Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.

Top Surnames

view all

Profiles

  • John Pope Rowan Churchill (1819 - 1897)
    One source states in regards to Churchill Downs...."The track is named for John and Henry Churchill, who leased 80 acres of land to their nephew, Colonel Meriwether Lewis 'Lutie' Clark, Jr. (grandson o...
  • William Henry Churchill (1814 - 1891)
    One source states in regards to Churchill Downs...."The track is named for John and Henry Churchill, who leased 80 acres of land to their nephew, Col. Meriwether Lewis 'Lutie' Clark, Jr. (grandson of e...
  • Jimmy Jones (1906 - 2001)
    A. "Jimmy" Jones (November 24, 1906 – September 2, 2001) was an American thoroughbred horse trainer.The son of Hall of Fame horse trainer Ben A. Jones, Jimmy Jones was born in Parnell, Missouri. Raised...
  • From https://www.pinterest.com/pin/383650461986358475/
    Ben Jones (1884 - 1961)
    Allyn Jones (December 31, 1882 - June 13, 1961) was a thoroughbred horse trainer.Ben Jones was born in Parnell, Missouri, and attended Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri for high school....
  • Eddie Arcaro (1916 - 1997)
    Horseracing Jockey. He rode Whirlaway and Citation to Triple Crown winners, the only jockey to ever accomplish this feat. Acaro won the Kentucky Derby five times, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes s...

The focus of this project is to collect profiles of anyone involved in the Kentucky Derby from the star jockeys to the financiers, to the owners and the stable boys and everyone in between.

The Kentucky Derby /ˈdɜːrbi/ is a horse race held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, United States, almost always on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The competition is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles (2.0 km) at Churchill Downs. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds (57 kilograms) and fillies 121 pounds (55 kilograms).

It is dubbed "The Run for the Roses", stemming from the blanket of roses draped over the winner. It is also known in the United States as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" or "The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports" because of its approximate duration. It is the first leg of the American Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes, and then the Belmont Stakes. Of the three Triple Crown races, the Kentucky Derby has the distinction of having been run uninterrupted since its inaugural race in 1875. The race was rescheduled to September, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Preakness and Belmont Stakes races had taken hiatuses in 1891–1893 and 1911–1912, respectively. Even with the Olympics and major professional sports leagues canceled at those points, the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont took place during the Great Depression and both World Wars.

A horse must win all three races to win the Triple Crown.[5] In the 2015 listing of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), the Kentucky Derby tied with the Whitney Handicap as the top Grade 1 race in the United States outside the Breeders' Cup races.

The attendance at the Kentucky Derby ranks first in North America and usually surpasses the attendance numbers of all other stakes races including the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and the Breeders' Cup.

History

In 1872, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition, traveled to England, visiting Epsom in Surrey where The Derby had been running annually since 1780.[9] From there, Clark went on to Paris, France, where a group of racing enthusiasts had formed the French Jockey Club in 1863. They had organized the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp, which at the time was the greatest race in France.

A thoroughbred horse is depicted on the reverse of the Kentucky state quarter Returning home to Kentucky, Clark organized the Louisville Jockey Club to raise money for building 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. The naming went official in 1937.

The Kentucky Derby was first run at 1+1⁄2 miles (12 furlongs; 2.4 km) the same distance as the Epsom Derby, before changing lengths in 1896 to its current 1+1⁄4 miles (10 furlongs; 2 km). On May 17, 1875, in front of an estimated crowd of 10,000 people, a field of 15 three-year-old horses contested the first Derby. Under jockey Oliver Lewis, a colt named Aristides, who was trained by future Hall of Famer Ansel Williamson, won the inaugural Derby. Later that year, Lewis rode Aristides to a second-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

Although the first race meeting proved a success, the track ran into financial difficulties, and in 1894 the New Louisville Jockey Club was incorporated with the new capitalization and improved facilities. Despite this, the business floundered until 1902 when Col. Matt Winn of Louisville put together a syndicate of businessmen to acquire the facility. Under Winn, Churchill Downs prospered, and the Kentucky Derby then became the preeminent stakes race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses in North America.

