The Lincoln County connection to Counter Clock racing

Many traditions were formed in Lincoln County connected to the history of horse racing.
Many traditions were formed in Lincoln County connected to the history of horse racing.(WKYT)
Published: Mar. 11, 2023 at 9:29 PM EST
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CRAB ORCHARD, Ky. (WKYT) - Horse racing came to Kentucky where one of the oldest brick houses still stands.

“But it was all done by hand. No power tools. No heavy equipment,” says Martha Francis, standing outside the towering 3- story brick structure that was started in the late 1780s, finished around 1794.

William Whitley hosted large social events including horse races at Sportsman’s Hill. That’s where the in-field was actually a knob where spectators watched horses run around. But Whitley didn’t want his horses running in the same circular direction as the British ran their horses.

“So he decided he was going to run his horses counterclockwise. Unlike the British who run theirs clockwise,” said Jane Vanhook with the Lincoln County Historical Society.

That’s where the name—and now the name of Lexington’s baseball team—comes from.

“I thought it was an unusual name for a baseball team. But then I thought about it, they do run counterclockwise,” said Francis.

But the movement in a counterclockwise direction doesn’t just have its roots in horse racing. It’s in numerous other spectator sports as well. Even the running of bases in baseball.

Everyone from sprinters…to nascar drivers move in the counterclockwise direction. And it all started in Lincoln County.

“We do know the Crab Orchard Derby was well known. It was the pre-cursor of the Kentucky Derby,” Vanhook said.

In fact historians say had the Civil War not ended it..horses may still run counterclockwise around Sportsman’s Hill…instead.. it grew to Lexington…Louisville…and around the nation. Everyone running in the same counterclockwise direction.