sporting event on the planet, then please contact Roadtrips today to book your perfect travel package!