Thoroughbred Horse Racing
Trivia & Timeline

The Newmarket Course was the site of the first racing in America, this was located on the Hempstead Plain (or Salisbury Plain) in Nassau County. The area did not have many trees making it possible to have a site for horse racing. As soon as the British took over the New York colony, they began racing. The general belief is that the racecourse was located near the Garden City Hotel site at Stewart Avenue and Hilton Avenue in Garden City.

1730 a Virginia tobacco planter, Samuel Gist, imported Bulle Rock a 21 year old son of the Darley Arabian, the first recorded “thorough bred” horse brought into the colonies. Ref: 31

February 16, 1788, the first advertisements of stallions standing in the vicinity of Lexlngton appeared in the Kentucke Gazette

“The famous horse PILGARLICK of a beautiful chestnut colour, full fourteen hand three inches high, rising ten years old, will stand the ensuing season on the head of Salt River at Captain Abr. Irvins, Mercer County, and will cover mares at a very low price of ten shillings a leap if the money is paid down, or fifteen at the expiration of the season; and twenty shillings the season in cash or thirty shillings in good trade. PILGARLICK was got by the noted imported horse Janus, his dam by old Silver-eye; and is the swiftest horse in the district of Kentucke from one to six hundred yards.” John Davenport.

January 22, 1796, two years after Lexington banned racing in the streets, Mr. Simeon Buford accepted Mr. Leonard Cla1borne challenge to race their prized colts.  The challenge and the response were printed in the Gazette. The race took place at the William’s Brothers track on North Main Street.  Results are not known. Below is Simeon’s acceptance of the challenge.

Mr. Claiborne: “It has been five months since your horse by mere accident lamed himself: And I have been told he is as well as ever; and two months, I think, a reasonable time to put him in order – But for fear two months is not enough, I will give you till the last of March. Now, sir, come down, enter into writing with me, to run at Major Blackburn’s, or at Lexington course if it can be had, on the last Thursday in March, for two or three hundred pounds, the four mile heats, or a distance – weight for age. And in so doing you will very much oblige.
Your humble Servant,
Simeon Buford
January 22, 1796

Early in 1797, a company of gentlemen met at Postlethwait’s Tavern in downtown Lexington and organized Kentucky’s 1st Jockey Club.  A track was built later that year on land, which is now the Lexington Cemetery.  The Williams Race Track held meets there for the next 12 years.

November 20, 1822, the National Course of D.C. hosted an important and popular battle between the North and South. James Harrison of Brunswick, Virginia. Harrison wagered $5,000 that his horse, Sir Charles, could beat New Yorker Cornelius Van Ranst’s American Eclipse in a series of four-mile heats. Van Ranst accepted and the great American competition was set into motion. Sir Charles was the champion of Virginia and embodied the Southern ideal of elegance and speed. American Eclipse, a New York mare through and through, was built especially for power and stamina. Before the race even started, Sir Charles was injured in a trial run.  Harrison agreed to pay the forfeit, but also decided to put Sir Charles through at least one heat with American Eclipse. Sir Charles lost badly, breaking down in the last portion of the race, giving American Eclipse an easy victory. The race itself put the National Course of D.C. on the map. Out of the ten-odd racetracks that graced the Washington area from as early as the late 1700s, the National Course was the first of national significance. It was more permanent than earlier racetracks, and could draw crowds of 4,000 people, a mix of ethnicities, sexes, ages, and classes- it was said that everyone attended the races at the National Course, from “the President of the United States to the beggar in his rags.”

July 23, 1826, the Kentucky Association (also known as the “Kentucky Racing Association”) was formed to promote the breeding and racing of thoroughbred horses in Kentucky.  It was founded by a group of prominent locals including planter and politician Henry Clay, Jesse Bledsoe, Dr. Elisha Warfield and Thomas F. Marshall.  Between 1828 and 1834, the Association acquired 65 acres of land in the city of Lexington, Kentucky that is today at the east end of 5th Street at Race Street.  The Association built a one-mile dirt racetrack with a grandstand and stables to host thoroughbred flat racing events. Present day, it was located at the east end of 5th Street at Race Street in Lexington. 

October 19, 1826, the Williams Race Track held racing, for three days in Lexington, Kentucky, for the Kentucky Association until land could be purchased and a race course built.

October 13, 1832, the first Black Maria won the race for the Jockey Club purse of $600 at the Union Course. She won so many races her purse winnings alone amounted to nearly $15,000, a very large sum for the period. In 1870, an article about her in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine said: “The track was heavy, and yet, to achieve a victory, twenty miles had to be run. We wonder if there is a horse on the turf to-day that could stand up under such a performance as this?” The second Black Maria also had an illustrious career.

September 30, 1839, Oakland Race Course in Louisville held “the greatest race west of the Alleghenies,” between the pride of all Kentuckians, Grey Eagle, and the Louisiana horse, Wagner. The growing competition between the two thoroughbreds had actually developed into a rivalry between the two states represented. Oakland was struggling financially by 1839, when promoter and entrepreneur Yelverton C. Oliver arranged a match race offering a purse of $14,000. In those days racecourses were three to five miles long and there was no starting gate, which did not appear until the following century. Horses often ran in two to three races a day, and this match was for the best two out of three four-mile heats, winner take all. Wagner took it all and Kentucky fans were not satisfied and wanted a rematch, which they got the next month. October 5, 1839, the second contest between the Wagner and Grey Eagle took place. The Jockey Club supplied the purse of $1,500. an estimated 10,000 people (or more) were in attendance, including hundreds of racing enthusiasts who had made the long trek across the mountains from the Atlantic seaboard; among the noted aristocrats on this day was a contingent from Lexington, led by Henry Clay. Grey Eagle won the first heat; Wagner the second. The excitement was intense during the running of the third heat, but the race was never finished. Grey Eagle gave way in the second mile; he had broken down and never raced again!

April 1, 1853, The Union Course (Fair Grounds) stages its first meeting for Thoroughbreds, a five-day event initiated by members of the Metairie Jockey Club. The first race ever for Thoroughbreds over the track was won by a filly owned by Mississippi horseman William J. Minor. She took the event in straight two-mile heats.

April 1, 1854, Lexington and Lecomte meet for the first time in the Great Post State Stakes at Metairie.

April 8, 1854, Lecomte defeats Lexington in a famous rematch at Metairie.

