Kentucky Derby Tradition
When is the Kentucky Derby? The Kentucky Derby is run annually on the first Saturday in May. Horse racing in Kentucky dates back to 1783. It's a sport rich in pride, heritage and tradition, and no other venue in the world pays tribute to the glory, status and spectacle of Thoroughbred racing quite like Churchill Downs.
If you've got your Kentucky Derby tickets and want a taste of what you're in for during this year's "Run for the Roses," here's some Churchill Downs background information, a few historic highlights, and a couple of Kentucky Derby traditions to get you off to the races with a little knowledge under your saddle.
The Fastest Two Minutes In History
|1873 - Col. M. Lewis Clark returns from Europe to begin work on the Louisville Jockey Club, modeled after French and English clubs of the time.
1874 - 80 acres south of downtown are leased from Clark's uncles, John and Henry Churchill.
1875 - Bonaventure wins first race at then Louisville Jockey Club. Aristides wins first Kentucky Derby.
1883 - Track first referred to as "Churchill Downs."
1895 - Twin spires are erected over the grandstands.
1903 - Under Grainger and Winn track shows first profit.
1942 - Churchill Downs Incorporated.
1952 - 1st national telecast of Derby.
1954 - 1st filmed replay.
1973 - Secretariat record at 1:59 2/5.
1974 - 100th Kentucky Derby
1982 - Computerized pari-mutuel system installed.
2004 - Phase I of $121 Million renovation begins.
2005 - Phase II of $121 Million renovation completed.
For a more detailed track history visit Churchill Downs online.
| No trip to the Kentucky Derby is complete until you've sampled a mint julep. Mix fine Kentucky Bourbon with sugar, water and some fresh mint, serve over crushed ice in a tall glass, and you've got yourself the official drink of the Kentucky Derby.
Try it at Home
Mix 2 cups water with 2 cups sugar. Boil for 5 minutes. Add 6-8 sprigs of fresh mint. Cover container. Refrigerate overnight. Fill one glass at a time over crushed ice. Add 1 tablespoon of mint syrup and 2 shots of your finest Kentucky Bourbon. Stir rapidly and garnish with a fresh sprig of mint. Voilą! A little taste of Kentucky to get you ready for the Derby!
Near Misses and Divine Equine
1932 - Burgoo King
1936 - Bold Venture
1944 - Pensive
1961 - Carry Back
1964 - Northern Dancer
1966 - Kauai King
1968 - Forward Pass
1969 - Majestic Prince
1971 - Canonero II
1979 - Spectacular Bid
1981 - Pleasant Colony
1987 - Alysheba
1989 - Sunday Silence
1997 - Silver Charm
1998 - Real Quiet
1999 - Charismatic
2002 - War Emblem
2003 - Funny Cide
2004 - Smarty Jones
Triple Crown Winners
1919 - Sir Barton
1930 - Gallant
1935 - Omaha
1937 - War Admiral
1941 - Whirlaway
1943 - Count Fleet
1946 - Assault
1948 - Citation
1973 - Secretariat
1977 - Seattle Slew
1978 - Affirmed
Calling All Milliners
| Wearing a fashionable (if not gaudy) hat to the Kentucky Derby is probably the most notable tradition associated with the Kentucky Derby. Just about everyone you run into at Churchill Downs on race-day will be wearing a lavishly designed or creatively pieced-together hat.
Generally, you'll see classy and fashionable hats in the Clubhouse and Paddock areas, but the infield seating hosts an open-season for mad hatters and meticulous milliners alike to display their creative flare for headwear.
» Where to Sit - All about Churchill Downs Seating
» What to Expect - History, tradition and more at Churchill Downs
» What to Do - Louisville area attractions, entertainment and dining
» Where to Stay - Hotels and B&Bs near Churchill Downs
Kentucky Derby Info