142nd Kentucky Derby on the Horizon

horse_may16By Peggy DeStefano


What fun it was to hear Missy Taylor of the collectors’ club Questers share her knowledge and love of the Kentucky Derby with us. The discussion was part of the ongoing series of seminars provided by the Brass Armadillo on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. The Questers, of which Missy is a member, is a club devoted to the love of antiques, collectibles and history. Misty’s enthusiasm for her topic was obvious. It made her whole presentation very enjoyable.


We learned about the history of the Derby, Churchill Downs, the horses, the jockeys and so much more related to the event.


Here is some of what we learned:


The Kentucky Derby is a Grade 1 stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds, held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival.


The race is one and a quarter miles at Churchill Downs. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds and fillies 121 pounds.


The race is known in the United States as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” for its approximate duration and is also called “The Run for the Roses” for the blanket of roses draped over the winner.


It is the first leg of the US Triple Crown which is comprised of The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness Stakes and The Belmont Stakes. The 12th winner of the Triple Crown is a horse named American Pharoah (pictured to the right) in 2015. Prior to his win, the Triple Crown was won by Affirmed in 1978. Seattle Slew won it in 1977 and the one most people are so familiar with is Secretariat in 1973 (owned by a Colorado woman named Penny Chenery, also known as Penny Tweedy), whose race time has never been surpassed.


The whole event is rich in history. In 1872, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition, traveled to England, visiting the Derby, a famous race that had been running annually since 1780. From there, Clark went on to Paris, France, where in 1863, a group of racing enthusiasts had formed the French Jockey Club and had organized the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamps, which at the time was the greatest race in France.


Returning home to Kentucky, Clark organized the Louisville Jockey Club for the purpose of raising money to build quality racing facilities just outside the city. The track would soon become known as Churchill Downs, named for John and Henry Churchill, who provided the land for the racetrack. Officially, the racetrack was incorporated as Churchill Downs in 1937.


There is so much to learn about the Derby. The amazing jockeys and trainers are the heart and soul of the event but the horses are the magnificent engines that bring them their victories.


Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon used in the mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby. The beautiful hats and the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” written by none other than Stephen Foster in 1852 all combine to make the event magical.

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