The First Derby Day
Popular rider Oliver Lewis rode H.P. McGrath's thoroughbred Aristides to victory in the first Kentucky Derby on May 17, 1875 at the Louisville Jockey Club. Fourteen of the fifteen jockeys in the Derby, including Lewis, were African Americans.
The Kentucky Derby, now run annually the first Saturday in May, is the oldest consecutively held thoroughbred horse race in America. It was begun by Meriwether Lewis Clark, a prominent Louisville citizen who developed the Louisville Jockey Club. Clark began construction on the race course in 1874 on land leased from two relatives, John and Henry Churchill. He patterned the Kentucky Derby after the English Classic, the Epsom Derby.1 The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes comprise the coveted Triple Crown of U.S. horse racing.