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05-17   Print  E-mail
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Popular rider Oliver Lewis rode H.P. McGrath's

thoroughbred Aristides to victory in the first Kentucky Derby on May 17, 1875 at the Louisville Jockey Club. Fourteen of the fifteen jockeys in the Derby, including Lewis, were African Americans.The Kentucky Derby, now run annually the first Saturday in May, is the oldest consecutively held thoroughbred horse race in America. It was begun by Meriwether Lewis Clark, a prominent Louisville citizen who developed the Louisville Jockey Club. Clark began construction on the race course in 1874 on land leased from two relatives, John and Henry Churchill. He patterned the Kentucky Derby after the English Classic, the Epsom Derby.1 The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes comprise the coveted Triple Crown of U.S. horse racing.

In 1773, the College of William and Mary sponsored a survey of the area which eventually became Louisville, site of the Kentucky Derby. George Rogers Clark settled there in 1778, and the town, named for Louis XVI of France, was organized in 1779. By the early 1800s, Louisville became a major port serving both the Midwest and the South. During the Civil War, it was a key supply depot for Union troops.

During May each year, Louisville hosts not only the Kentucky Derby but also an acclaimed horse show at the Kentucky State Fair. Also, annually during the Derby festival, the sternwheeler Belle of Louisville races the Delta Queen.


 

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