The Kentucky Oaks is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbred fillies. The race is hosted annually in Louisville, Kentucky at the historic Churchill Downs racetrack. The Kentucky Oaks is closely associated with the Kentucky Derby, which is held the weekend following the Oaks every year. The winner of the Kentucky Oaks receives $500,000 and a garland of lilies.
The first-ever Kentucky Oaks race was run on May 19, 1875. At that time, Churchill Downs was still referred to as the Louisville Jockey Club. The race was founded by Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. along with the Kentucky Derby. The two races are the oldest continuously run races and the only horse races to be held at their original site since conception. The Kentucky Oaks trails only the Kentucky Derby as the most popular Thoroughbred horse race in the United States.
The Oaks has been run at four different distances. From 1875-1890, the race was run at a distance of 1 and ½ miles. Briefly thereafter, it was run at a distance at 1 and ¼ miles. From 1896-1919, the race was run at 1 and 1/16 miles, then was changed back to 1 and ½ miles until 1941. In 1942, the race was changed again to 1 and 1/ miles, and in 1982, the race was changed a final time to its current distance of 1 and ½ miles.