In the world of horse racing, the Kentucky Derby often takes center stage. However, for the true equestrian enthusiast, the Kentucky Oaks is a prestigious event with a rich history that cannot be overlooked.
The Oaks, held annually on the first Friday of May, just one day before the Derby, is a showcase of the finest three-year-old fillies in thoroughbred racing. With a history that spans nearly a century and a half, this grand event has become an integral part of American horse racing tradition.
Established in 1875 by Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., the same man who founded the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks was inspired by the Epsom Oaks, an esteemed English horse race dating back to 1779. From its inception, the Kentucky Oaks aimed to uphold the same level of elegance and excitement as its British counterpart.
Held at the iconic Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the Kentucky Oaks is a 1⅛-mile race with a purse of $1.25 million, attracting the best fillies from around the world. The race is the climax of the two-day event, which also features a range of other races, including the Kentucky Derby.
The Kentucky Oaks has seen some of the most legendary fillies in the sport grace its racetrack. Among these is the 1915 winner, Regret, the first filly to ever win the Kentucky Derby. Other notable winners include Rachel Alexandra in 2009, who went on to be crowned Horse of the Year, and Monomoy Girl, who won both the Kentucky Oaks and the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in 2018.
The event also holds a unique tradition of paying homage to survivors and those who have lost their lives to breast and ovarian cancer. In 2009, the Kentucky Oaks introduced the “Pink Out,” where attendees are encouraged to wear pink in support of cancer research and awareness.
In addition to the signature pink, the event features the Garland of Lilies, also known as the “Lilies for the Fillies.” This stunning floral arrangement is draped over the winning filly, symbolizing the feminine nature of the event.
With a perfect blend of history, tradition, and thrilling competition, the Kentucky Oaks has secured its place as one of the most anticipated events in horse racing. A true celebration of the prowess of female thoroughbreds, this elegant race offers a unique experience for equestrian enthusiasts and casual spectators alike.