Nearly everyone in Louisville knows that Aristides won the first Kentucky Derby run in 1875. But how many know that it’s quite likely that before the 3-year- old thoroughbred won and became part of history, he drank water supplied by Louisville Water?
Water was an important feature the track needed to maintain its operations. In 1874, officers at the Jockey Club, as Churchill Downs was called at the time, asked Louisville Water’s board for an extension of the mains to the track, which was still being built.
The board, at first, voted to deny this request. This could have doomed the success of the track and the Kentucky Derby before they even began. However, by the end of the year water mains were laid along Third Street to the track. A New York correspondent noted “the excellent arrangements made for watering the track and grounds” that “will secure a never failing supply of water.”
Sprinkling the dirt streets was another need of the day. A gravel drive with dirt roads on both sides connected the fashionable Third Street to the entrance gates. Sprinkler attachments were installed every thousand feet. It was expected that, during the race meets, the drive and the track would be watered every day.
Another feature was all the 20 white-washed stables that were “equipped with hydrants from which water can be drawn the same as in the city.” The access to water in the stables was called “perfect.”
So perhaps one of Aristides groom turned on the hydrant to give his charge a drink before the race. Did this help him win? We may never truly know, but we do know Louisville Water is the water of champions so in our minds the answer is yes.