Aristides (1872–1893) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse that 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. Aristides also had a relative racing in the first Kentucky Derby in 1875.
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". McGrath did not consider Aristides first rate, though his dam (Sarong) was by 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, Pennsylvanian Aristides Welch, who owned Erdenheim Stud and had imported Leamington into the United States) was foaled late in the season and was small, never standing taller than about 15 hands. His stablemate the bay Chesapeake, also sired by Lexington, 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 distance from Lexington.
Fifteen horses were entered in the first Kentucky Derby, two of them fillies. The track was fast, the weather was fine, and 10,000 people were in attendance. Aristides was one of two horses entered by Hal McGrath. The other 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, considered the better McGrath horse, could stalk the front runners, and, when they and Aristides tired, come from behind to win.
Just as McGrath had planned, Aristides broke in front and took the lead, but 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 was not doing much at the back of the pack. As the "rabbit", Aristides kept increasing his lead until there was virtually no chance that Chesapeake could catch up. Aristides's jockey, Oliver Lewis, knowing he was not supposed to win, looked to owner McGrath, who waved him on. Both Volcano and Verdigris challenged Aristides in the stretch, but Aristides won by a length and took the $2850 pool. Ten Broeck finished fifth and Chesapeake eighth.
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."
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 Tom Ochiltree), and a match race over Ten Broeck. He came in second in the Thespian Stakes and the Ocean Hotel Stakes and was third in the Travers Stakes.
On 10 May 1876, Aristides set the fastest time on record for two and a half miles at 3:14 at Lexington, Kentucky. Ten Broeck finished second in this race for four-year-olds (The Daily Oregonian, May 11, 1876, p. 1).
Aristides raced 21 times with 9 wins, five places, and one show.
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.