The Kentucky Derby has been called the “Run for the Roses,” after the red rose that has been the official flower of the Kentucky Derby since 1904. A rose garland (with white and pink roses) was first given to the winner in 1896; a red rose garland was introduced in 1932.
Bill Corum (1895-1958), a sportwriter for the New York (NY) Journal-American and the president of Louisville’s Churchill Downs from 1950 to 1958, is often credited for coining “run for the roses” in 1925. The earliest verified printed citations for “run for the roses” (including one article by Bill Corum) are from 1938.
The Belmont Stakes (the third race in the Triple Crown) has been called the “Run for the Carnations” since the 1990s.
WIkipedia: Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Derby is a Grade I stakes race for three year-old Thoroughbred horses, held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, United States on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival and is widely considered the most prestigious horse race in the world. The race is one and a quarter miles (2 km) at Churchill Downs. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds (57.2 kg) and fillies 121 pounds (54.9 kg). The race is known in the United States as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” or “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” for its approximate duration, and is also called “The Run for the Roses” for the blanket of roses draped over the winner. It is the first leg of the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing and is followed by the Preakness Stakes then the Belmont Stakes. The attendance at the Kentucky Derby ranks first in North America and usually surpasses the attendance of all other stakes races including the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup, for more information see American Thoroughbred Racing top Attended Events.
The Derby is frequently referred to as “The Run for the Roses,” because a lush blanket of 554 red roses is awarded to the Kentucky Derby winner each year. The tradition originated in 1883 when New York socialite E. Berry Wall presented roses to ladies at a post-Derby party that was attended by Churchill Downs founder and president, Col. M. Lewis Clark. This gesture is believed to have eventually led Clark to the idea of making the rose the race’s official flower. However, it was not until 1896 that any recorded account referred to roses being draped on the Derby winner. The Governor of Kentucky awards the garland and the trophy. Pop vocalist Dan Fogelberg composed the song “Run for the Roses” for the 1980 running of the race.
Garland of Roses
The roses were first established as part of the Derby celebration when they were presented to all the ladies attending a fashionable Louisville Derby party. The roses were such a sensation, that the president of Churchill Downs, Col. Lewis Clark, adopted the rose as the race’s official flower. The rose garland now synonymous with the Kentucky Derby first appeared in the 1896 when the winner, Ben Brush, received a floral arrangement of white and pink roses.
In 1904 the red rose became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby. The tradition was strengthened when, in 1925, New York sports columnist Bill Corum, later the president of Churchill Downs, dubbed the Kentucky Derby the “Run for the Roses.” The garland as it exists today was first introduced in 1932 for the 58th running won by Burgoo King.
Internet Movie Database
Biography for Bill Corum
Date of Birth
29 July 1895, Speed, Missouri, USA
Date of Death
16 December 1958, New York City, New York, USA (lung cancer)
Martene Windsor Corum
President of the American Turf Association and Churchill Downs from 1949-1958.
Sportswriter and broadcaster. Worked the 1946 World Series with Jim Britt and Arch McDonald for Mutual Radio.
7 May 1938, Sandusky (OH) Star-Journal, pg. 9, col. 5:
CHURCHILL DOWNS, LOUISVILLE. (UP)—With post time for the Kentucky Derby only a few hours away, a warm sun bathes the brown loam racing strip of Churchill Downs over which the country’s 10 best three-year-old horses will make the “run for the Roses” late today.
8 March 1939, Seattle (WA) Daily Times, “Hex Hangs Over El Chico” by John Lardner, pg. 23, cols. 3-4:
El Chico—the Kid—is not worried about the Derby. He’s entered in the race, and he’ll run for the roses, barring mishap, and he leaves the talking to his trainer, Matt Brady, who insists that his slender chestnut colt can go any distance he’s asked to go, up to and including the Derby requirement of a mile and a quarter.
14 March 1939, Pampa (TX) News, “Woodward May Have Another Derby Winner,” pg. 6, col. 7:
NEW YORK, March 14. (AP)—(...) And those who know owner William Woodward’s remarkable grasp of the tricky business of breeding racing stock are wondering these days of his number may not be “up” for the third time when the field rounds the turn and starts the run for the roses at Louisville in May.
Google News Archive
27 April 1939, Spokane (WA) Daily Chronicle, “Rainmaker Might Beat Johnstown” by Henry McLemore, pg. 13, col. 2:
NEW YORK, April 27. (UP)—Miss Little Stoate, the little ol’ poke-bonneted rainmaker of Mississippi, is likely to get her biggest commission within a few days—a call to hurry to Churchill Downs, Louisville, to bring on wet weather for the Kentucky derby.
If she gets the job, it will be at the request of William Woodward’s rival owners who do not want to see the banker’s big colt Johnstown, come rolling home in front in the run for the Roses on May 6.
16 April 1940, Washington (DC) Post, pg. 17:
Woodward, whose Belair stud has sent Gallant Fox, Omaha and Johnstown to the winner’s circle in the Kentucky Derby, came up with another first-rate hope when Fenelon, a game son of Sir Gallahad III and eligible for this year’s run for the roses,...
6 May 1939, Lowell (MA) Sun, pg. 1, col. 2:
$50,000 Classic of the Turf,
Kentucky Derby, Runs Today
By BILL CORUM
LOUISVILLE, May 10 (May 6 is correct—ed.) (INS)—Put on your sauciest derby bonnet, baby, and we’ll be off to the races. In fact, we’ll be off to the greatest race of all, the world-famed Kentucky Derby at spired old Churchill Downs beneath the blue hills at the Blue Grass state.
We can’t lose with Col. Matthew James Winn. Not only is his name insurance against it, but from a $3500 stake, attended on free tickets by the local horsey set, Col. Matt has built the “run for the roses” into a $50,000 classic.
17 December 1958, San Francisco (CA) Examiner, sec. II, pg. 5:
Corum (Obituary for Bill Corum, New York Journal-American sportswriter—ed.) covered almost every running of the Kentucky Derby since 1924.
The directors took 45 minutes to decide on Corum to run the track (Churchill Downs—ed.) that Winn worked with nearly 50 years to bring to its
RUN FOR THE ROSES.
Corum was the first sports writer in the country to call the Derby the “run for the roses.”
Kentucky Derby Roses and Winning Stables
Garland of Roses Begun In 1932 For Derby Victor Burgoo King
Apr 29, 2009 BarbaraAnne Helberg
Colonel M. Lewis Clark, the Kentucky Derby’s founder and organizer extraordinaire, declared the rose the official flower for the race in 1884. Its use became a regular part of the day’s pageantry.
A racing columnist, Bill Corum, first referred to the Derby as the Run for the Roses in 1925, when he observed that the flower’s part in the event had reached ceremonial status. Corum was president of Churchill Downs from 1950 to 1958.