The Kentucky Derby is a beloved, sophisticated, and indulgent celebration of the greatest race on Earth.


The Kentucky Derby is the longest continually held sporting event in America, and it is one of the most prestigious horse races in the world.


Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. forms the Louisville Jockey Club and acquires land for racetrack from his uncles John & Henry Churchill.

Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark


The first Kentucky Derby race takes place on May 17, 1875. Oliver Lewis rides Aristides 1.5 miles to win, in a field of fifteen horses, in front of a crowd of 10,000 spectators.


Leonatus wins the Derby, and the name “Churchill Downs” is first used to landmark the racetrack that is the home of the Kentucky Derby.

Painting of 1883 Derby winner Leonatus


Due to the growing crowd size, a 285-foot grandstand is constructed to accommodate race fans. Chant wins the Derby.

Justify with jockey Mike Smith up is escorted towards the Kentucky Debry winner's circle.


The famed Twin Spires greet the Kentucky Derby crowd, on May 6th. Halma wins the Derby.


It is thought that the distance of the Derby race is too long for three-year-old Thoroughbreds that early in the spring, so the distance of the Derby race is shortened from one and a half miles to one and a quarter miles. Ben Brush wins the Derby, and he receives a floral arrangement of white and pink roses-the first documented Garland of Roses.


Col. Matt Winn becomes vice president and general manager of Churchill Downs, beginning his legacy of making the Kentucky Derby the must-attend event it is today.

Justify with jockey Mike Smith up is escorted towards the Kentucky Debry winner's circle.


The red rose becomes the official flower of the Kentucky Derby and Elwood wins the race.


Donerail wins the Derby, and becomes the longest shot to win. He pays $184.90 to win bets, $41.20 to place bets, and $13.20 to show bets.


Old Rosebud wins the Derby and sets a new track record, finishing the race in 2:03:04 and eight lengths ahead of the second place finisher.


For the third consecutive year, the Kentucky Derby splashes the news, as the first filly, Regret, wins the race. This publicity establishes the Kentucky Derby as a premier sporting event in America, after its 41st running.


Sir Barton wins the Derby and is also the first winner of what would become the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. In the span of just 32 days, Sir Barton won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, the Withers Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.


The first network radio broadcast of the Kentucky Derby takes place on May 16th, with about 5 to 6 million listeners tuning in to hear Flying Ebony win the Derby. Also notable in the year, the phrase “Run for the Roses®” is coined by Bill Corum, a sports columnist for the New York Evening Journal and the New York Journal – American.


Gallant Fox wins the Derby, and the term Triple Crown is officially used by the New York Times to describe his combined wins in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.


The Kentucky Derby is permanently scheduled for the first Saturday in May, as opposed to an undetermined date in mid-May. The move was largely due to the popularity of the idea of a Triple Crown winner, and allowed for a consistent racing schedule for horses that would participate in the three races – The Kentucky Derby, followed by the Preakness Stakes, then the Belmont Stakes.


Despite the Great Depression, the Kentucky Derby race continues to take place and has much to celebrate. The race is internationally broadcast, reaching England’s British Broadcasting Company, and the winner, Burgoo King, is the first Kentucky Derby winner to be officially draped in a garland of red roses.


A tunnel is constructed under the racetrack that connects the grandstand, spectator seats to the field inside the racetrack, called the “infield”. Admission is 50 cents to enjoy the Derby from the infield. Lawrin wins the Derby and he is the first to take to a stand built in the infield for the official presentation to the Kentucky Derby winning horse.

The Mint Julep becomes the official drink of the Kentucky Derby.


Regardless of the war-time travel restrictions from World War II and no out-of-town tickets sold to the Kentucky Derby, 65,000 fans gathered at Churchill Downs to see Count Fleet easily defeat the field at 2-5 odds.


The 75th Kentucky Derby is locally telecast for the first time, and Ponder wins the Derby.


The public exposure of the Kentucky Derby is expanded with the first national live television coverage in its history. An estimated 10 to 15 million viewers tune in to watch Hill Gail win the Derby.


