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Pre-1800s | Horse Racing Timeline

1730 - 1st Recorded “thorough bred” Brought into the Colonies

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.

Racing Around Kentucky by Lynn S. Renau

1793 - John Bradford Letter

October 21, 1793, the Trustees of Lexington issued the following statement that was published in the Kentucky Gazette and signed by John Bradford as chairman of the City’s board of trustees. This action was needed because spectators were being hit with horse shoes while racing on Main Street. 

“The Trustees of the town of Lexington , feeling the dangers and inconveniences which are occasioned by the practice (but too common) of racing through the streets of the inn and out lots of the town, and convinced  that they are not invested with saficient [sic] authority to put a stop to such practices, recommend it to the people of the town, to call a public meeting, to consider of the means which ought to be adopted for applying a remedy to the growing evil.”

Lost Lexington by Peter Brackney

1794 - Lexington Race Meet

October 18, 1794, The Kentucky Gazette carried a notice of a race meeting on the last Thursday, Friday and Saturday of October over a Lexington track. Thursday races were to be of four-mile heats, Friday were to be three-mile heats (excluding Thursday’s winner) and on Saturday to be two-mile heats, excluding both preceding winners. 

Racing Around Kentucky by Lynn S. Renau

1796 - Williams Brothers' Track

January 22, 1796, two years after Lexington banned racing in the streets, Mr. Simeon Buford accepted Mr. Leonard Claiborne 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

1797 - Kentucky’s First Jockey Club

Early in 1797, a company of gentlemen met at Postlethwait’s Tavern in downtown Lexington and organized Kentucky’s first 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.
The Kentucky Encyclopedia edited by John E. Kleber; pg:310