Out of the Past
History Lessons 
First Running of The Kentucky Derby

First quarter,1943,Kentucky Derby
First quarter, 1943 Kentucky Derby

Today will be historic in Kentucky annals as the first ‘Derby Day’ of what promises to be a long series of annual turf festivities of which we confidently expect our grandchildren, a hundred years hence, to celebrate in glorious rejoicings.
Louisville Courier-Journal
May 17, 1875

Approximately 10,000 spectators turned out for the first Derby Day in 1875. Today, the event attracts more than 150,000 fans to Churchill Downs each spring, with many millions around the world watching the race on television.

In the first Kentucky Derby, 13 of the 15 jockeys were black and black jockeys won 15 of the first 28 Derbys, according to James C. Nicholson's history of the event, The Kentucky Derby.

But while the black jockeys prospered early on, the “color line” that was already prevalent in baseball and other sports in the late 1800s soon forced black jockeys out of racing altogether. 

My Old Kentucky Home

The anthem of the Kentucky Derby - “My Old Kentucky Home” - was first mentioned in public reports as having been performed at the Derby in 1921.

Along with “moonlight and magnolias” imagery and other connections to the Old South,  “My Old Kentucky Home” was part of a deliberate  marketing effort in the first half of the 20th century linking the race to a romanticized bygone era. 

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The Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Derby
How the Run for the Roses Became America's Premier Sporting Event
by James C. Nicholson
The University Press of Kentucky, 2012

If the Super Bowl had been played in the same city each year, say a working class community like Green Bay, and still grew up to become a multi-billion-dollar spectacle attracting the world's rich and famous as well as the beer-swilling, tatooed commoners then it would be an event comparable to the Kentucky Derby, especially if you added an extra hundred years of tradition to its history.

An unabashed  thoroughbred horse enthusiast and Kentucky Derby fan, the author nevertheless provides a straightforward history and honest assessment of the event and its evolution.

The book follows the progress of the Derby through the decades as it broke away from a pack of other races to become America’s premier thoroughbred event. 

Run For The Roses
Run For The Roses


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