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  • Writer's pictureKurtis Tatkenhorst

May 17th- First ever Kentucky Derby

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

1875- On this day in sports history, the first ever Kentucky Derby race was held on this date in 1875. The Kentucky Derby, with all of its history and colorful traditions, is the oldest continuously running sporting event in the United States. Every year since 1875, the first Saturday in May means 150,000 spectators gather in Louisville, Kentucky to watch the famous horse race. The only thing that has stopped it so far is the Coronavirus pandemic, however they are scheduled to still run it the first Saturday of September.

Did you know that the person who started the Kentucky Derby was Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., the grandson of William Clark, who was a part of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Lewis and Clark, sent my President Jefferson, led the exploration of the new Louisiana Purchase. Meriwether Jr was known to love extravagant parties and planned this horse race to be one. He acquired the land from his uncles John & Henry Churchill. He founded the Louisville Jockey Club which raised the funds to build the racetrack “Churchill Downs” and host the race. The first race was held in front of 10,000 spectators with Aristides winning the 1.5 mile race.

Sources: Editors. “Kentucky Derby.”, A&E Television Networks, 27 Mar. 2018,

“Kentucky Derby History.” 2020 Kentucky Derby & Oaks | September 4th and 5th, 2020,

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