Thoroughbred owners began sending their successful Derby horses to compete in two other races. These two are the Preakness Stakes at the Pimlico Race Course, in Baltimore, and the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York. The three races offered large purses, and in 1919 Sir Barton became the first horse to win all three races. However, the term Triple Crown didn't come into use for another eleven years. In 1930, when Gallant Fox became the second horse to win all three races, sportswriter Charles Hatton brought the phrase into American usage. Fueled by the media, public interest in the possibility of a "superhorse" that could win the Triple Crown began in the weeks leading up to the Derby. Two years after the term went in use, the race (until that time ran in mid-May since inception) changed the date to the first Saturday in May. This change allows for a specific schedule for the Triple Crown races. Since 1931, the order of Triple Crown races has been the Kentucky Derby first, followed by the Preakness Stakes and then the Belmont Stakes. Before 1931, eleven times the Preakness was run before the Derby. On May 12, 1917, and again on May 13, 1922, the Preakness and the Derby took place on the same day. On eleven occasions the Belmont Stakes was run before the Preakness Stakes, and in 2020, the Belmont was run first, then the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness Stakes last.

On May 16, 1925, the first live radio broadcast of the Kentucky Derby aired on WHAS as well as on WGN in Chicago. On May 7, 1949, the first television coverage of the Kentucky Derby took place, produced by WAVE-TV, the NBC affiliate in Louisville. This coverage was aired live in the Louisville market and sent to NBC as a kinescope newsreel recording for national broadcast. On May 3, 1952, the first national television coverage of the Kentucky Derby took place, aired from then-CBS affiliate WHAS-TV.[13] In 1954, the purse exceeded US$100,000 for the first time. In 1968, Dancer's Image became the first horse to win the race and then faced disqualification. A urine test revealed traces of phenylbutazone (an anti-inflammatory painkiller drug) inside Dancer's Image. Forward Pass won after a protracted legal battle by the owners of Dancer's Image (which they lost). Forward Pass thus became the eighth winner for Calumet Farm. Unexpectedly, the regulations at Kentucky thoroughbred race tracks were changed some years later, allowing horses to run on phenylbutazone. In 1970, Diane Crump became the first female jockey to ride in the Derby, finishing 15th aboard Fathom.

The fastest time ever run in the Derby was in 1973 at 1:59.4 minutes, when Secretariat broke the record set by Northern Dancer in 1964 – a record time yet to be topped. Also during that race, he did something unique in Triple Crown races: for each successive quarter ran, his times were faster. Although the races do not record times for non-winners, in 1973 Sham finished second, two and a half lengths behind Secretariat in the same race. Using the thoroughbred racing convention of one length equaling one-fifth of a second to calculate Sham's time, he also finished in under two minutes. Another sub-two-minute finish, only the third, was set in 2001 by Monarchos at 1:59.97, the first year the race used hundredths of seconds instead of fifths in timing.

In 2005, the purse distribution for the Derby changed, so that horses finishing fifth would henceforth receive a share of the purse; previously only the first four finishers did so.

The Kentucky Derby began offering $3 million in purse money in 2019. Churchill Downs officials have cited the success of historical race wagering terminals at their Derby City Gaming facility in Louisville as a factor behind the purse increase. The Derby first offered a $1 million purse in 1996; then doubled to $2 million in 2005.

In 2020, The Kentucky Derby was postponed from May 2 to September 5 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the second time in history the race had been postponed, the other being in 1945. Churchill Downs used a new singular 20-stall starting gate for the 2020 Kentucky Derby, replacing the previous arrangement that used a standard 14-stall gate and an auxiliary six-stall gate. The old setup contributed to congestion at the start of the race, especially in the gap between the two gates.

The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously held major sporting event in the United States since 1875.

Attendance

Millions of people from around the world bet at various live tracks and online sportsbooks. In 2017, a crowd of 158,070 watched Always Dreaming win the Derby, making it the seventh biggest attendance in the history of the racetrack. The track reported a wagering total of $209.2 million from all the sources on all the races on the Kentucky Derby Day program. It was a 9 percent increase compared to the total of $192.6 million in 2016 and an increase of 8 percent over the previous record set in 2015 of $194.3 million. TwinSpires, a platform for betting online and a partner of the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup, recorded $32.8 million in handle on the Churchill Down races for the Kentucky Derby Day program. This record was a 22 percent increase over the preceding year. On the Kentucky Derby race alone, the handle of TwinSpires was $20.1 million, which is a 22 percent rise compared to the prior year.

The race often draws celebrities. HM Queen Elizabeth II, on a visit to the United States, joined the racegoers at Churchill Downs in 2007.

Traditions

In addition to the race itself, several traditions play a significant role in the Derby atmosphere. The mint julep—an iced drink consisting of bourbon, mint, and sugar syrup—is the traditional beverage of the race. The historic beverage comes served in an ice-frosted silver julep cup. However, most Churchill Downs patrons sip theirs from souvenir glasses (first offered in 1939 and available in revised form each year since) printed with all previous Derby winners. Also, burgoo, a thick stew of beef, chicken, pork, and vegetables, is a popular Kentucky dish served at the Derby.

