In 1872, Meriwether Lewis Clark—grandson of the American explorer William Clark of the famed Lewis & Clark expedition—attended the Epsom Derby during his travels through England. He was so enthralled with the whole affair that upon his return to the States, he secured a piece of land for a racetrack and established the Louisville Jockey Club. On May 17th, 1875, the inaugural Kentucky Derby unfolded before 10,000 cheering spectators.
Over the succeeding years, much fanfare was added to the derby. Traditions of draping the champion horse with a garland of roses, sporting elaborate hats, sipping mint juleps, and singing “My Old Kentucky Home” endeared the event to the American people and enhanced its popularity. Indeed the Kentucky Derby quickly became a favorite sports event of the 19th century and was deemed “the most exciting two minutes in sports.”
This year marks the 142nd Annual Kentucky Derby, making it the longest-running sports event in American history!
Source: “Kentucky Derby History.” Kentucky Derby. <https://www.kentuckyderby.com/history/kentucky-derby-history>.