Off Beat: Kentucky Derby founder was grandson of Clark, namesake of Lewis
Monday, May 14, 2012
Two locally owned horses have run in the Kentucky Derby over the last couple of decades, but Clark County’s links to the famed horse race go back a lot further.
Does the name Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. ring a bell?
And yes, that is one person, although he obviously was the second to bear that name.
William Clark set great stock by Meriwether Lewis, his companion on the Corps of Discovery trek that passed through this area more than two centuries ago.
Lewis killed himself with a pistol in 1809; nine months later, Clark’s first child was born, and he named his son Meriwether Lewis Clark. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. was born in 1846.
He came up with the idea for the Louisville Jockey Club. He built the track now known as Churchill Downs, and established the Kentucky Derby on the racing schedule. I’ll Have Another won the 138th edition two Saturdays ago, and one of sports’ great quests — the Triple Crown — remains alive until he loses.
While the race is known as the Run for the Roses, an earlier spectacle at Churchill Downs might be tabbed Ruin on the Rails. According to the Kentucky Derby website, more than 40,000 people in 1902 watched the staged head-on collision of two locomotives.
William Clark’s good friend and his grandson shared a fate, as it turned out. In 1899, Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. killed himself with a pistol.
Oh, and the local Derby entries?
Hello, owned by Al and Sandee Kirkwood, finished eighth in 1997. Jumron, owned by then-Vancouver resident Charlie Dunn, finished fourth in 1995.
Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.