The First Kentucky Derby
May 17, 1875
On May 17, 1875, the horse, Aristides, and
his rider, Oliver Lewis, crossed the finish line ahead of the
rest of the field at the first ever Kentucky Derby. The horse's
owner, H.P. McGrath, and a roaring crowd in the stands looked
on. Aristides, a Thoroughbred named after an ancient Greek
general, earned extra alfalfa that day in Louisville. What would
you have seen in Louisville that first race day?
might have seen well-groomed Thoroughbreds--a cross between
Arabian stallions and European mares--along with 15 fine
jockeys, 13 of whom, including Oliver Lewis, were African
American. You also would have seen cheering crowds sitting
anxiously in the bleachers around the track built in 1874 by
Meriweather Lewis Clark.