On May 17, 1875, thousands of eager horse racing fans poured through the gates of Churchill Downs to get their first looks at Louisville’s sparkling new racetrack and cheer on the thoroughbreds in the featured race, the inaugural Kentucky Derby. Finely dressed gentlemen and ladies adorned in bright colors thronged the grandstand and hundreds of carriages filled the infield as the horses toed the line for the day’s second race. At the tap of a drum, fifteen horses thundered down the track. As excited shouts echoed across the oval, jockey Oliver Lewis spurred on his chestnut colt Aristides to a one-length victory in the fastest time ever recorded by a three-year-old horse.
That Lewis was a black man in the sport of horse racing was of little note. In fact, 13 of the 15 riders in that first Kentucky Derby were African-Americans. In the years following the Civil War, black jockeys dominated horse racing at a time when it was America’s most popular sport. African-American riders were the first black sports superstars in the United States, and they won 15 of the first 28 runnings of the Kentucky Derby.
The Kentucky Derby /ˈdɜːrbi/ is a horse race held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, United States, on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The race is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles (2 km) at Churchill Downs. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds (57 kilograms) and fillies 121 pounds (55 kilograms).
The race is known in the United States as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports” or “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” for its approximate duration, and is also called “The Run for the Roses” for the blanket of roses draped over the winner. It is the first leg of the American Triple Crown and is followed by the Preakness Stakes, then the Belmont Stakes. Unlike the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, which took hiatuses in 1891–1893 and 1911–1912, respectively, the Kentucky Derby has been run every consecutive year since 1875. A horse must win all three races to win the Triple Crown. In the 2015 listing of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), the Kentucky Derby tied with the Whitney Handicap as the top Grade 1 race in the United States outside of the Breeders’ Cup races.
The attendance at the Kentucky Derby ranks first in North America and usually surpasses the attendance of all other stakes races including the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and the Breeders’ Cup.
The 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby was Saturday, May 7, 2016 with a $2 million guaranteed purse. (Wikipedia)