Grateful American® Foundation

What annual horse race began its tradition today in 1875?

May 17th

kingMay 17, 1875 — The first Kentucky Derby ran today, where 15 horses competed in a 1.5 mile race before a crowd of 10,000 on a new track in Louisville.

The winning horse was Aristides, a small chestnut thoroughbred, who received extra alfalfa for dinner as a reward for the victory.

Ridden by African-American jockey Oliver Lewis, the horse was expected to make a quick start and force a fast pace to allow Chesapeake, another horse in the race with the same owner, to eventually win. But Aristides went so fast that no other horse was able to keep up.

Racing in Louisville dates back to 1783 when men raced their horses in the middle of downtown. Eventually the races were moved to racetracks, ending up eventually at today’s Churchill Downs.

The Louisville Courier-Journal wrote: “It is the gallant Aristides, heir to a mighty name, that strides with sweeping gallop toward victory … and the air trembles and vibrates again with the ringing cheers that followed.”

Words of Wisdom

You can't win the Kentucky Derby unless you're on a thoroughbred.

— Joe Torre, chief baseball officer, Major League Baseball

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