Churchill Downs Logo
|Location||Louisville, Kentucky, United States|
|Owned by||Churchill Downs Incorporated|
|Screened on||NBC (Kentucky Derby)|
|Notable races|| Kentucky Derby |
Woodford Reserve Turf Classic
Stephen Foster Handicap
Churchill Downs, located on Central Avenue in south Louisville, Kentucky, United States, is a Thoroughbred racetrack most famous for annually hosting the Kentucky Derby. It officially opened in 1875 and was named for Samuel Churchill, whose family was prominent in Kentucky for many years.The first Kentucky Derby and the first Kentucky Oaks were held in the same year. Churchill Downs has also hosted the renowned Breeders' Cup on nine occasions, most recently on November 2 and 3, 2018. Churchill Downs Incorporated owns and operates the racetrack. With the infield open for the Kentucky Derby, the capacity of Churchill Downs is roughly 170,000.
In 2009, the Horseplayers Association of North America introduced a rating system for 65 Thoroughbred racetracks in North America. Churchill Downs was ranked number 5 on this list.
In 2014, prior to the start of their spring meet, Churchill Downs announced an increase in parimutuel takeout rates. As a result of the takeout increase, Churchill Downs was ranked number 22 in the 2014 Horseplayers Association of North America Track Ratings.
The track is named for John and Henry Churchill, who leased 80 acres (32 ha) of land to their nephew, Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. (grandson of explorer William Clark). Clark was president of the Louisville Jockey Club and Driving Park Association, which formed in 1875. His father-in-law, Richard Ten Broeck, was an accomplished horse breeder and trainer, and introduced Clark to horse racing, attending the English Derby at Epsom Downs outside London.
Churchill Downs filled a void in Louisville left by the closing of Oakland and Woodlawn, two earlier race courses. The then-rural location was along Louisville and Nashville Railroad tracks, allowing for easy transport of horses. Clark, who preferred longer races to the relatively short ones that had become popular by the 1890s, was running short of funds, and in 1894 sold the track to a syndicate led by William E. Applegate. 1 1⁄4 miles (2.0 km) in 1896, and adorning the winner of the Derby with a garland of roses, a tradition that also began in 1896.The new ownership would soon institute many changes, such as commissioning the famous twin spire grandstand in 1895, shortening the length of the signature race to its modern
In early 1902, Applegate, who had made his fortune as a bookmaker, turned over the day-to-day operation of the track to Charles F. Grainger, then the mayor of Louisville, in an effort to move Churchill Downs away from being primarily known for gambling. Among the new people Applegate brought on board to help him run the rack was Col. Matt Winn of Louisville. Churchill Downs prospered and the Kentucky Derby then became the preeminent stakes race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses in North America.
During that early period, a new clubhouse was built in order to promote social interaction, and new events such as steeplechases, automobile races, and band concerts were held at the track. The State Fair was held on the grounds, featuring the odd spectacle of two locomotives being intentionally crashed head-on in the infield.
On June 5, 1907, African American jockey James Lee set a record that has never been beaten when he won the entire six-race card at Churchill Downs.
In 1908, parimutuel betting machines were introduced as gambling began to be less controversial again, and the wagering portion of the track's business became more profitable.
Churchill Downs was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
On Friday, June 19, 2009, Churchill Downs hosted its first-ever night race with an attendance of over 27,000.
Churchill Downs ventured into the music business, organizing the inaugural HullabaLOU Music Festival, held on the weekend of July 23–25, 2010. The track had planned to make this an annual event to compete with other summer music festivals. HullabaLOU attracted 78,000 people but that fell short of the more than 100,000 expected by the company. The company attributed this to the brutal heat, but others cited high ticket prices in a poor economy. The entertainment division lost more than $5 million int its first year and was discontinued.
On Wednesday, June 22, 2011, an EF2 tornado hit the Louisville area, striking the stables and chapel at Churchill Downs, at EF1 intensity.Several stables were badly damaged, as was the chapel. Over 200 horses had to be evacuated from the damaged stables and be relocated to other stables that were not damaged by the tornado. The tornado did not cause any damage to the twin spires or the clubhouse.
Thurby is a portmanteau for Thursday plus Derby, and this name for the Thursday racing in Derby week has been recognized by Churchill Downs since 2014.
The following Graded events were held at Churchill Downs in 2019.
From 1875 through 2019 Churchill Downs has had twelve CEO's.
The twin spires atop the grandstands are the most recognizable architectural feature of Churchill Downs and are used as a symbol of the track and the Derby. They were designed by architect Joseph Dominic Baldez and built in 1895. Today, Churchill Downs covers 147 acres (59 ha). The usual number of people seated at the derby is 50,000 people, though crowds can reach over 150,000 on Derby day. The dirt oval main track, on which the Derby is run, is one mile (1.6 km) in circumference and is 79–80 feet (24.1–24.4 m) wide, with a 120-foot-wide (37 m) section for the starting gate. A turf track, inside the main track, is 7⁄8 mile (1.4 km) in circumference and 80-foot (24 m) wide.
