The Kentucky Derby is a stakes race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses, staged annually at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May.
Organized horse racing in the State of Kentucky dates as far back as the late 1700s when several different race courses were built in and around the city of Louisville.
In 1872, Col. M. Lewis Clark, traveled to England, visiting the Epsom 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, which eventually became the famous Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Returning home to Kentucky, Clark organized the Louisville Jockey Club for the purpose of raising money to build quality racing facilities just outside of the city. The track would soon become known as Churchill Downs, named for Lewis Clark’s relatives, John and Henry Churchill, who had provided the land for the racetrack.
Besides the consumption of the Mint Julep drink, other traditions have played a large role in the Derby atmosphere, with elegant women appearing in long dresses, big hats, and carrying fancy umbrellas.
The Derby is frequently referred to as “The run for the roses,” because a garland of red roses is awarded to the Kentucky Derby winner each year.