Diane Crump is the first female jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby race. Crump finished 15th out of 18 horses in the field; and even though her Derby race wasn’t a win, she brought women to the forefront of horse racing. Dust Commander wins the Derby.


In the 99th running of the Kentucky Derby, Secretariat wins with the fastest finishing time to date. Secretariat smashed the track record finishing at 1:59:40, and went on to win the Triple Crown, for the first time in 25 years.


The second largest crowd in the history of U.S. Thoroughbred racing watches Cannonade win the 100th Derby. There were a total of 163,628 fans at Churchill Downs to watch the race, which also had a record large field size of 23 horses.


Seattle Slew wins the Kentucky Derby and goes on to win the Triple Crown. He is the 10th Triple Crown winner, and the only horse to take that title while also undefeated.


Affirmed wins the Kentucky Derby and goes on to win the Triple Crown.


The Kentucky Derby Museum is opened on the grounds of Churchill Downs Racetrack just one week before the Kentucky Derby is run. The museum’s mission is to ENGAGE, EDUCATE, and EXCITE EVERYONE about the extraordinary experience that is the Kentucky Derby! Spend A Buck wins the Derby.


The home of the Kentucky Derby race, Churchill Downs Racetrack, is formally placed on the register of National Historic Landmarks. Ferdinand wins the Derby.


Winning Colors wins the Derby, she is only the third filly in racing history to capture the Kentucky Derby win.


Hall of Fame Jockey Pat Day wins his first and only Kentucky Derby on Lil E.Tee.


The Kentucky Derby celebrates its 125 running, and Charismatic wins the race.


This year marked the third century in which the Kentucky Derby was run; Fusaichi Pegasus wins the Kentucky Derby.


The Kentucky Derby winner is Smarty Jones, and he is later featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.


Barbaro wins the Kentucky Derby, by six and a half lengths; the largest victory since 1946. He was a Kentucky Derby fan favorite. A bronze statue is placed above his remains at the entrance of Churchill Downs Racetrack. The Oaks Lily becomes the official drink of the Kentucky Oaks.


American Pharoah wins the Kentucky Derby and goes on to win the Triple Crown, breaking a Triple Crown drought lasting over 30 years. The 141st Kentucky Derby was a record-setting year with the highest attended Kentucky Derby of 175,513 fans.


Justify wins the Kentucky Derby and continues on to clinch the Triple Crown. He is the last horse to date to win the Triple Crown.


The Kentucky Derby is postponed until September due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. For the first time in its history, the Kentucky Derby is run without fans in attendance.


Rich Strike wins the 148th Running of the Kentucky Derby, overcoming 80-1 odds to pull off one of the most shocking upsets in race history.


Mage wins the 149th Kentucky Derby giving Hall of Fame Jockey Javier Castellano his first Derby win.

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Legendary Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs, the world's most legendary racetrack, has conducted thoroughbred racing and presented America's greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875.

Past Winners

The Kentucky Derby spans over the course of a century and a half and boasts some of the most memorable events in sporting history.



The rose garland, synonymous with the Kentucky Derby, is the source of the nickname 'Run for the Roses' and has a history almost as long as the Derby itself. Each year, a garland of more than 400 red roses is sewn into a green satin backing with the seal of the Commonwealth on one end and the Twin Spires and number of the race's current renewal on the other. Each garland is also adorned with a 'crown' of roses, green fern and ribbon. The 'crown,' a single rose pointing upward in the center of the garland, symbolizes the struggle and heart necessary to reach the Derby Winner's Circle. The Kroger Company has been crafting the garland for the Kentucky Derby since 1987.


Constructed in 1895, the Twin Spires were the creation of a 24-year-old draftsman, Joseph Dominic Baldez, who was asked to draw the blueprints for Churchill Downs' new grandstand.
Originally the plans did not include the Twin Spires atop Churchill Downs’ roofline, but as the young Baldez continued work on his design, he felt the structure needed something to give it a striking appearance.
Described as towers in the original drawing, the hexagonal spires exemplify late 19th century architecture, in which symmetry and balance took precedence over function. Although Baldez designed many other structures in Louisville, the Twin Spires remain as an everlasting monument to his memory. Former Churchill Downs President Matt J. Winn is reported to have told Baldez, 'Joe when you die there's one monument that will never be taken down, the Twin Spires.'