May 21, 1860, Woodlawn Race Course in Jefferson County held their first day of racing. Sometimes referred to as the “Saratoga of the West.” It was a track of major importance during the 1860s. Organized competitive horse racing in Kentucky was relatively young when Woodlawn Race Course was opened in 1859 on the east side of Louisville. Opening spring day of the track’s second season was crowded. The “Courier” noted that “the attendance was very large, including many of the first ladies of our city and state.” It also mentioned that “the course” was “in splendid condition.” A surviving remnant of Woodlawn Race Course is the Woodlawn Vase. Robert Atchison Alexander, noted owner of Woodburn Farm, commissioned Tiffany and Company to craft the trophy, which was first presented at Woodlawn in 1861. During the Civil War the trophy was buried on the racetrack grounds for safekeeping. It now serves as the model for half-size replicas given to the annual winner of the Preakness Stakes.

September 25, 1866, Jerome Race Track opened and it marked the return of thoroughbred racing to New York after a hiatus during the Civil War. The appointments were lavish, with a large dining room, a magnificent ballroom, and clubhouse accommodations comparable to a luxury hotel. The grandstand held 2,500 seats. General Ulysses S. Grant was in attendance along with 25,000 fans. Management barred gambling and liquor. The new track received great press. It rapidly surpassed Saratoga as the most important track in America and a model for first class tracks to be built in the next twenty years which included Monmouth, Churchill and the bay course in San Francisco. In 1867, the Belmont Stakes, one of the three major horse races that constitute the Triple Crown, was held at Jerome Park, and it remained there until 1890.

Aristides horseMonday, May 17, 1875, 10,000 lucky fans witnessed the first Kentucky Derby run on a track later known as Churchill Downs. It was also the first day of racing for this new track. The distance was 1½ miles and was run in 2:37.75. Aristides, a small colt roughly 15 hands, won by two lengths over 14 other contestants. 13 of the 15 jockeys were African American including the winner Oliver Lewis. Ansel Williamson, who was born a slave, was the winning trainer.  Hal Price McGrath, a native Kentuckian, owner of gambling parlors in NYC, owned and breed Aristides on his extravagant McGrathiana Farm, now known as UK’s Coldstream Farm. There were no roses for the winning connections but Mr. McGrath did win a purse of $2,850. 

Wednesday, May 19, 1875, the first Kentucky Oaks was run at the Louisville Jockey Club later known as Churchill Downs. Vinaigrette won the then 1½ mile race in a time of 2:39¾, winning a purse of $1,175. The Oaks and the Derby are the oldest continuously contested sporting events in American history, and the only horse races to be held at their original site since their conception. The Kentucky Oaks was modeled after the English Oaks at Epsom Downs.

September 15, 1875, Isaac Murphy’s won his first race at the Lexington Crab Orchard aboard B. F. Pettit’s chestnut filly Glentina (future winner of Louisville’s Jockey Club’s Colt & Filly Stakes). Crab Orchard located 46 miles south of Lexington was the oldest circular track in the state and was a testing ground for potential stake winning horses and the talented jockeys.

February 5, 1875, Benjamin G. Bruce published the first issue of a weekly magazine he called the Kentucky Live Stock Record in a house at 17 Jordan’s row, now Upper Street, that magazine would later be known as the The Thoroughbred Record.

May 20, 1879, Lord Murphy won the 5th running of the Kentucky Derby. Run on a fast track with a field of nine horses, Lord Murphy was knocked almost to his knees by Ada Glenn on the first turn, but managed to pull himself up from 7th to 1st place at the mile marker to win over the fast approaching Falsetto. Lord Murphy was originally named Patmus and was a grandson of Lexington. He was owned by Geo. W. Darden & Co., trained by George Rice, ridden by Charlie Shauer and won the race in a record time of 2:37.00. Famed jockey Isaac Murphy finished second.

June 28, 1879, Brighton Beach Race Course opened at Brighton Beach on Coney Island, NY., by the Brighton Beach Racing Association.  Headed by real estate developer William A. Engeman, the one-mile race track was located in back of his Brighton Beach Hotel.

June 19, 1880, the Sheepshead Bay Race Track opened for their first day of racing. The racetrack was built by a group of prominent businessmen from the New York City area who formed the Coney Island Jockey Club in 1879. Led by Leonard Jerome, the track’s President and William Kissam Vanderbilt, the Club held seasonal race cards at nearby Prospect Park Fairgrounds until construction of the new race course was completed. It was built on the site of the Coney Island Jockey Club at Sheepshead Bay, New York. Sheepshead Bay was probably the most prominent of the Brooklyn tracks and originated the Futurity and the Suburban. It also was unique in that it had the first turf course. When turf racing ended at Sheepshead Bay, it virtually stopped in America until a turf course was constructed in Hialeah in the 1930’s.

Ben Ali (Horse)May 14, 1886, Ben Ali won the 12th Kentucky Derby in a record setting performance. This was a very controversial derby because James Ben Ali Haggin, the owner, could not place a large bet on his winning stallion. In 1886, C. M. White purchased the pooling privileges (wagering rights) for the Derby for $30,600 and demanded that all the Derby bookmakers pay him a $100 fee to operate at the track. The bookmakers refused to pay so there were no bookies to handle high-dollar bets. News traveled fast in the east coast and other horse racing circuits of Haggin’s ill treatment in Louisville causing many horsemen to boycott the Kentucky Derby during the 1890s and early 20th century. Bookmakers returned for the 1887 Derby but the damage was done; field quality and race profits reduced dramatically over the years until Churchill Downs was facing closure and sold to a syndicate led by Matt Winn in 1903.

August 20, 1889, Morris Race Track in Westchester County, New York opened for their first day of racing. African-American Racing Hall of Fame jockey Isaac Murphy rode on opening day at the new facility and was described as “the finest race track in the world.” Accessible by horse and buggy, the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad added a short spur from its main line near the Van Nest station that brought racing fans directly to the new race track from the greater New York City area.

June 10, 1890, Morris Park Racecourse hosted both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. While the Preakness Stakes was canceled for three years then restarted in 1894 at Gravesend Race Track on Coney Island, the Belmont Stakes was held at Morris Park until it moved to Belmont Park on Long Island in 1905. During this same period of 1890 through 1904, the Champagne Stakes and the Ladies Handicap were also raced here. The Metropolitan Handicap was inaugurated here in 1891 as was the Matron Stakes the following year.

June 25, 1890, Isaac Burns Murphy raced in the most memorable contest of his life.  Matched against a white counterpart, jockey Ed “Snapper” Garrison; the race would settle the debate as to which rider was the better jockey, in a match race that had definite racial overtones. Murphy was victorious in a race so close it is known to be one of the first “photo finishes” in the history books of horse racing.

May 11, 1892, Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton rode Azra to victory in the Kentucky Derby which at age fifteen made him the youngest jockey in history to ever win the Derby. Clayton and Azra followed up their Derby success with victories in the Clark Handicap and the Travers Stakes. African American Jockeys won 15 of the first 28 Derby’s run.

American Derby, starter Charles H. Pettingill almost caused a riot from the fans. He delayed the start of the race for perfect starts for a hour and a half, forcing the race to be restarted almost 40 times. By the time he started the only race Man o” War lost in, he would be 70 years old. 

