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The Kentucky Derby

Since 1875, The Kentucky Derby, the world’s best-known horse race has been held annually in Louisville Kentucky during the month of May. It is also called the “Run for the Roses” because of the garland of roses that is presented to the winner. The race is held at a racetrack called Churchill Downs, the land for which was donated by John and Henry Churchill, the uncles of Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. Clark founded the Louisville Jockey Club which raised the money to build the dirt, oval-shaped track, which is currently  1.25 miles in length and 80 feet all the way around.

The Kentucky Derby is only open to three-year-old thoroughbred horses.  In order to qualify for the race, the horses must compete in a series of races weeks before the Derby. They earn points for these races and the 20 thoroughbreds with the most points compete in the race, which only lasts approximately two minutes.

Spectators purchase tickets for the Kentucky Derby up to a year in advance and dress to impress. Women wear fancy dresses and wide brimmed hats with flowers, feathers, bows and sometimes even replicas of the Derby. Men wear suits and some wear hats as well. Approximately 150,000 people attend the Kentucky Derby each year.

Did You Know?

  • The first winner of the Kentucky Derby was an African American jockey named Oliver Lewis

  • The youngest winner of the Derby was 15 year old Alonzo Clayton

  • Six women have ridden in the Derby

  • The thoroughbreds race around the track at approximately 35 miles per hour

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