Everyone knows the Wright brothers were first in flight, and for many that is the end of the story. But the pioneering brothers continued to advance aviation during its infancy, often showing up in some rather unexpected places. For example, in 1910, just seven years after their historic first flight, horse racing had been temporarily halted at New York’s Belmont Park. In October of that year the racetrack hosted the Gordon Bennett Air Race: 10 days of airplane racing. The culmination of the event was a race to the Statue of Liberty, cheered start to finish by tens of thousands of fans.
Counting down to Saturday May 2 and the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby, we found ourselves wondering what might have been had the winds of fate blown a different direction. Could horseracing’s iconic Triple Crown have instead been aviation’s signature racing series? Perhaps, but it wasn’t to be when after a two-year hiatus in 1911 and 1912 the Belmont Stakes returned in 1913 and horse racing was back for good at Belmont Park. The brief romance between airplanes and the racetrack was over, and a decade later people had begun referring to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes as the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.
We at The Wright Brothers Store hope you found that footnote on the sport of kings as entertaining as we did. We can’t wait to join you Saturday in cheering on the competitors at Churchill Downs in “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.”