Aristides horseJune 21, 1893, Aristides passed away after winning the first Kentucky Derby 18 years earlier.  A chestnut thoroughbred with a white star and two hind stockings, Aristides was bred by Hal Price McGrath and foaled in 1872. Aristides raced 21 times with 9 wins, five places, and one show. In 1988, the Aristides Stakes was inaugurated at Churchill Downs to honor him. A life-sized bronze statue of Aristides by Carl Regutti stands at Churchill Downs Clubhouse Gardens as a memorial.

February 9, 1894, the American Jockey Club was incorporated in New York City by a group of prominent horsemen led by August Belmont II and Wall Street financier James R. Keene.

November 26, 1894, the articles of incorporation of the new Louisville Jockey Club were filed in the County Clerk’s office. The incorporators were Messrs. Emile Bourlier, Henry Wehmhoff and W.E. Applegate, each of whom held twenty shares valued at $100 per share, W.F. Schulte and C.J. Bollinger, fifteen shares, and M.S. Simonton, ten shares. The capital stock was fixed at 110,000.

July 17, 1900, James R. Keene’s horse Voter set a new World Record of 1:38.00 for a mile on dirt at the Brighton Beach Race Course.

April 29, 1901, the 27th running of the Kentucky Derby took place. The winner was His Eminence with James Winkfield aboard in 2.07.75. Trained and owned by F.B. Van Meter the 1st place prize money was $4,850. Second place received $700 and third won $300. The 1901 Derby was the only time the race was run in April.

Tuesday, May 5, 1908, Stone Street won the 34th Kentucky Derby on a muddy track, in 2:15.20, the slowest derby for the 1 1/4 distance. 19 year old Arthur Pickens was in the irons and held the record for being the youngest jockey to win the Derby for 70 years until Steve Cauthen, 18, won in 1978. It was Stone Street’s only stakes race win and the connections won a purse of $4,850.

May 10, 1911, the Bluegrass Stakes race was run for the first time at the Kentucky Association Track.

August 2, 1913, a crowd of 7,000 attended the reopening of Saratoga Race Course. Old Rosebud won the Flash, the third race of the afternoon that started the 50th anniversary of racing at Saratoga. Old Rosebud also won the United States Hotel stakes, his 10th victory in 12 races that year. The following May he won the Kentucky Derby.

May 8, 1915, Regret wins the 41st running of the Kentucky Derby. Regret, the first filly to ever win the Derby, generated significant publicity for the race, causing Churchill Downs president Matt Winn to observe that because of Regret’s win “the Derby was thus made an American institution.”


March 29, 1917, a few minutes before midnight, Man o’ War was born at Maj. August Belmont, Jr.’s, Nursery Stud, near Lexington. He was the second foal of his dam, Mahubah. He raced 21 times as a two and three year old; 18 in New York, 2 in Maryland and one in Canada, his last race. America would enter WW1 a few days after he was born. Three years later “Big Red” along with Babe Ruth would capture the hearts of sport fans nationwide as the country headed into the roaring 20’s.

May 12, 1917, Omar Khayyam, foaled in England, won the 43rd Kentucky Derby and thus became the first foreign bred horse to win the Derby. On the same day, Kalitan won the 42nd Preakness Stakes, one of two times the races were held on the same day. Kalitan became the first Preakness Stakes winner to be presented with the most valuable trophy in sports, the Woodlawn Vase.

June 6, 1919, Samuel D. Riddle’s, Man o’ War, made his racing debut at Belmont Park in a $700 purse race against six other contenders going 5/8M. Despite having jockey Johnny Loftus using much restraint throughout the race, Man o’ War won by an easy six lengths and made quite an impression in the papers. Man o’ War won $500.00

June 9, 1919, Man o’ War, trained by Louis Feustel, stepped up to stakes company and dusted five others in the 7th running of the Keene Memorial Stakes at Belmont going 5.5F in 1:05.60.  Johnny Loftus up. The purse was $5,000, Man o’ War won $4,200. 

June 21, 1919, Man o’ War, won the 7th running of the Youthful Stakes at Jamaica Park going 5.5F in 1:06.60. The purse was $5,000 and the winner took home $3,850. 

June 23, 1919, Man o’ War, traveled to Aqueduct and won the 29th running of the Hudson Handicap, 5F, in 1:01.60 for two year olds. He carried 130 lbs which is unheard of these days in the juvenile ranks. Conceding 21 lbs, he stretched out easily and won unchallenged by 1 1/2 lengths.The value of the race was $3,500, with the winner receiving $2,825. 

July 5, 1919, Man o’ War, vacationed in Aqueduct for 12 days, then took the 30th running of the Tremont Stakes (6F) from two competitors in 1:13.00, carrying 130 lbs.Man ‘ War won $4,800 in the $6,000 purse. 

August 2, 1919, Man o’ War wins the 36th running of the United States Hotel Stakes against tougher competition at the Spa. Upset ran second. Despite getting a bad start and carrying 130 pounds, Man o’ War won easily by two lengths in 1:12.40, winning $7,600 in the $10,000 guaranteed purse. 

August 13, 1919, Man o’ War, losses his first race to Upset in the 7th running of the Sanford Stakes, possibly earning the Spa’s nicknames “the house of upsets” and the “graveyard of favorites.” These were the days before starting gates, and the group circled, approached the starting line as a team, and were released by signal of the starter’s flag. On this day, Man o’War was still circling when the flag fell, and was in fact, not even yet facing the right direction. Upset won in 1:12.40, by half length, carrying 15 lbs less than Man o’ War, Golden Groom the favorite, ran third. 

August 23, 1919, Man o’ War, giving 5 lbs., wins the 6F Grand Union Hotel Stakes in a clean start, by 2, in 1:12.00, .Upset ran second. The was the 7th running of the stakes race with a purse of $10,000, winner received $7,600. 

August 30, 1919, Man o’ War holds up the start of the 7th running of the Hopeful Stakes (6F) by a full 12 minutes before winning by 4 in 1:13.00. Eight two-year-olds ran for a purse of $30,000 with the winner receiving $24,600.

September 13, 1919, Man o’ War leaves the Saratoga for Belmont to enter his last race of 1919, the 30th Futurity Stakes for 2-year-olds going 6F. He won in 1:11.60 beating a young and talented John P Grier.  Man o’War was a growing beast. He was a scrawny kid of 970 lbs while in the Spa. At Belmont, he was up to 1,020. By the time he debuted as a three-yr-old at the Preakness, he tipped the scale at 1,150 lbs. 

