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The Kentucky Derby

Celebrating an American Tradition

Instead of being held on the traditional first Saturday in May, the 146th Kentucky Derby at Louisville’s historic Churchill Downs has been postponed to Saturday, September 5, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the Derby has been put on hold this year, KET is sharing some of our favorite programs to help honor one of the Commonwealth’s most cherished events. Enjoy these programs that look back through Derby history, celebrate some of the Derby’s favorite customs, and explore the special bond between horse and human that is at the heart of Thoroughbred racing.

Derby History

African American jockey

African-American jockeys

Fifteen of the first 28 Kentucky Derbys were won by African-American jockeys. They dominated the early years of Thoroughbred racing in the United States—and they were widely regarded as the best in the world.

Churchill Downs

It wasn’t the first racetrack in Kentucky, but Churchill Downs is by far the most famous. The Louisville landmark has hosted the Kentucky Derby since its beginning more than 140 years ago.

I Dedicate This Ride

Through poetry and drama, Frank X Walker, Kentucky writer and poet laureate for 2013-14, illuminates the life of legendary 19th-century African-American jockey Isaac Murphy.

Isaac Murphy

From his first ride in 1875 at the age of 14, until his death in 1896, Hall of Fame jockey Isaac Burns Murphy accrued more than 600 victories.Yet few outside of Thoroughbred racing know about Murphy’s legacy as not just the best African-American jockey but perhaps the greatest American jockey of all time. Historian Pellom McDaniels III is sharing Murphy’s story in “The Prince of Jockeys.”

Horse racing at Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Time Capsule

A visit to the backside of Churchill Downs—the stable area where the jockeys, trainers, and exercisers work—from 1976.

Jennie Rees

Billy Reed speaks with former Louisville Courier-Journal racing writer Jennie Rees, one of the sport’s most knowledgeable authorities.

Donna Barton Brothers

Billy Reed interviews retired jockey Donna Barton Brothers, who serves as the on-track reporter and analyst for NBC Sports’ Triple Crown coverage.

Mike Battaglia

Billy Reed interviews Mike Battaglia, who has been involved thoroughbred racing in Kentucky for more than 40 years and is best known as the oddsmaker for the Kentucky Derby and a former track announcer and TV analyst.

Roscoe Goose and Donerail: The Longest Odds

Everyone loves an underdog story, and one of the greatest in Kentucky Derby history happened in 1913, when Roscoe Goose rode Donerail to victory.

Derby Culture

Two women with derby hats

Derby Hats

Some are tasteful, some are fashionable, and some are completely over-the-top. They’re Derby hats, and they’re an iconic part of Kentucky Derby Day.

Derby Pie

Derby Pie is a chocolatey tradition that has its humble roots in the mid-20th century. It can now be found in freezer cases far and wide, but it was originally the signature dish at a rural inn.

The Mint Julep

No Kentucky Derby celebration is complete without a mint julep. The boozy concoction has been around since the 1700s when it was touted as a medicinal drink. Joy Perrine, bar manager at Equus and Jack’s Lounge in Louisville, is a legend in the bourbon industry and shares some advice on making the perfect mint julep.

Derby Memorabilia

Ken Grayson has been a thoroughbred racing fan for more than 50 years. Kentucky Life got a look at his extensive collection of horse racing memorabilia, which chronicles the sport’s history in America.

Equine Artist

Kentuckian Jaime Corum combines her love of horses and passion for painting in her career as an equine artist. Her talent has taken her to the stalls of equine royalty and made her well known in the thoroughbred industry.

The Horses

Field Trip to a Horse Farm (1996)

A trip to Margaux Farm in Woodford County explores what makes the Bluegrass region so good for raising horses and other livestock, what a farrier does, what a typical day on a horse farm is like, how a veterinarian knows that a mare is in foal, and a little about the breeding of thoroughbreds.

Lexington the Racehorse

The story of a racehorse named Lexington (1850-1875), the most famous Thoroughbred in the country in the 1800s. Lexington won six of his seven races before he had to retire in 1855 due to failing eyesight.

Thoroughbred Retirement Home

In 2015, Kentucky Life visited Georgetown’s Old Friends, a retirement home for legendary thoroughbred racehorses. That year War Emblem, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002, came to live at Old Friends alongside some other past Triple Crown contenders.

Track Ponies

At the height of their careers, Thoroughbred racehorses are very fit, very strong, and very young. Keeping them manageable at the track requires the assistance of the calming presence of a more mature equine chaperone. These horses are known as track ponies.

White Thoroughbreds

Kentucky Life visits Megson Farms, breeders of rare white thoroughbreds, and meets equine movie star, Arctic Bright View.

Zenyatta: The People’s Racehorse

Legendary racehorse Zenyatta spent most of her career based on the west coast, but she was a Kentucky-born filly and is retired here now as a broodmare at Lane’s End Farm in Versailles.