Skip to content


Kentucky Trivia ● Kentucky Tweets

May 17, 1825, Marquis de Lafayette sat for Mercer County native Mathew Harris Jouett in his Short Street studio in Lexington.  The state legislature approved the money to have Jouett paint Lafayette’s portrait.  Jouett traveled to Washington to begin the project but missed Lafayette.  Henry Clay got involved, and the General instructed Clay to tell Jouett to make a copy of his portrait in the U.S. Capitol (the painting done by Ary Scheffer), and when he arrived in Kentucky, he would sit for the touch up.  Or as Jouett put it “corrected whatever had been superinduced by time, change of health, or other circumstances.”

May 17, 1875, a four-year-old filly named Bonaventure won the 1st race run at a track that would later be known as Churchill Downs.  Capt. William Cottrill, a Civil War Confederate officer, owned the filly.  In 1872, the Saratoga Association’s leadership offered to name a race, the Cottrill Stakes, in his honor.  The modest Southern gentleman declined and asked the race be named the Alabama Stakes, after his home state.

Monday, May 17, 1875, ten thousand lucky fans witnessed the 1st Kentucky Derby at the Louisville Jockey Club.  The 1 ½ mile ran in 2:37.75.  Aristides, a small colt roughly 15 hands, won by two lengths over 14 other contestants.  African Americans rode 13 of the 15 thoroughbreds, including the first winner Oliver Lewis.  Ansel Williamson, born into slavery, trained Aristides.  Hal Price McGrath, a native Kentuckian and owner of gambling parlors in NYC, bred Aristides on his extravagant McGrathiana Farm, now known as UK’s Coldstream Farm.  The winners didn’t receive roses, but they did win $2,850.

Kentucky Trivia:  The name “Churchill Downs” is first used to landmark the racetrack for the 1883 Kentucky Derby.  In an article from the former Louisville Commercial: “The crowd in the grand stand sent out a volume of voice, and the crowd in the field took it up and carried it from boundary to boundary of Churchill Downs.”  The track’s official name was The Louisville Jockey Club, and in 1937 they incorporated as Churchill Downs Racetrack.

May 17, 1875, Lexington native, U.S. Senator and 14th U.S. V.P. John Cabell Breckinridge died.

Tuesday, May 17, 1881, Hindoo won the 7th Kentucky Derby in a six-horse field, going 1 ½ miles in 2:40.  The owners, Brooklyn business brothers Phil and Mike Dwyer, hired trainer James Gordon Rowe Sr.  Gordon won his 1st of two Derbies.  Hall of Fame jockey James A. McLaughlin guided the colt home first for $4,410.  The minimum bet was $5.00.  Hindoo paid $6.60, with no show wagering.

Localtonians wish a Happy Birthday to Lexington native Vertner Woodson Tandy, born in 1885.  He was one of the seven founders (commonly referred to as “The Seven Jewels”) of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity at Cornell University in 1906 and the first African American registered architect in New York.

Localtonians wish a Happy Birthday to Louisville native John Patrick Goggin, born in 1905.  Soon after his birth, his parents abandoned him.  The John Patrick Collection, including the playwright’s books, letters, and manuscripts, stays at the Rare Book Department of Boston University.  John won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Wednesday, May 17, 1911, Watervale won the 36th Preakness Stakes at 1 1/8 mile in 1:51, setting a new track record.

May 17, 1924, Black Gold won the 50th Kentucky Derby by a ½ length, going the 1 ¼ miles in 2:05.05 for owner Rosa M. Hoots, the 1st woman to own and breed a Kentucky Derby winner.  The colt beat 18 others.  Horse racing officials banned her husband for life when he ran a horse in a claimer and not handing it over when his horse got claimed.

Tuesday, May 17, 1930, Gallant Fox won the 56th running of the Kentucky Derby.  The win gave Maryland’s Belair Stud their 1st of three Derbies.  It would be the 1st of four Derbies for trainer James E. Fitzsimmons and the last of the three Derbies for jockey Earl Sande.  The time of 2:07.60 earned $50,725.  Gallant Fox retired at three after winning the 2nd Triple Crown.

May 17, 1946, Stoll Field hosted the Kentucky High School Athletics Association (KHSAA) track and field meet.