November 20, 1919, Maj. August Belmont, Jr., announced that Fair Play, would stay in Kentucky, at his Nursery Stud, after selling him for $100,000 to G.A. Cochran of New York. August also received the right to breed 10 mares to him. Fair Play was the leading sire in North America of 1920, 1924 and 1927, and the leading broodmare sire of 1931, 1934 and 1938. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1956. He is best known for siring Man o’ War.

May 8, 1920, Man o’ War did not run in the Kentucky Derby. Owner Sam Riddle did not like racing in Kentucky, nor did he think 3-yr-olds were ready to go 10 furlongs as early as May. (He would change his mind by the time War Admiral came around.) Man o’War stayed in the east, and prepared for the Preakness. 

May 18, 1920, Man o’ War wins the 30th running of the Preakness by 1 1/2 lengths from Upset and seven others as he stretched out to 1 1/8M in 1:51.60.  Paul Jones, who won the Kentucky Derby, was not eligible because he was a gelding. Man o’War had a new jockey, Clarence Kummer, who would stay on the colt, with the exception of two races. Net Value to Winner, $23,000: second, $3,000: third, $2,000: fourth, $1,000.

May 29, 1920, Man o’ War wins the Withers (1M) back at his Belmont Park home base. A crowd of 25,000 turned out to see an American record set at 1:35.80 in a three horse field, winning by two. 

June 12, 1920, Man o’ War Next won the Belmont Stakes (1 3/8M) against one challenger. Donnacona thus became only the 3rd horse in history to run in all three Triple Crown events. Before him were War Cloud (1918) and Sir Barton (1919). Kummer rode Man o’ War to a new world record of 2:14​15, beating the previous standard set in England by over two seconds and beating Sir Barton’s American record by over three seconds.

June 22, 1920, Man o’ War, back in Jamaica Park, wins the Stuyvesant Stakes (1M) in 1:41.60. His odds of 1 to 100 were believed to be the lowest ever offered in an American Horse Race.

July 10, 1920, Man o’ War faces a mature John P. Grier in the Dwyer for basically a match race. The favorite carried 126 lbs and J.P.G 108 lbs. They completed the mile together in a time of 1:35 3/5, breaking Man o’ War’s American record set in the Withers. John P. Grier made another surge and for a moment the spectators believed that he would win the race. Kummer then hit Man o’ War with the whip and they made a final surge and opened up a lead of two lengths in the final fifty yards. The final time was 1:49 1/5, a new world record for ​1 18 miles.

August 7, 1920, wins the Miller Stakes (1 3/16) in 1:56.60. There was a then record crowd of 35,000, many of whom gathered in the saddling area where Man o’ War was surrounded by twelve Pinkerton guards. His jockey for the race was Earl Sande, replacing an injured Kummer. As expected, Man o’ War took the early lead and was unchallenged in a six-length victory. 

August 21, 1920, Man o’ War with , Andy Schuttinger in the irons, wins the Travers in an overflow crowd. The field went 1 14 miles in 2:01 4/5, equaling the track record set earlier in the year by Sir Barton. This record stood until 1941.

September 4, 1920, one other horse was entered to face Man o’ War in the Lawrence Realization (1 5/8M) at Belmont. He beat Hoodwink by 100 lengths, in a new American time of 2:40 4/5. The record stands today.*

September 11, 1920, Man o’ War faced one other competitor in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (1 1/2M) and won under tight restraint by fifteen lengths. Although declared a hollow victory by The New York Times, Man o’ War still set an American record for ​1 12 miles of 2:28 4/5, breaking the existing mark by 4/5 seconds.

September 18, 1920, Man o’ War ventures south to Havre de Grace Racetrack in Maryland. He was assigned 138 pounds, conceding from 24 to 34 pounds to his rivals, which included Kentucky Derby winner Paul Jones. He beat Wildair by ​1 12 lengths while breaking the track record by ​15 seconds.  Although Man o’ War was not seriously challenged, the high weight and a poorly maintained racing surface took a toll: he came out of the race with a swollen tendon on his right foreleg.

October 12, 1920, Man o’ War runs in his last race, the Kenilworth Park Gold Cup (1 1/4M) at Kenilworth Park in Canada, a match race against Sir Barton. The event was so highly anticipated that it became the first race to be filmed in its entirety, with the resulting footage later shown in movie theaters across the country. Man o’War got in with 120, against Sir Barton’s 126. Moments before the race jockey Earle Sande was removed from Sir Barton, and Frank Keogh was substituted. Sir Barton never had a chance, the final time was 2:03.00. Man o’ War’s share of the purse made him the highest earning horse in American history. The gold trophy presented in the winner’s circle, designed by Tiffany & Co, was later donated by Mrs. Riddle to Saratoga and is now used as the trophy for the Travers Stakes.

January 27, 1921, Man o’ War arrived in Lexington after retirement and was ridden under silks before a huge crowd the following day at the Lexington Association track. He retired to Hinata Farm in Lexington but soon moved to Faraway Farm. While it is true that our greatest horse never raced in Kentucky, he did set foot on a Kentucky racetrack. Video

May 13, 1922, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes were run on the same day.  Since 1931, the order of Triple Crown races has been the Kentucky Derby first, followed by the Preakness Stakes, and then the Belmont Stakes.  Prior to 1931, the Preakness Stakes was run before the Kentucky Derby eleven times. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes were also run on the same day on May 12, 1917.

November 18, 1922, Ellis Park Race Course, opened the gates for the first Thoroughbred meet. One month earlier, Ellis officially opened with a Grand Circuit harness meet. Ellis Park, originally Dade Park, was built in 1922 by the Green River Jockey Club. The original plans were to build a track 1 ½ miles long (as the Green River Jockey Club wanted one of the longest in the nation). Ernest F. Bohme, a Lexington architect, assigned to develop the plans for Ellis Park, became confused during the decision making and brought in sketches with a track 3/8 of a mile shorter. Time was growing short, so the original investor decided to go with Bohme’s design. 

January 15, 1925, Hialeah Park opened for thoroughbred racing. Not only did Hialeah include a one-mile dirt track, but nearby was a jai alai fronton (the first in the U.S.), a dance hall, a roller coaster, and oh, a snake catcher! Because Hialeah was on the edge of the Everglades, it wasn’t unheard of to catch a couple dozen snakes a day near the infield lake, so a snake catcher was hired full time. The track suffered damages in the Great Hurricane of 1926.


November 4, 1930, Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup Race in Australia, the country’s most prestigious race.  The legendary Phar Lap won (after a 3rd placing the previous year), as the shortest priced favorite in history and the only favorite to win at ‘odds on’ (8/11).  Due to his outstanding success, criminals tried to shoot Phar Lap three days earlier after he had finished a track work. They missed, and later that day he won the Melbourne Stakes, and three days later the Melbourne Cup.

