The Kentucky Derby is the oldest consecutively held Thoroughbred race in America. It is run annually on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Along with the Preakness in mid-May, and Belmont in early June, it is the first jewel of the coveted Triple Crown of Thoroughbred racing, which has been won by only eleven horses since 1919.
In the late 1800’s Meriwether Lewis Clark, Junior wanted to create a horse racing track that would rival anything Europe had to offer. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., wanted his track to have a race that would rival England's Epsom Derby. While traveling in England and France in 1872-1873, 26-year-old Col. M. Lewis Clark, devised the idea of a Louisville Jockey Club for conducting race meets by visiting a number of prominent racing leaders, including England's Admiral Rous and France's Vicompte Darn of the French Jockey Club.
After visiting England to study both its tracks and its races, he established the Kentucky Derby, which was first run on May 17, 1875 and won by H.P. McGrath's Aristides jockeyed by Oliver Lewis.
By 1920, the Derby had become the best-known race in North America and it was attracting the top three-year-olds from all over the country and by 1937 the track was incorporated as Churchill Downs in 1937.
The Derby field is limited to three-year-olds; fillies carry 121 pounds and colts 126 pounds. So far, only three fillies have won the Derby: Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980, and Winning Colors in 1988.
Except for 1879 through 1895, when it was 1 1/2 miles, the Derby has always been run at 1 1/4 miles.
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