Louisville Clock (often called the Louisville Derby Clock), which was dismantled in 2015 The infield—a spectator area inside the track—offers general admission prices but little chance of seeing much of the race, particularly before the jumbotron installation in 2014. Instead, revelers show up in the infield to party with abandon. By contrast, "Millionaire's Row" refers to the expensive box seats that attract the rich, the famous and the well-connected. Women appear in elegant outfits lavishly accessorized with large, elaborate hats. Following the Call to the Post, as the horses start to parade before the grandstands, the University of Louisville Cardinal Marching Band plays Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home". This song is a tradition which began in 1921.The event attracts spectators from a large area, flying in hundreds of private aircraft to Louisville International Airport.

The Derby is frequently referred to as "The Run for the Roses", because a lush blanket of 554 red roses is awarded to the Kentucky Derby winner each year. The tradition originated in 1883 when New York City socialite E. Berry Wall presented roses to ladies at a post-Derby party. Churchill Downs founder and president, Col. M. Lewis Clark, attended that event. This gesture is believed to have led Clark to the idea of making the rose the race's official flower. However, it was not until 1896 that any recorded account referred to draping roses on the Derby winner. The Governor of Kentucky awards the garland and the Kentucky Derby Trophy. Pop vocalist Dan Fogelberg composed the song "Run for the Roses", released in time for the 1980 running of the race.

"Riders Up!" is the traditional command from the Paddock Judge for jockeys to mount their horses in advance of the upcoming race. Since 2012, a dignitary or celebrity attendee recites this phrase.

In the weeks preceding the race, numerous activities take place for the Kentucky Derby Festival. Thunder Over Louisville—an airshow and fireworks display—generally begins the festivities in earnest two weeks before the Derby.

Records

Speed record:

  • Mile and a Quarter: 1:59.4 – Secretariat (1973)
  • Mile and a Half: 2:34.5 – Spokane (1889)

Margin of Victory:

8 lengths – Old Rosebud (1914), Johnstown (1939), Whirlaway (1941), Assault (1946) Most wins by a jockey:

  • 5 – Eddie Arcaro (1938, 1941, 1945, 1948, 1952)
  • 5 – Bill Hartack (1957, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1969)
  • 4 – John Velazquez (2011, 2017, 2020, 2021)

Most wins by a trainer:

  • 7 – Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015, 2018, 2020, 2021)
  • 6 – Ben A. Jones (1938, 1941, 1944, 1948, 1949, 1952)

Most wins by an owner:

  • 8 – Calumet Farm (1941, 1944, 1948, 1949, 1952, 1957, 1958, 1968)

Longest shot to win the Derby:

  • 91 to 1 – Donerail (1913)

Miscellaneous:

  • In 2010, Calvin Borel set a new record, being the first jockey to win 3 out of 4 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
  • In 2018, Justify became the first horse since Apollo in 1882, to win the Derby without having raced as a two-year-old.
  • In 2019, Country House won the Kentucky Derby after Maximum Security was disqualified.

Kentucky Derby Winners

Triple Crown champions—U.S. year by horse

  • 1919 Sir Barton
  • 1930 Gallant Fox
  • 1935 Omaha
  • 1937 War Admiral
  • 1941 Whirlaway
  • 1943 Count Fleet
  • 1946 Assault
  • 1948 Citation
  • 1973 Secretariat
  • 1977 Seattle Slew
  • 1978 Affirmed
  • 2015 American Pharoah
  • 2018 Justify

Top Jockeys

Eddie Arcaro - Eddie Arcaro rode in the Kentucky Derby 21 times, the last time in 1961. He won with five of them. His Derby winners were Lawrin in 1938, Whirlaway in 1941, Hoop Jr. in 1945, Citation in 1948 and Hill Gail in 1952. Arcaro was a member of the Racing Hall of Fame. His career spanned 30 years from 1931 to 1961. He retired with a total of 24,092 mounts and 4,779 wins and died in 1997 at the age of 81.

Bill Hartack - Bill Hartack got his five Kentucky Derby winners out of only 12 rides. His Derby winners were Iron Liege in 1957, Venetian Way in 1960, Decidedly in 1962, Northern Dancer in 1964 and Majestic Prince in 1969. Hartack was a member of the Racing Hall of Fame and rode from 1953 through 1974. He retired with a total of 21,535 mounts and 4,272 wins, dying in 2007 in Texas.