January 14, 1932, Eddie Arcaro on his 251st try, rode his first winner at Agua Caliente in Mexico. The next year he was the leading apprentice jockey at New Orleans, but he missed three months of riding that year with a fractured skull and punctured lung suffered during a fall in Chicago. Arcaro known as “The Master” rode a record 17 winners in Triple Crown races and became the only jockey to be aboard two Triple Crown champions (Whirlaway and Citation).


November 1933, the Kentucky Association disbanded, was sold and the track’s grandstand, clubhouse, and stables were demolished. Due to financial difficulties, the 65 acre Lexington club disbanded 107 years after it began, to make way for the construction of a federal low-cost housing project. Keeneland’s front gate, houses one of the few known markers left over from the historic track; an old gatepost with initials K.A. Ref: 23

May 2, 1936, the 62nd running of the Kentucky Derby was won by jockey Ira “Babe” Hanford, who won aboard Bold Venture. Babe was the first apprentice jockey to win the Derby. Bold Venture sired Middleground, winner of the 1950 Kentucky Derby. Middleground was ridden by Bill Roland, the second and last apprentice jockey to win the derby. Hall of Fame trainer Max Hirsch gave a leg up to both young jockeys.

October 15, 1936, Royal Raiment wins the first race, a $1,000 allowance for 2 year old fillies, run at Keeneland Racecourse. The grey filly was owned by John Jay Whitney, trained by J.W. Healy and ridden by John Gilbert. 8,000 people were in attendance for the seven races and wagered $74,639. The first meet lasted nine days.

November 9, 1938, Keeneland made their first charitable contribution. Two years after the Kenneland Association was founded, the Race Course had made a small profit. $500 was gifted to the Lexington Community Chest, a forerunner to the United Way. Ref: 22

February 1, 1941, Golden Gate Fields held their inaugural meet, became the only major racetrack in Northern California. With the onset of World War II, the United States Navy took over the property as the “Albany Naval Landing Force Equipment Depot” for storing hundreds of landing craft destined for use in the Pacific theater. After the war, Golden Gate Fields resumed horse racing. Golden Gate Fields was owned and managed for 25 years by foreign car importer and horseman Kjell Qvale. It was subsequently acquired by Magna Entertainment Corp. In March 2009, Magna filed for bankruptcy. The Stronach Group, the current owners, acquired Golden Gate Fields in 2011.

December 12, 1942, more than twenty thousand people turned out to watch Calumet Farm’s Whirlaway win the inaugural Louisiana Handicap at the Fair Grounds Race Course. The newly formed Thoroughbred Racing Association staged this event as a war-relief effort. It would be the last race of Whirlaway’s brilliant career and he was voted his second straight American Horse of the Year title.

December 22, 1942, the Keeneland Association wrote check number 2591 for $35,000. It was presented to the Community War Chest during WWII.  Servicemen received gifts and amenities through this foundation which would later be known as The United Way.

man-o-warNovember 1, 1947, Man o’ War had a heart attack at the age of 30 in Lexington. Three days later, more than 2,000 people attended his funeral, which was broadcast on NBC Radio and featured nine eulogies. He passed away less than a month after his longtime groom Will Harbut died. Although Man o’ War never raced in Kentucky, he spent the majority of his life in the Bluegrass State. There are estimates that as many as three million visitors traveled to Mr. Riddle’s Faraway Farm between 1921 and 1947 to see the legendary horse in retirement and hear Will, who nicknamed him, “the mostest horse that ever was.” tell tales of his exploits on the track. Man o’ War made his debut on June 6, 1919 when attendance and purses at racetracks were at record lows. By the time he retired 16 months later, he was a national hero, joining Babe Ruth as the first shining stars of the Roaring Twenties. The charismatic horse’s popularity had brought fans back to the track. He was originally interred at Faraway Farm, but in the early 1970s, his remains were moved to a new burial site at the Kentucky Horse Park.

April 14, 1952, Nashua was foaled at Belair Stud in Maryland, home of many champions, including Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox and Omaha. Bred by William Woodward, Sr. who died in 1953, he never had the opportunity to see Nashua’s brilliance on the racetrack. In 1955 Nashua was sent into auction after the tragic death of William Woodward, Jr., who was fatally shot by his wife in what was called the “shooting of the century.” A syndicate headed by Leslie Combs II bid a record $1,251,200 for Nashua.

May 3, 1952, the 78th running of the Kentucky Derby was telecast nationwide for the first time. Calumet Farm won with Hill Gail, Eddie Arcaro up and Ben A. Jones trainer. Some feared that televising the race would reduce attendance but it proved unfounded with subsequent broadcasts drawing tens of millions of viewers, further solidifying the race’s popularity. WAVE-TV in 1949 did the first local telecast. The purse exceeded $100,000 for the first time. 

May 5, 1954, Nashua made his debut at Belmont Park, galloping away from a field of maidens to win by three lengths.

August 31, 1955, Swaps (West) and Nashua (East) met in a $100,000 winner take all, East versus West, match race at Washington Park, in Chicago with 35,262 fans in attendance. Nashua, trained by Jim Fitzsimmons and ridden by Eddie Arcaro wanted revenge for his defeat by Swaps in the Kentucky Derby. Swaps ridden by unknown Willie Shoemaker and trained by a rough cowboy Mesh Tenney, was the speed horse and Nashua the inexorable stalker never met again, but their two-race rivalry is one of the most famous in American racing history. Swaps was favored at 1-3; Nashua was 6-5. They entered the starting gate, Nashua in the No. 2 stall and Swaps in No. 4, and were off. Video

November 22, 1955, Andrew Cap Tilles, the “A” in CATS passed away in his hometown of St. Louis. CATS, an investment syndicate became known in the media as the “Big Three,” after its three principal partners: Louis A. Cella, Samuel W. Adler and A.C. Tilles. By World War One, the Big Three had acquired most every major non-coastal horse race track in the heart of the country, with the exceptions of Hawthorne and Churchill Downs.  As CATS President, Tilles revolutionized the horse racing industry by introducing electricity to the game, developing the modern system of licensing book makers, and holding the first ever recorded instance of night racing.

February 9, 1957, Round Table was the focal point of one of the most memorable sales in thoroughbred history. Shortly before the 5th race at Hialeah, with a hand shake, A.B. “Bull” Hancock Jr., sold Round Table to Oklahoma Oilman Travis M. Kerr for $175,000 a bargain for Kerr but bull kept 20% interest as a stallion. Ref: 30

May 5, 1961, Charles William Boland, at the age of 21, died one day after being thrown from his horse, Wyvern, at Fort Erie Race Track. He suffered a fatal head injury. His racing wins, included the 1960 Durham Cup Stakes at Woodbine Racetrack and rode Windy Ship to victory over the Canadian Triple Crown champion, New Providence.