Although there is no definitive history on the playing of the Stephen Foster ballad as a Derby Day tradition, it is believed to have originated in 1921 for the 47th running. The Louisville Courier-Journal in its May 8, 1921, edition reported, 'To the strains of 'My Old Kentucky Home,' Kentuckians gave vent their delight. For Kentucky triumphed in the Derby.' The story refers to the popular victory of the Kentucky-owned and bred Behave Yourself. The actual year the song was played as the horses were led onto the track to begin the Derby post parade is also unclear. A 1929 news account written by the legendary Damon Runyon reported that the song was played periodically throughout Derby Day. A report by the former Philadelphia Public Ledger provides evidence that 1930 may have been the first year the song was played as the horses were led to the post parade — 'When the horses began to leave the paddock and the song 'My Old Kentucky Home' was coming from the radio, the cheering started.' Since 1936, with only a few exceptions, the song has been performed by the University of Louisville Marching Band as the horses make their way from the paddock to the starting gate.


The Mint Julep has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. Each year, more than 125,000 Mint Juleps are enjoyed by fans over the two-day period of Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs Racetrack. That’s a feat that requires more than 10,000 bottles of Kentucky bourbon, 2,250 pounds of freshly harvested mint and 475,000 pounds of ice. The Mint Julep contains Kentucky bourbon, simple syrup and mint leaves poured over crushed ice… enjoy!


Since the 50th running of the Kentucky Derby in 1924, Churchill Downs has annually presented a gold trophy to the winning owner of the famed 'Run for the Roses®.



In the late 1800s to early 1900s, hats signified a certain societal status. But while the accessory became less fashionable over the next decade in society, it has remained a time honored tradition at the races until this day.

During the Edwardian era, women wore a very tight corset, or bodice, and dressed in long skirts. The Edwardian era was the last time women wore corsets in everyday life. Skirts brushed the floor, often with a train

Huge, broad-brimmed hats were worn, trimmed with masses of feathers  – and occasionally complete stuffed birds –  or decorated with ribbons and artificial flowers. Lavish, wavy hair was fashionable, swept up to the top of the head. By the end of the decade, hats had smaller drooping brims that shaded the face but the overall top-heavy look continued.


Over the centuries, fashion has provided us with some very questionable trends , but of all the fads, none are quite as odd as the “hobble skirt”. The name comes from the term for binding a horse’s hooves together to keep it from running off.

This snug-fitting frock, which hugged the legs and nearly bound the ankles, was quite the craze from about 1910 to 1913.


The “Flapper” looks of the 1920s was a dramatic change to the previous decades and saw much smaller cloche and bucket caps  that were worn with a dress and gloves or loose suits. Though the daytime event of the Kentucky Derby didn't attract much of the flapper style for which the era is remembered, the attendees chose between formal suits or dresses to go with a range of fashionable hat styles.

1930’s & 1940’s

The 1930s and 1940s followed in the same vein, with option of a dress or suit; in fact, in the 1930s and 1940s the formal suit seemed to be more popular than the dress.


1950’s & 1960’s

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1970’s & 1980’s

In the 1970s and 1980s was a return to the longer skirt, while the same casual attitude of the 1960s was still in place.


In the 1990s, the dress at the Derby continued to replace the suit, especially with younger women. While gloves have become out of fashion, a hat never is, and the hats tend to get wilder and more expensive as the years go on. The style in the infield is relaxed, with women wearing cool sundresses, cotton skirts, or more frequently shorts.

2000 +

Although the general popularity of hats may have overall diminished culturally as a fashion trend, the tradition stays alive and well at the Kentucky Derby. In the 2000s, people flock to Kentucky and don ethereal cotton sundresses, bold hued skirts – and even jumpsuits – with the most wild of headpieces.

Thanks to the popularity of Kate Middleton and Prince William's royal wedding, impeccably designed fascinators and elaborate headpieces made a strong comeback. The Kentucky Derby is now becoming one of the most important events for milliners around the world.

If you could go back to any era, what would it be?

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