Bill Shoemaker - Bill Shoemaker rode in the Kentucky Derby more times than any other jockey: 26 races from 1952 to 1988. He won four times. His Derby winners were Swaps in 1955, Tomy Lee in 1959, Lucky Debonair in 1965 and Ferdinand in 1986. But he might be most remembered for his loss in the Derby aboard Gallant Man in 1957. He misjudged the finish and stood up in the irons too soon, allowing Bill Hartack and Iron Liege to pass them and win.

His riding career spanned 41 years from 1949 to 1990. He retired with a total of 40,350 mounts and 8,833 wins. Shoemaker was tragically paralyzed in a car accident a year after he retired. He died in 2003 at the age of 72.

Isaac Murphy - Isaac Murphy rode in the Kentucky Derby 11 times from 1877 to 1893. One of many African American jockeys to ride in that era, he won three times. His Derby winners were Buchanan in 1884, Riley in 1890 and Kingman in 1891. Murphy is a member of the Racing Hall of Fame. He rode from 1876 through 1895 and retired with a total of 1,538 mounts and 530 wins, an impressive 33-percent rate. He died of pneumonia at age 34 and is buried at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington next to Man o' War.

Earl Sande - After beginning his career as a bronco buster, Earl Sande rode in the Kentucky Derby eight times between 1918 and 1932 and won three times. His Derby winners were Zev in 1923, Flying Ebony in 1925 and Gallant Fox in 1930. Sande is a member of the Racing Hall of Fame and rode from 1918 to 1953. He retired with a total of 3,673 mounts and 968 wins.

Angel Cordero, Jr. - Angel Cordero Jr. rode in the Kentucky Derby 17 times from 1968 to 1991 and he won three times. His Derby winners were Cannonade in 1974, Bold Forbes in 1976 and Spend a Buck in 1985. Cordero was the first Puerto Rican inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame and he also won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 1982, 1983 and 1985. He rode from 1960 to 1992 and retired with a total of 38,646 mounts and 7,057 wins.

Gary Stevens - Gary Stevens rode in the Kentucky Derby eight times from 1985 through 2005 and he won three times. His Derby winners were Winning Colors in 1988, Thunder Gulch in 1995 and Silver Charm in 1997. Stevens is a member of the Racing Hall of Fame and rode from 1979 through 2005 when he retired with a total of 27,594 mounts and 4,888 wins.

But Stevens wasn't done yet. In a move that Stevens admitted was "middle-age crazy," he returned to racing in 2013 after years as a horse racing analyst for major networks including NBC. He was the regular rider of Beholder in 2016, an Eclipse Award finalist. Then he announced in December that he would undergo hip replacement surgery, adding emphatically that he "had not retired."

Kent Desormeaux - Kent Desormeaux has ridden in the Kentucky Derby 17 times from 1988 to 2011. He won his third Derby in 2008 aboard Big Brown. His two other winners were Real Quite in 1998 and Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000. Desormeaux was elected to the Racing Hall of Fame in 2006.

He battled alcohol addiction and entered rehab in 2016 after guiding Exaggerator, trained by his brother Keith, to a win in the Belmont Stakes. Exaggerator has since retired, but Desormeaux is still racing.

Calvin Borel - Calvin Borel has been a regular on the Kentucky and Midwest circuits for over 25 years. He's ridden in the Kentucky Derby only nine times, but he is the only jockey to ever win three Derbies in a four-year span and he finished third in the year he didn't win. His first Kentucky Derby win came in 2007 aboard Street Sense. He next won with Mine That Bird in 2009, a huge upset by a long shot. He came back to win again in 2010 with Super Saver.

He retired from racing in March 2016 because he said he had "fractured every bone in his body at one time or another." But, like Gary Stevens, Borel found that he wasn't particularly comfortable with retirement and he was back in the saddle in August. His nickname is "Bo-rail" because he has a way of guiding his mounts to the rail to save ground almost against impossible odds. Borel is also known for his ebullient celebrations after winning.

Victor Espinoza - Victor Espinoza is the newest member of the three-plus Derby winning club. He has been a regular rider in California for over two decades. He picked up the mount aboard War Emblem in 2002 when the colt was purchased by Prince Ahmed Salman and transferred to trainer Bob Baffert. They won the Derby and Preakness together but didn't take the Triple Crown due to a poor start in the Belmont.

Espinoza had to wait until 2014 and California Chrome before winning the Derby again. They then won the Preakness but checked in fourth in the Belmont for trainer Art Sherman.

As the regular rider of American Pharoah, again for Baffert, Espinoza went into the 2015 Belmont with the Triple Crown again on the line. This time the jockey-and-horse team did not disappoint, breaking the 37-year drought since the last Triple Crown.