November 16, 1967, Native Dancer passed away. Nicknamed the Grey Ghost, he was one of the most celebrated and accomplished Thoroughbred racehorses in history and was the first horse made famous through the medium of television. As a two-year-old, he was undefeated in his nine starts for earnings of $230,495, a record for a two-year-old. During his three years of racing, he won 21 of 22 starts. “When he lost the Kentucky Derby by a head, thousands turned from their TV screens in sorrow, a few in tears,” Time magazine reported.

May 4, 1968, Richard Nixon as a candidate for the Presidency was in attendance to watch Dancers Image cross the finish line first in the 94th Kentucky Derby.  However, Dancers Image had bute in his system and was placed last, the second place runner, Forward Pass was declared the winner. Nixon the only President to resign from office witnessed the only horse to be DQ’d from the Derby. The following year, Nixon returned to Churchill Downs, fulfilling a promise he made to attend the Derby if he won the presidency. To this day, Nixon is the only sitting president to attend the Derby.*

November 2, 1968, Dr. Fager made his final start in the Vosburgh Stakes, in which he was assigned 139 pounds, the highest weight ever assigned by track handicapper Tommy Trotter in a regular stakes event. Dr. Fager broke in fourth place but soon moved up to challenge for the lead. He completed the half-mile in 43 4⁄5 seconds then started to draw away, eventually winning by six lengths. He completed the seven furlongs in 1:20 1⁄5, a new track record by a full second and just one-fifth of a second off the world record.

Diane Crump
May 1, 1970, Diane Crump became the first women jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby. Crump won the first race on the underdcard that day, and then on a horse name Fathom, came in 15th in a 17-horse field in the Derby. Ms. Crump was also the first female jockey to compete in a pari-mutuel race in the United States at Hialeah Park, FL.

February 26, 1973, Claiborne Farm announced that Triple Crown winner, Secretariat, had been syndicated for a then-record $6,080,000. There were 32 shares sold at $190,000 each.

May 22, 1974, Ruffian ran her first race in a five and a half furlong Maiden Special at Belmont Park, Jacinto Vasquez up. Thanks to the efforts of Frank Y. Whiteley, Jr., her talent had been successfully kept a secret, and Ruffian went off at odds of 9 to 2. Under the guidance of Jacinto Vasquez, she quickly went to the front, easily extended her lead to fifteen lengths, and tied the track record of 1:03, something no other 2 year old had ever done while breaking their maiden race! Ruffian’s impressive debut was later called the “greatest race ever run by a first-time starter.” People actually laughed her off, but those were the ones who hadn’t seen her run yet. They said she was “just too fat”, with her girth measuring 75 1/2 inches, and that they “weren’t throwing away perfectly good money.”

June 12, 1974, Ruffian ran her second race in the Fashion Stakes (III) at Belmont, 5.5F, Jacinto Vasquez up. Copernica, a bay daughter of Nijinsky II should have been the favorite due to her previous wins, but the crowd sent Ruffian off as first choice. Also in the field was the unbeaten Jan Verzal, who unlike Ruffian and Copernica was already a stakes winner. As in her maiden race, Ruffian gained the lead in the first few strides, and easily held off Copernica’s game challenge. Winning by six and three quarter lengths, Ruffian once again tied the track record. Copernica, finishing second, was thirteen lengths ahead of the rest of the field, and gave everything she had to the race. Sadly, the brave little filly wasn’t the same horse after the Fashion Stakes. Ruffian had broken her heart.

July 10, 1974, Ruffian’s 3rd race was at Aqueduct again at 5.5F in the Astoria Stakes (GIII). Jacinto Vasquez was serving a suspension for reckless riding, and Vince Bracciale had the mount. For the first time, Ruffian was accompanied to post by Sled Dog, the pony horse, and to the amazement of Bracciale it was Vasquez who led him to the post. Trainer Frank Whiteley had told Jacinto that he would lose the mount on Ruffian if he didn’t ride the stable pony, and the crowd enjoyed the novelty of seeing one of the country’s leading riders playing the role of pony boy. The race itself held fewer surprises. Ruffian easily won by nine lengths, under wraps, in 1:02 4/5. Braulio Baeza later commented “I could have cut through the center field, and she still would have beaten me.” His mount, Laughing Bridge, beat the rest of the field by twelve lengths, but could not hold a candle to Ruffian.

July 27, 1974, Ruffian’s 4th race was the Sorority (GI) at Monmouth going 6F with Jacinto Vasquez back in the reins, it was her toughest race to date. Hot n Nasty had broken her maiden by 13 lengths and scored two stakes wins, making her move after the first quarter and becoming the first horse to head Ruffian, even sticking with her for a furlong before Ruffian dug in and pulled away. Vasquez felt something not quite right with his mount, even as she pulled away from Hot n Nasty to set a new stakes record of 1:09. Back at the barn, he discovered his filly had won the race on a freshly popped splint, which, although not a serious injury, was enough to take the edge off a horse. Ruffian had proved she had heart.

August 23, 1974, after a little less than a month of rest, Ruffian ran in her 5th race, the Spinaway (GI) going 6F at Saratoga. A reporter asked groom Minnor Massey by how much his filly would win by, without thinking, Massey gave an answer of thirteen lengths, then worried that his rash statement would make him appear foolish. Suspended again, Jacinto Vazquez would miss the mount and Vince Bracciale was once again up. Ruffian lead wire to wire to set a new stakes record of 1:08 3/5. It was the second fastest six furlongs of the entire Saratoga meet, with the fastest being La Prevoyante’s 1:08 2/5, and the margin of victory was exactly thirteen lengths.

January 18, 1975, Álvaro Pineda, 29, while riding at Santa Anita Park was killed in a freak accident. He died from a blow to his head when his horse, Austin Mittler, reared in the starting gate and flipped over, crushing his head against the steel frame of the gate. His family would suffer a similar loss just three years later when his younger brother Roberto, at Pimlico, was killed as a result of an accident during a race. Álvaro, the second leading rider of the Santa Anita meet, was aboard the lightly raced colt in an allowance for maidens. He made one appearance in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 13th in 1967. Pineda’s best mount may have been the Argentina-bred colt Figonero which he rode to victory in the Hollywood Gold Cup and to a new world record for nine furlongs in the Del Mar Handicap. In 1974, Álvaro Pineda’s peers voted him the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, awarded annually to a jockey in American racing who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct, on and off the racetrack. 

April 14, 1975, with eight months rest, Ruffian made her 1975 debut in an allowance test at Aqueduct, with Jacinto Vasquez up, going 6F. Trainer Frank Y. Whiteley, Jr., had entered her in the race the day before. The other trainers with entries in the eighth race at Belmont probably would not have sent them to post, had they been given time to scratch, but had done a masterful job of concealing his plans. She cantered effortlessly to an almost five length win in 1:09 2/5, a fast time for any other horse, although it was Ruffian’s only race without setting or equaling a record.

