The Kentucky Oaks is held every year on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. This year it takes place on May 5. The race was founded by Lewis Clark, Jr., in 1875. The Kentucky Oaks, along with the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, is one of the most popular thoroughbred horse races in the United States. The Longines Kentucky Oaks is strictly a female horse race for three-year-old fillies. It remains one of the oldest continuously contested sporting events in history.
History of Kentucky Oaks
The first Kentucky Oaks race was held on May 19, 1875, when Churchill Downs was still known as the Louisville Jockey Club. The event was coordinated by Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., who also oversaw the organization of the Kentucky Derby, the Clark Handicap, and the Falls City Handicap. Two of the oldest sports competitions still held in the United States are The Kentucky Oaks and The Derby. The British Epsom Oaks, which has been run annually in Epsom, Surrey, since 1779, served as the model for the Kentucky Oaks. A horse named Vinaigrette won the very first race, earning $1,175 in prize money, and since then, the Kentucky Oaks has been held annually.
Some consider Kentucky Oaks to be one of the most popular horse races in the United States. In 1980, the race attracted over 50,000 attendees. To honor the winner of the Kentucky Oaks race, Lemon & Son, Inc. commissioned Redlich & Co. of New York City to design a trophy cup. The trophy is typically made of sterling silver and is 25 inches tall with horse-head grips on both sides and an intricate silver horseshoe on top.
The winner’s name is etched on the trophy each year. Churchill Downs etched all winners before the 1924 event on the trophy in 1955. Princess Doreen was the first winner to have her name inscribed on the trophy, which was awarded in 1924. The first ceremonial presentation was attended by her owner Harry Stutts, trainer S. Miller Henderson, and a breeder from the Audley Farm Stable.
Kentucky Oaks timeline
Kentucky Oaks is inspired by the British Epsom Oaks.
The first Kentucky Oak horse race is run on May 19.
Redlich & Co. of New York City is given a commission by Lemon & Son, Inc. to create a trophy cup to honor the winner of the Kentucky Oaks race.
Approximately 50,000 people attend the race.
Kentucky Oaks FAQs
How many horses can run in the Kentucky Oaks?
Who won the 2021 Oaks?
The early favorite, Malathaat, won the Kentucky Oaks in 2021.
Is the Kentucky Oaks a day-long affair?
Yes. It’s a full day of racing, with the race starting at 10:30 a.m. and ending around 6:00 p.m.
Kentucky Oaks Activities
Purchase your tickets
Get your tickets to the Kentucky Oaks horse race this year. You can visit the ticket master to make your purchase. Be sure to do this early as tickets sell out quickly.
Share via your socials
You don't have to be in Kentucky to join in the celebration. You can watch videos online or share pictures from the race track and upload it to social media and add the hashtag #Kentuckyoaks.
Read on the history of Kentucky Oaks
Join in the celebration by reading up on the origin of Kentucky Oaks. Educate yourself on its history, bidding, horse racing, and race track etiquette.
5 Interesting Facts About Kentucky Oaks
Pink is the color of the day
Churchill Downs will be decked out in pink in honor of Kentucky Oaks Day, dedicated to finding a cure for breast and ovarian cancer.
Kentucky Oaks has its own official cocktail.
First female winner
The first female jockey to win a Kentucky Oaks horse race is Rosie Napravnik.
100,000 spectators annually
Since the 127th running of the Kentucky Oaks in 2001, the race has drawn around 100,000 spectators each year.
Lillies for the fillies
The winner receives $750,000 and a big lily garland blanket, earning the nickname Lillies for the Fillies.
Why We Love Kentucky Oaks
It is a social event
Attending a horse racing event is a terrific opportunity to meet new people. You get to dress up which can make the occasion even more enjoyable. It is family-friendly, with all races and all ages events.
It's full of excitement
The thrill of being on the grounds of a race track is like no other. You're practically at the edge of your seat when the horses speed down the last stretch of the race track. The excitement in the crowd is palpable during this time.
It raises awareness about cancer
Kentucky Oaks raises awareness about breast and ovarian cancer. On the day of the event, attendees wear the color pink in honor of cancer patients.
Kentucky Oaks dates