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Aristides - 1st Kentucky Derby Winner


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Pedigree: Leamington- Sarong (Lexington)

Owner: Hal Price McGrath

Trainer: Ansel Williamson


side of hat: Horse Racing legends logo

Record 21: 9-5-1 Earnings: $18,325

Named Champion US 3yr old in 1875

There is a life size statue of Aristides at Churchill Downs





Fifteen horses were entered into the first Kentucky Derby, two of them fillies. The track was fast, the weather was fine, and ten thousand people were in attendance. Aristides was one of two horses entered by Hal McGrath. The other, of course, was Chesapeake. Both horses wore the green and orange silks of H.P. McGrath. Trained by future Hall of Famer, Ansel Williamson, an African American, Aristides was ridden by Oliver Lewis, also African American. McGrath expected the smaller speedball Aristides to be the "rabbit." He was to go out front fast and force the pace so that Chesapeake, ridden by Bobby Swim (a celebrated jockey, and white), could stalk the front runners, and when they and Aristides tired, would come from behind to vanquish the exhausted field.

Just as McGrath had planned, little Aristides broke in front and took the lead, but a horse called McCreery quickly overtook him near the end of the first quarter. Aristides fought back to lead again, followed by McCreery, Ten Broeck, Volcano, and Verdigris. Chesapeake, meanwhile, was almost the last to break and wasn't doing much at the back of the pack. As the "rabbit," the willing Aristides kept gradually increasing his lead until there was really no chance that Chesapeake could ever catch up. Chesapeake was that kind of horse...and this McGrath did not plan. Aristides's jockey, Oliver Lewis, knowing he wasn't supposed to win, looked to owner McGrath...but McGrath wisely waved him on. Both Volcano and Verdigris challenged Aristides in the stretch but Aristides won by a length and took the $2850 pool.[2] Ten Broeck finished fifth and Chesapeake eighth.

The Louisville Courier-Journal wrote: "It is the gallant Aristides, heir to a mighty name, that strides with sweeping gallop toward victory...and the air trembles and vibrates again with the ringing cheers that followed."