2018 Kentucky Derby
By Peru McCarra
Of all the exhilarating and seductive American traditions held, none rivals the annual Kentucky Derby event for its head-turning, dramatic appeal. The notorious horse race event that began in 1875 customarily features 3 year old racing champions, a practice dated back to the early English racing days, because it is believed that the horses are able to offer more athletic ability before their 4th year of physical maturity. The Kentucky Derby is the first challenge in the American Triple Crown mission, having the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes as the proceeding steps. A horse must win all three in order to be honored the American Triple Crown.
It was Cornel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. (1846-1899), the grandson of explorer and Missouri politician, General William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, who began with the inspiration of creating the now famous horse race. His idea originated after having traveled and witnessed the English Derby and the French Jockey Club in the late 1800’s. Upon returning home and seeing a need for quality racing facilities in Kentucky, the Cornel helped start the Louisville Jockey Club, also known as the Churchill Downs. Though the first races were a success, it was not until Cornel Matt Win of Kentucky (1861-1949), an equestrian businessman, took over the facility and helped The Kentucky Derby to fully reach its steadfast prominence.
In the history of the American Kentucky Derby, one horse stands out for physical excellence and speed, that being Secretariat (1970-1989), a 1973 Triple Crown Winner. He was Sired by Bold Ruler, a Thoroughbred Hall of Fame racehorse and 1957 Horse of the Year honoree, and Somethingroyal, another Thoroughbred racehorse and a 1973 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year honoree. Birthed in Caroline County Virginia at the Meadow Stud, Secretariat had a distinct look with his three white socks and his bright-red chestnut hair. He stood at 66 inches when fully grown and was noted for having powerful hind legs which ultimately helped with his acceleration and endurance.
In his most famous Kentucky Derby race, Secretariat surpassed a 2-minute record win, reaching a 1:59 speed excellence. At the following Preakness Stakes, Secretariat was thought to have acquired a 1:54 speed win, but later was discovered as a technical 1:53 speed win. Then, at the June 9th, 1973 Belmont Stakes, Secretariat won at a 2:24 minute win over a 1 ½ mile track.
Coupled with future race wins, Secretariat was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1974. He also received additional honors from prominent media names such as Sports Illustrated and ESPN. Having accomplished so much as a trained racehorse, Secretariat sadly died in 1989 from laminitis complications.
In the spirit of the equestrian scene, there is much to look forward to for the May 5, 2018 144th annual event. The race will be broadcast by NBC at 12:30 Eastern Standard Time. There are 21 horses anticipated to be competing, including Audible by jockey Javier Castellano, Noble Indy by jockey Florent Geroux, and Vino Rosso by jockey John Velazques among other prominent names. Of the well-known names, Audible, a winner of the Florida Derby in March, is garnering much attention, even gaining sponsorship support from the Amazon business because the horse shares the similar name of its audiobook company called Audible. In the midst of excitement and anticipation, one can only wish for the best contender to entertain and captivate our American audience as we once were by champion horse Secretariat.