Thoroughbred horse racing: a look at the history of the Kentucky Derby


The number 2 comes up a lot when talking about the Kentucky Derby. The horse race covers a distance of two kilometers and is the second oldest sporting event in the country. The course record, set by the Secretariat in 1973, is just under two minutes (1:59 and 2/5 of a second). No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the race without running at age 2. But the many fans who have dubbed it “the most exciting two minutes in sports” will agree that there is nothing second-rate about the Derby.

Due to the rich fields of its Bluegrass region (the same area that gives the music its name), Kentucky was known throughout the 19th century for producing excellent racehorses. The idea of ​​a race arose in 1872, when Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., William Clark’s grandson who, with Meriwether Lewis, mapped the Louisiana Purchase, visited races in England and France. Inspired by his travels, he formed the Louisville Jockey Club when he returned home to Kentucky and began raising money for a racetrack, soon known as Churchill Downs, on the outskirts of the city.

The first race was held in 1875, making it the oldest sporting event in the United States. After a shaky start, the race was taken over by a businessmen’s union under the leadership of Colonel Matt Winn of Louisville in 1902, and it quickly became America’s most successful thoroughbred horse race.

Race became part of the fabric of American culture. With the Preakness Stakes in Pimlico, Maryland, and the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York, it forms the Triple Crown of US Thoroughbred racing. Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown, and none since 1978. At least Over the years, the Derby has given rise to various traditions, such as the consumption of mint juleps (a drink consisting of bourbon, mint and sugar syrup), pari-mutuel bets, parties in the infield (where it is so difficult Seeing the race there’s not much else to do), throwing derby parties (if you can’t get into the race), the Chocolate Nut Pie Derby (sold by the nearby Melrose Inn), and wearing elaborate hats.

The Derby was the site of the invention of “Gonzo journalism,” the influential, expressive, confrontational, and proudly counterfactual style of journalism pioneered by writer Hunter S. Thompson in a 1970 magazine article with the ironic title “The Kentucky Derby is decadent and depraved. ” Above all, there is “My Old Kentucky Home,” the Stephen Foster tune played every year by the University of Louisville marching band as the horses parade through the bleachers and the proud hometown crowd begins to cry already. sing out loud. The Derby is so important that it even spawned the largest festival in the state, the Kentucky Derby Festival, which began in 1956 and fills the two weeks leading up to the Derby race with the Pegasus Parade, balloon and steamboat races and a marathon, as well as the largest fireworks display in the US.

Visiting the Kentucky Derby requires advance planning. Grandstand seating requires a written request submitted several months in advance (see for details). Access to the field is available for $ 40, as is SRO entry to “los brillos” (paddock gardens near the track). Get there early (7:30 AM) and bring a blanket. Wear a strange hat. On-site parking is almost non-existent and hotels also need to be reserved several months in advance. The best option is to try to get a room in a hotel that also offers a shuttle service to the Downs on the day of the Derby.

Above all, be sure to read up on the procedures. Watching thoroughbred horse racing offers timeless excitement. Whether you’re a fan of horse racing or just like the thrill of live horse racing, the sport is full of drama and passion, and sports news sources as well as advice services can help. maximize your enjoyment of thoroughbred horse racing. clarifying the details and letting you know who the favorites are.

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