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Aristides (horse)

1877 drawing by C. Lloyd
Sire Leamington
Dam Sarong
Grandsire Faugh-a-Ballagh
Damsire Lexington
Gender Stallion
Foaled 1872
Country United States
Color Chestnut
Breeder Hal Price McGrath
Owner Hal Price McGrath
Trainer Ansel Williamson
Record 21: 9-5-1
Earnings $18,325
Aristides is a thoroughbred racehorse out of Sarong by Leamington. He was born around 1872 in the United States, and was bred by Hal Price McGrath.
Major wins
Kentucky Derby (1875)
Jerome Handicap (1875)
Withers Stakes (1875)
U.S. Champion 3-Yr-Old Colt (1875) (historic)
Life-sized statue at Churchill Downs
Aristides Breeders' Cup Stakes at Churchill Downs
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)
Last updated on December 21, 2006

Aristides (1872–1893) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse who won the first Kentucky Derby in 1875.

In 1875 the Derby was raced at a mile and a half, the distance it would remain until 1896 when it was changed to its present mile and a quarter. There were no roses for Aristides; roses weren't introduced until Hall of Famer Ben Brush won in 1896.



A chestnut thoroughbred with a white star and two hind stockings, Aristides was bred by Hal Price McGrath and foaled in 1872. He was sired by the great English stud Leamington, which made him a half brother to another great sire, Hall of Famer Longfellow, who, during his racing career, was called "King of the Turf." And yet, Hal McGrath did not consider Aristides first rate, even though his dam (Sarong) was out of one of the United States' greatest sires Lexington, whose bloodline went back to Glencoe and Hall of Famer Boston.

Aristides (named for his breeder's good friend and fellow horse breeder, the Pennsylvanian Aristides Welch who owned Erdenheim Stud and who had imported Leamington into the United States) was foaled late in the season, and was small, never standing taller than about 15 hands. It was his stablemate and half-brother, the bay Chesapeake, was expected to do well at the races.

Price McGrath was born to poverty in Woodford County, Kentucky, and had gone west for the great California Gold Rush. He did well enough to open a gambling house in New York. In a single night he won $105,000, which allowed him to return to Kentucky and establish a stud farm.

Both Aristides and Chesapeake were born and bred on the McGrathiana Farm in Fayette County, Kentucky, a short canter from Lexington.

Kentucky Derby

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 wasn't 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 it was no use—Aristides won by a long length and took the $2850 pool. Chesapeake came in 8th. (A horse who would go on to greatness came in fifth that day: Hall of Famer Ten Broeck owned by Uncle John Harper.)

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."

Further races

Aristides, again ridden by Oliver Lewis, came in second in the Belmont Stakes, the race that today is the third race in the triple crown of American thoroughbred horse racing. He also took the Jerome Handicap, the Withers Stakes, the Breckinridge (beating the great Tom Ochiltree), and won a match race over another great, Ten Broeck. He came in second in the Thespian Stakes and the Ocean Hotel Stakes and was third in the Travers Stakes.

All in all, Aristides raced twenty one times with nine Wins, five Places, and one Show. His career earnings were $18,325, a considerable sum at the time.

In 1875, he was the American Champion Three Year Old Male.

Aristides died on June 21, 1893. In 1988, the Aristides Stakes was inaugurated at Churchill Downs to honor him. A life-sized bronze statue of Aristides by Carl Regutti stands in the Clubhouse Gardens as a memorial.

Pedigree of Aristides




Sir Hercules Whalebone
Guiccioli Bob Booty
Pantaloon Mare


Pantaloon Castrel
Daphne Laurel
Maid Of Honor




Boston Timoleon
Florizel Mare
Alice Carneal Sarpedon
Greek Slave


Glencoe Sultan
Margaret Hunter Margrave
Mary Hunt


  • Robertson, William H. P. (1964), The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America, New York: Bonanza Books .


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