April 30, 1975, Ruffian’s 6th race, the Comely Stakes (GIII) was 7F at Aqueduct, Jacinto Vasquez up. Angel Cordero, Jr. took his best shot at beating the star, despite his inferior mount. Riding up behind Ruffian, he let out a shriek, hoping the filly would bolt and run out of steam before the wire. Cordero was successful in startling the filly, and Jacinto had to fight to hold her speed down, but Angel’s filly, Aunt Jin, was through by the top of the stretch, and Ruffian not only set a stakes record of 1:21 1/5. Ruffian had also achieved something that not even Secretariat, Kelso, or Citation had accomplished. The filly had created a minus win pool, both at the track and at Off Track Betting. Such universal confidence in a favorite was almost unheard of; occasionally, a top horse would create a minus pool to show, but Ruffian’s fans had bet enough money on the filly to win that a minus pool resulted. The track was forced to pay out more money than it had received.

May 10, 1975, Ruffian began her next goal, the NYRA Filly Triple Crown, which consisted of the Acorn Stakes, the Mother Goose Stakes, and the Coaching Club American Oaks. Chris Evert had taken the series the previous season, as had Dark Mirage in 1968. For the Acorn, Ruffian was more cooperative about being rated in the early stages than she ever had before, even allowing Ron Turcotte and Piece of Luck to stay within a length of her during the first half. Finally, sensing the filly would not tolerate being held back much longer, Vasquez let his mount step up the pace. She bounded away from Turcotte’s mount as if the other filly had stopped running and opening up a seven length lead before her rider asked her to ease up again. At the end, she won by eight and a quarter lengths in stakes record time of 1:34 2/5. The real contest in the race had been for second, with the game filly Somethingregal nosing out Gallant Trial, then pulling up lame after the wire with a horseshoe nail in her frog.

qe-ii-cupOctober 11, 1984, the inaugural running of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup took place, with Queen Elizabeth II in attendance to present the winning trophy. Keeneland didn’t have an actual Winner’s Circle prior to the 1984 visit. For regular races, a chalk circle drawn on the track served as the Winner’s Circle. For major races, the trophy presentations were held in the infield on grass. Per the wishes of the Queen’s security team, Keeneland built a Winner’s Circle. The race was won by Cherry Valley Farm’s, Sintra.

November 10, 1984, the inaugural Breeders’ Cup was held at Hollywood Park in Los Angeles. Seven races, featuring the world’s greatest horses, jockeys and trainers competing on one stage for $10 million in purses, with an unprecedented live four hour national broadcast. The $3 million Breeders’ Cup Classic hype, lived up to its billing. The favorite, Slew o’Gold, Preakness winner Gate Dancer and 31-1 longshot Wild Again drove and banged together down Hollywood Park stretch to the wire.
Attendance: 64,254 Handle: $19,476,050. 

December 8, 1984, Brian Taylor, while racing at the Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong was thrown from his saddle while crossing the finish line. His mount, Silver Star (銀星一號), stumbled. Taylor would succumb two days later in hospital from the serious neck and head injuries he had received. His friend Bill Burnett wanted him to find someone else to replace him for that race due to his shingles. Wally Hood offered to take the ride but at the last minute, Brian decided to race, which turned out to be his last.

November 21, 1987, Breeders’ Cup returned to site of its inaugural running, Hollywood. One of the most exciting Classics to be run, winners of the past two Kentucky Derbies, Ferdinand and Alysheba, battled to the wire. Judge Angelucci, named for a long term Fayette County Judge, set the pace. This was for Horse of the Year. 

October 13, 1988, Michael Joseph Venezia, was thrown from his horse, Mr. Walter K. and trampled to death by a trailing horse during a race at Belmont Park. He was survived by his wife, Helene, son, Michael Edward, and daughter, Alison. Annually since 1989, the New York Racing Association provides the Mike Venezia Memorial Award to a rider who exemplifies extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship. Active in jockey affairs, Venezia served as president of the Jockeys’ Guild from 1975 to 1981.

1988-distaffNovember 5, 1988, Churchill Downs and Kentucky held their first Breeders’ Cup World Championship. Racing fans witnessed some of the greatest performances in the sport’s history on this rainy day. Alysheba, who under dark skies won the 3 million dollar Classic, (dubbed the “Midnight Classic”) to capture the Horse of the Year title. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas became the first trainer to win three Breeders’ Cup races on a single card and Julie Krone became the 1st women BC jockey, riding in three races.  But the day’s most dramatic moment came in the million dollar Distaff (fillies & mares), where the undefeated Personal Ensign, appearing hopelessly beaten at the top of the stretch, somehow gathered herself and closed stoutly on Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors and prevailed by a head. She was trained by Lexingtonian Shug McGaughey III and owned and bred by Ogden Phipps. For years, the 1988 Distaff would remain the signature moment of the Breeders’ Cup.

Secretariat Grave SiteOctober 4, 1989, at 11:45 AM, Secretariat, affectionately known as “Big Red”, was given a lethal injection at Claiborne Farm in Paris. He was 19 years of age and suffered from laminitis, a painful and usually incurable degenerative disease of the sensitive inner tissues of the hoofs. Dr. Thomas Swerczek, a professor of veterinary science at the U.K., performed the necropsy. All of the horse’s vital organs were normal in size except for the heart. ”We were all shocked,” Swerczek said. ”I’ve seen and done thousands of autopsies on horses, and nothing I’d ever seen compared to it. The heart of the average horse weighs about nine pounds. This was almost twice the average size, and a third larger than any equine heart I’d ever seen. And it wasn’t pathologically enlarged. All the chambers and the valves were normal. It was just larger. I think it told us why he was able to do what he did.”

December 17, 1993, a seven-alarm fire completely destroys the grandstand. With a round-the-clock effort for 19 days, Fair Grounds erects temporary facilities and conducts racing for its remaining 60 days.

January 20, 1994, Ron Hansen’s body was found in a salt marsh near the San Mateo Bridge not far from where he left his car three months earlier. Hansen rode more than 3,600 winners and his horses earned more than $40 million. Hansen mostly rode in California, winning five titles at Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows and was the leading rider in the Los Angeles County Fair meet four consecutive years. He rode six winners on a card at Golden Gate in 1990. Hansen rode Video Ranger to a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby in 1990, the same year Golden Gate ruled him off the track for five weeks during a race-fixing investigation. Hansen was reinstated by the California Horse Racing Board in time to ride in the Derby. For many, Hansen’s demise at age 33 remains as much a mystery today as it did when he disappeared in October 1993. Some suggested foul play. Others said it had to be suicide. Nothing seemed too farfetched where Hansen and thoroughbred racing were concerned.

