Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., who built Churchill Downs in Louisville, wanted his track to have a race that would rival England’s Epsom Derby. After visiting England to study both its tracks and its races, he established the Kentucky Derby, which was first run on May 17, 1875. Except for 1879 through 1895, when it was 1 & 1/2 miles, the Derby has always been run at 1 & 1/4 miles.
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The Kentucky Derby was just another regional race until 1902, when Colonel Matt J. Winn took over the track. Although he had seen every Kentucky Derby since the beginning, Winn knew little about horse racing or running tracks, but he was a very good promoter.
After raising money to save Churchill Downs from bankruptcy, Winn began making frequent trips to New York, then the center of American racing, to persuade owners to enter their horses in the Kentucky Derby. His persistence paid off. By 1920, the Derby had become the best-known race in North America and it was attracting the top three-year-olds from all over the country.
The first race in the Triple Crown, the Derby is run on the first Saturday in May. A whole week of festivities is built around the race, drawing socialites, celebrities, and royalty among participants who come to see and be seen, as much as to watch the race. Millions who cannot attend the live events watch the televised Kentucky Derby race.
Hard Spun was the early leader in the 2007 Kentucky Derby race, but was overtaken in the last furlough by a horse named Street Sense.
Darley stallion Hard Spun will return to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s Lexington, Ky., division at Jonabell Farm for the 2015 breeding season after standing the 2014 season at Darley Japan. The 10-year-old Danzig horse stood at Darley’s complex on the island of Hokkaido in Japan for 4 million yen (about $40,000) after moving there in October 2013.
Hard Spun, winner of the Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes in 2007 and runner-up in that year’s Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic, is currently represented by prominent 3-year-old colt Wicked Strong, who won last week’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes and the Grade 1 Wood Memorial earlier this year. His other top runners in North America include 2012 champion 3-year-old filly and Grade 1 Alabama Stakes winner Questing and Hard Not To Like, who won the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes this April.
The stallion returns after a one-year sojourn to Japan that fellow Darley sire and 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense made for the 2013 breeding season. Street Sense returned to stand at Jonabell in 2014 for $40,000. Hard Spun’s last fee in Kentucky was $60,000 in 2013. He has also shuttled to Darley’s Australia division for Southern Hemisphere breeding.
“Street Sense and Hard Spun have each stood a season in Japan,” Dan Pride, chief operating officer at Darley America, said. “Sharing the best of our stallions with breeders in other countries is an important part of our global philosophy. It’s wonderful that they can be so popular both abroad and at home.”
“Hard Spun was a favorite among breeders during his first five years at Jonabell, and covered a full book of mares in Japan this year,” said Charlie Boden, head of sales at Darley America. “His progeny continue to do very well and I know breeders here in the U.S. are excited to see him return.”
Hard Spun, who is out of the stakes-winning Turkoman mare Turkish Tryst, won 7 of 13 starts and earned over $2.6 million in two seasons, retiring after his Breeders’ Cup Classic second in fall 2007. He won five stakes aside from the King’s Bishop, including the Grade 2 Lane’s End Stakes and Kentucky Cup Classic Stakes. He has sired four crops of racing age and his progeny have earned over $24 million through July 31.