Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Run for the Roses

The tragedy at the Kentucky Derby this year had to be a first, when Eight Belles broke both front ankles after placing second to Big Brown. Let's look at less traumatic firsts associated with the Derby.

Starting at the beginning, the first Kentucky Derby was run on this date in 1875. Aristides was the first Derby winner, ridden by Oliver Lewis, one of 13 African-American jockeys in that first running. In fact, of the first 28 races, 15 winners were ridden by African-Americans.

The first record of roses draping the winning horse's neck was in 1896. The race is now known as "The Run for the Roses."

1904 Elwood was the first winner owned by a woman.

In 1915, Regret became the first of only three fillies to win.

In 1917, Omar Khayyam became the first foreign-bred winner. He was a colt bred in England.

In 1919, Sir Barton was the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby, then the Preakness, and later, the Belmont. In 1930, Gallant Fox repeated, winning the three races with the largest purses. A sports writer dubbed that feat the "Triple Crown." Sir Barton was the first Triple Crown winner before there was a Triple Crown.

The race was changed from mid-May to the first Saturday to accommodate the three-race Triple Crown schedule.

In 1973, Secretariat was the first winner to run the race in less than two minutes. His time still stands as a record 35 years later. No other winner has broken two minutes.

2004 was the first year jockeys were allowed to sport corporate logos.

But wait. What about the greatest race horse ever? Man O' War won 20 of 21 races, handily beating "Triple Crown winner" Sir Barton twice. He set three world records and is listed as number one in the top 100 U.S. Thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century. He died at 30 in 1947 and is buried in Kentucky under his statue.

Man O' War never ran in the Kentucky Derby because his owner said the horse was too young when the Derby was scheduled. Ironically, some people are speculating that Eight Belles' bones were just too young for the stress of that race. How sad.

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1 comment:

Diane J Standiford said...

It was very sad, compare that young horse to Big Brown...obvious.
Never knew Man O War lived to be 30, wow. Never seen a live race, but many jumping and English and Quarter events,