A crowd of over 150,000 people is expected to show up to Churchill Downs on Saturday for the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby. The famous Louisville track plays host to a talented and deep 3-year old crop of colts this year, with several realistic possibilities to win as 20 horses will be entered. But how did the “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” come to be? We have the whole story!
The race was initially organized by the Louisville Jockey Club. The club was founded by Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., grandson of the famous explorer William Clark. Clark received his inspiration for the event while visiting England in 1872. During his trip he attended the Epsom Derby, a prestigious race that was held annually. After leaving Great Britain, Clark went to Paris where he witnessed another famous the race: The Grand Prix De Paris. After returning to Kentucky he started the club in order to raise money for building a track. The club was successful in their fund-raising and finally a track was built. This track was named Churchill Downs in honor of John and Henry Churchill who donated the land.
The first Kentucky Derby Race took place in 1875 in front of 10,000 people. Back then the course was 1.5 miles long and only 15 horses raced. All of the horses were 3 years old and thoroughbred. The winner of this historic race was a colt named Arstrides, who was trained by Ansel Williams. Later that year Artrides would come in second in the Belmont Stakes.
Although the race was considered a success by the press and by racing fans, the Louisville Jockey Club found themselves in a bad spot financially. The club refinanced and changed their name to the New Louisville Jockey Club, however their situation did not improve. Finally a syndicate of businessmen acquired the racing tracking in 1902. Under the new management the track flourished and the Kentucky Derby became of the most prominent horse races in the country.
During this time owners of winning horses started to send their winners to participate in the Preakness Stakes in Maryland and the Belmont Stakes in New York. In 1930 the press started calling the three races the “Triple Crown” when a horse named Gallant Fox won all of them. After this the three races would follow a specific schedule: First the Kentucky derby, followed by the Preakness Stakes and finally the Belmont Stakes. The first national live coverage of the event took place in 1952 when the CBS affiliate WHAS aired it. In 1954 the purse reached a record high of $100,000.
From there on the Kentucky Derby only grew in popularity. In 2001 over 154,000 people attended the event. For the 2007 Derby, Churchill Downs announced an $11.3 million stakes schedule. During that same year Queen Elizabeth II visited the track in order to watch the races.
This year promises to be one of the most exciting ones for the Kentucky Derby. With crowd favorites like Bodmeister and Union Rags competing, it certainly looks like this will be a close race. Millions are expected to be watching NBC for the coverage on Saturday afternoon; post time has been set for 6:23 p.m. EDT. In the mean time, make sure to check out all the interesting props that we are offering for the bet as well as the odds for the winners. See you at the race track!