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The History of the Kentucky Derby in 75 Objects (Hardback)

Imprint: University Press of Kentucky
Pages: 328
Illustrations: 37 b&w illustrations, 120 color illustrations
ISBN: 9781985900455
Published: 16th July 2024
Casemate UK Academic



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"To understand the Kentucky Derby is to understand the contemporary American spirit."


One hundred and fifty years have passed since the Thoroughbreds of the inaugural Kentucky Derby sprang from the starting gate to race beneath the iconic Twin Spires of Churchill Downs. But the story of the greatest two minutes in sports is more than the pageantry of the horses and thrill of the people who love and celebrate the event.


Through the decades, the Derby, like the state that founded it, has experienced profound moments of social, economic, and cultural change. As one of Kentucky's flagship cultural and economic institutions, the Thoroughbred racing industry must constantly reconcile with its past and think critically about the stories that have traditionally made it into the winner's circle. In the right hands, artifacts of material culture related to the Derby have the power to inspire nuanced stories of the past and shed light on marginalized voices in the industry's history.


In The History of the Kentucky Derby in 75 Objects, Jessica K. Whitehead sets out to recover the accurate history of America's longest continuously held sporting event and establish a balance between well-known narratives and those that are less widely shared. Whitehead, curator of collections at the Kentucky Derby Museum, gives readers a personal tour of 75 objects from the museum. Her selections place Black, Latin American, and female riders, owners, and trainers closer to the center of the Derby story, spotlighting the contributions and achievements of groups that have played an increasingly important role in shaping the legacy of the Run for the Roses.

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