May 17, 1947, a crowd gathered outside Wheeler’s Restaurant, 110 North Broadway in Lexington, after the restaurant’s proprietor, Guthrie Wheeler, 41, his son Bobbie Lee, 17, and a waitress, Mrs. Mary Hamm, 36, were shot.

May 17, 1951, Army PVT William J. Castleman, Jr. from McCracken County, Army PVT James E. Manning from Knox County, and Army SGT Arthur J. Morse from Harlan County, all died in the Korean War.

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools were unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools were otherwise equal in quality.

May 17, 1961, African-American leaders launched a drive for city-wide integration of all restaurants, theaters, hotel, and motels both by law and voluntary action.  They Louisville leaders also announced a concentrated effort to get retail establishments to hire more minorities.

May 17, 1966, Army PFC Kenneth E. Duncan from Henderson, Army SSG Kenneth W. Pickett from Glasgow in Barren County, and Army SSG Billy E. Snipes from Maysville, all died in the Vietnam War.

May 17, 1967, Marine Corps PFC Charles A. Eakins from Clay in Webster County and Army SP4 William C. Turner from Chance in Adair County died in the Vietnam War. 

May 17, 1968, Army SP5 from Samuel C. Martin from Greensburg in Green County died in the Vietnam War.

May 17, 1968, officials found Barbara Ann “Bobbie” (Hackmann) Taylor, also known as “Tent Girl,” near Georgetown.  Scientist finally identified her in 1998 through DNA.

May 17, 1969, Majestic Prince ran for the second leg of the Triple Crown in the 94th running of the Preakness Stakes.  The field of eight went 1 3/16 mile for $182,000.  Majestic Prince won but finished 2nd in the Belmont.

May 17, 1970, Army SP4 William W. Colyer from Louisville died in the Vietnam War.

May 17, 1984, a thoroughbred mare made history after she gave birth to a zebra at the Louisville Zoo.  Veterinarians implanted the embryo in May 1983.

May 17, 1989, Patrolman Curtis E. Lobb, Greensburg Police Department, suffered a fatal heart attack during a high speed pursuit.

May 17, 1993, an explosion at Ashland Oil’s refinery complex killed a worker and prompted police to close a three-mile section of U.S. 23 near Catlettsburg.  The victim worked at the refinery since 1976.

May 17, 1996, the list of superfund cleanup sites dropped the Valley of the Drums in Bullitt County even though their problems continued.

May 17, 2000, McCreary County and Pulaski County courthouses and Harlan County Schools took the Ten Commandments off their walls after a U.S. District Judge threatened county officials of contempt of court.  McCreary County Judge executive declared he would never take them down, so the local American Legion moved them to their lodge.  Harlan County left an empty frame on the walls, and Pulaski removed them with little fanfare.

May 17, 2000, Henryk de Kwiatkowski, the owner of Calumet Farm at the time, won a $115 million lawsuit against Bear Stearns when a federal judge found the investment company made unauthorized trades and cost Henryk $300 million.  It was one of the largest wins in a lawsuit pitting a Wall Street firm against an individual.

May 17, 2004, the results of a poll showed that 70% of Kentuckians favored a state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages or civil unions.  The Courier-Journal Bluegrass poll showed 25% against the ban and 6% undecided.

May 17, 2006, Governor Ernie Fletcher attended UPS’s announcement of their $750 million expansion.  At the time, UPS employed 18,000 and had lured 90 companies to the region.

May 17, 2010, Robert Felner, an ex UofL dean, received a 36-month prison sentence for defrauding UofL and Rhode Island University for $2.3 million.  He adamantly denied the charges and claimed certain people didn’t like his personality.

May 17, 2014, drug trafficking statistics became public.  In 2011 Louisville police arrested one individual for trafficking in heroin.  In 2012 the number was 55.  In 2013 it jumped to 71, and in 2017, it reached 100.

On May 17, 2014, more than 300 tattoo artists worldwide displayed their talents at the Kentucky International Convention Center held by the Louisville Tattoo Art Convention.

May 17, 2020, a national authority on search and seizure laws says the no-knock warrant used in Breonna Taylor’s apartment should not have happened.  The police said otherwise.

May 17, 2021, with full reopening weeks away, Governor A. Beshear urged more young people to get the vaccine.  Meanwhile, a viral Kentucky YouTuber nearly died when a .50-cal gun blew up in his face while filming.