LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB)-- Masks, social distancing, closed. Those are words that defined a year, and are now on display every few feet under the Twin Spires.

"All these things we've heard through COVID-19, you would've heard in 1918 as well," explained Chris Goodlett, the Kentucky Derby Museum's Director of Curatorial & Educational Affairs.

More than 100 years ago, on Churchill's hallowed grounds, Exterminator captured the headlines.

Just months later, the newspapers were all about the Spanish flu pandemic.

It really hit Louisville hard, just a few months after the 1918 Derby.

Death, sickness, isolation, from September to November.

"Apparently, after the Thanksgiving holiday in 1918, there was a bit of resurgence in December," explained Goodlett. "Apparently by the end of 1918, a lot of the restrictions and closures, those were really lifted."

When it came time for the 1919 Run for the Roses, the stands were packed.

"If there was any residual effects or any kind of apprehension, on the part of people, due to what they'd been through in late 1918, as far as what we can tell, it wasn't here at Churchill Downs in May for KY Derby 1919," Goodlett said.

Not only were fans back, there were more than the year prior.

"Maybe as a result of everything they went through in 1918, with quarantines and closures, and so forth, maybe it was a time to celebrate maybe getting past that, and enjoying that tradition they had enjoyed previously," said Goodlett.

After going through something they never really had before, those fans witnessed something US horse racing never had before. 1919 was the year Sir Barton took the first Triple Crown in US history.

People say, "hindsight is 2020." But there's nothing 2020 about the hindsight Derby 1919 gives us about the better days ahead.

"We look forward to more Derbys to come," said Goodlett.

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