October 24, 1994, four year old Cigar begins his 16 race winning streak at Aqueduct winning a one mile allowance test. 

November 26, 1994, Cigar wins race the 2nd race in his 16 win streak again going one mile at Aqueduct. However this was the NYRA Mile (GI), beating Devil His Due. The NYRA Mile was renamed the Cigar Mile after his retirement. Video 

January 22, 1995, Cigar stretches out to 1 1/16M at a Gulfstream Park allowance and wins his third race of the streak. 

February 11, 1995, Cigar returns to graded competition in the Donn Handicap (GI) at the classic distance of 1 1/8M. Holy Bull ran his last race. Video

February 2, 1997, a life-size bronze statue of Cigar was unveiled at Florida’s Gulfstream Park on “A Salute to Cigar Day.” Also in 1997, the New York Racing Association renamed the Grade I NYRA Mile, run in November at Aqueduct, as the Cigar Mile. The NYRA Mile was the second race in Cigar’s winning streak.

November 8, 1997, The 14th Breeders’ Cup turned out to be extremely predictable as favorites won 5 of the 7 races. Patrick Byrne, won the Juvenile Fillies with Countess Diana and the Juvenile with Favorite Trick. The team of trainer Jenine Sahadi and rider Corey Nakatani combined to again win the Sprint, this time with the 7-year-old gelding Elmhurst. Foreign horses won the turf races. The Classic was all Skip Away. A 4-year-old colt trained by Sonny Hine and ridden by Mike Smith, who dominated to win by six lengths, the largest Classic-winning margin to date. In a close vote, Favorite Trick was later named Horse of the Year.

November 14, 1997, George Edward Arcaro, known professionally as Eddie Arcaro, passed away. Eddie was a Hall of Fame jockey who at one time won more American classic races than any other jockey in history. He is the only rider to have won the U.S. Triple Crown twice. They included 1941 on Whirlaway and again in 1948 on Citation. His other Kentucky Derby wins were Hoop Jr. (1945) and Hill Gail (1952). He is widely regarded as the greatest jockey in the history of American Thoroughbred Horse Racing. Eddie was once banned from the track and after a year he returned, partly due to public pressure. What this man can do for you, I can do better. – Eddie Arcaro 1955.

December 10, 1999, Laffit Alejandro Pincay Jr. became the winningest jockey in thoroughbred racing by winning race number 8,834. He passed Willie Shoemaker for this honor at Hollywood Park.  He ended his career with 9,530 wins and would hold the record for seven years.

January 12, 2001, Affirmed  passed away. His great duels with Alydar in the Triple Crown series may be the best Triple Crown races of all-time. Affirmed was trained by Lazaro S. Barrera and was owned and breed by Lou and Patrice Wolfson’s Harbor View Farm.

February 4, 2004, Michael Francis Rowland, 41, was in the stirrups on World Trade, a five year old bay, in the 7th race at Turfway Park. Rowland was leading when his mount’s foreleg broke. This would have been Michael’s 3,999th win, one away from a major milestone for professional jockeys. He was in a coma until his death February 9. His death raised concerns over jockey safety, an issue that gathered steam and moved to the national forefront by year’s end. Turfway Park established the Michael F. Rowland Fund, as well as the Michael F. Rowland Award to honor the jockey who best exemplifies Rowland’s work ethic, professionalism, and perseverance.

November 6, 2005, Ellis Park was in the middle of a F3 Tornado that cut a 41 mile swath. Only three of the horses stabled at the park died that day, but several were severely injured. The terrace grandstand crumbled to the ground and nine of the 39 barns were destroyed. Debris from the park was swept away with the wind along the tornado’s path. The club house and the main grandstand sustained little damage. A farmer discovered several race horses, wandering in the Ohio River bottoms, days after the storm.

December 1, 2006, Russell Baze winning the fourth race at Bay Meadows set the world’s all-time record for most career victories, passing jockey Laffit Pincay Jr., by winning career race 9,531 aboard Butterfly Belle. He is the first jockey to win 10,000 races and in 2013 he won his 12,000th race. Since the inauguration of the Isaac Murphy Award in 1995, presented annually by the National Turf Writers Association to the jockey with the highest winning percentage in North America, Baze has won it 13 of 14 years, coming in second in 2004.

May 5, 2007, HM Queen Elizabeth II was on track to watch Street Sense win the Run for the Roses. It was the fifth visit to Kentucky and first to the Kentucky Derby. The Queen was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and close friend, horse breeder, William Farish, a former US ambassador to the UK, whose farm she stays on. Race course president Steve Sexton said: “Queen Elizabeth is certainly the most prestigious guest we’ve entertained in the modern-day history of the Kentucky Derby.”

November 23, 2007, Chad Brown won his first start as a trainer with his own string. His first stable started with only ten horses, five provided by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and the other five by Gary and Mary West. He won with his second starter, but the horse was claimed, reducing the stable to nine. He then went to Oaklawn Park for the winter meet, before moving to Keeneland where he scored his second win.

February 15, 2009, Rachel Alexandra begins her three year old campaign with a easy mile victory at Oaklawn’s 9th race, the Martha Washington. Video

March 14, 2009, Rachel Alexandra, wins her first graded stakes of the year, Fairgrounds Oaks (GII) in the slop, effortlessly. Video

May 1, 2009, Rachel Alexandra won the Kentucky Oaks (GI) in 2009 by 20​1⁄4-lengths, by far the largest in the race’s history. Video

May 16, 2009, Rachel Alexandra became the first filly to win the Preakness in 85 years and the first to win from the outside position. Video

June 27, 2009, Rachel Alexandra, won her third Grade I of the year, the Mother Goose. She set the record for fastest time and margin of victory, topping the legend Ruffian’s reocrd. Video

August 2, 2009, Rachel Alexandra takes on the boys again in the Haskell (GI) winning in the slop by 6, just missing the track record. Video

September 5, 2009, Rachel Alexandra ends her three year old season, 8 for 8, undefeated, by winning the Haskell (I). For the first time all year a few of the boys came close, but she put them away to be the first female of any age to win the historic race. Video 

November 7, 2009, Zenyatta became the first female to win the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic run at Santa Anita Park.  She carried 124 lbs and won by 1 length over Gio Ponti. She earned $2,700,000 of the $5,000,000 purse. Later she became the first horse to win two different Breeders’ Cup races, improving her winning record to 14 of 14. Zenyatte won 19 consecutive races in a 20-race career. Video 

November 17, 2010, Zenyatta announced her retirement, a little over a month after winning the Hollywood’s Lady’s Secret Stakes (G1). This was the third time she won the race and with this victory, she broke the all-time North American record for Grade/Group I victories by a filly/mare. She also tied the all-time North American record for consecutive victories without defeat, and broke the all-time North American female earnings record.