From 2001 to 2005, Churchill Downs underwent a three-and-a-half year, $121 million renovation. The clubhouse was replaced, 79 luxury suites were added, and the historic twin spires were refurbished. One of the additions in the clubhouse was a 36-foot (11 m) mural by Pierre Bellocq depicting all 96 jockeys to win the Kentucky Derby from 1875 to 2004. In summer 2008 the same artist added another mural depicting all of the trainers and updating the Jockey's painting, adding Calvin Borel and Edgar Prado to it. These updates are done yearly to accommodate new winning trainers and jockeys. The new design has been somewhat controversial since the new suites block full view of the spires from most angles.
Racing at Churchill Downs occurs in three meets though for the majority of its existence there were only two meets per year. The spring meet starts one week before the Derby and continues until early July. The Kentucky Derby is held the first Saturday in May and the Kentucky Oaks is run on the Friday before the Derby. A fall meet picks up in late October and closes Thanksgiving weekend in late November. A third meet in September was added in 2013.
In addition to the track, clubhouse and stables, Churchill Downs also contains the Kentucky Derby Museum which focuses on the history of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs. The museum also contains a number of exhibits exploring the training and racing of thoroughbred horses. It includes a 360-degree cinema that shows the short film "The Greatest Race," a documentary about the Kentucky Derby. The museum is normally open year-round.
In October 2013, Churchill Downs began installing a new, ultra high-definition video board built by Panasonic, which became operational in time for the 2014 Kentucky Derby. Called "The Big Board", it measures 171 feet (52 m) wide and 90 feet (27 m) high, with the bottom edge 80 feet (24 m) off the ground, and weighs 1,200,000 pounds (540 t). It was constructed along the outside of the backstretch of the dirt course facing the grandstand and infield. At the time, it was the largest ultra high-definition video board ever constructed. At the same time, 750 speakers were installed around the track.
[Mr. Christie Churchill] was the last surviving son of Samuel Churchill, whose family was prominent in Louisville and Kentucky for many years, and from whom Churchill Downs received its name.
In the last three years, Churchill Downs has made a...push...to give Thursday a shot...[as a] less expensive day to pair with the marquee racing dates [Oaks and Derby].
The Kentucky Derby is a horse race held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, United States, almost always on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The competition is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles (2.0 km) at Churchill Downs. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds and fillies 121 pounds.
The Kentucky Oaks is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbred fillies staged annually in Louisville, Kentucky, United States. The race currently covers 1 1⁄8 miles (1,800 m) at Churchill Downs; the horses carry 121 pounds (55 kg). The Kentucky Oaks is held on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby each year. The winner gets $750,000 of the $1,250,000 purse and a large garland of lilies, affectionately called the "Lillies for the Fillies." A silver Kentucky Oaks Trophy is presented to the winner.
Aristides (1872–1893) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse that won the first Kentucky Derby in 1875.
Flower Alley is an American Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. Winner of the Travers Stakes during his racing career, he is best known as the sire of 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner I'll Have Another.
Turfway Park is an American horse racing track located just outside the city limits to the north of Florence, Kentucky, about 10 miles (16 km) south of the Ohio River at Cincinnati. The track conducts live Thoroughbred horse racing during two meets each year—Holiday (December), and Winter/Spring —and offers year-round simulcast wagering from tracks across the continent.
Ellis Park is a thoroughbred racetrack in Henderson, Kentucky, just south of Evansville, Indiana. It is owned and operated by Ellis Entertainment, a subsidiary of Laguna Development Corporation based out of New Mexico. While the track is located north of the Ohio River that forms the border between Kentucky and Indiana, which would put it within Indiana, the border is based on the course of the river at the time Kentucky became a state in 1792.
Fair Grounds Race Course, often known as New Orleans Fair Grounds, is a thoroughbred racetrack and racino in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is operated by Churchill Downs Louisiana Horseracing Company, LLC.
Churchill Downs Incorporated is the parent company of Churchill Downs. The company has evolved from one racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, to a multi US-state, publicly traded company with racetracks, casinos and the United States' leading online wagering company among its portfolio of businesses.
The Churchill Downs Stakes is an American Thoroughbred horse race run annually at Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. A sprint race open to horses aged four and older, it is contested over a distance of seven furlongs on the dirt and currently offers a purse of $500,000.
Colonel Martin J. "Matt" Winn was a prominent personality in American thoroughbred horse racing history and president of Churchill Downs racetrack, home to the Kentucky Derby race that he made famous. In 2017, he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame as a Pillar of the Turf.
Swaps was a California bred American thoroughbred racehorse. He won the Kentucky Derby in 1955 and was named United States Horse of the Year in the following year. He was known as the "California Comet," and occasionally with affection, due to his wins despite numerous injuries and treatments, the "California Cripple."
Calvin H. Borel is an American jockey in thoroughbred horse racing and rode the victorious mount in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, the 2009 Kentucky Derby and the 2010 Kentucky Derby. His 2009 Derby win with Mine That Bird was the second biggest upset in Derby history, and Borel's winning margin of 6 3⁄4 lengths was the greatest in Derby history since Assault won by 8 lengths in 1946. On May 1, 2009, Borel won the Kentucky Oaks aboard Rachel Alexandra, only the second time since 1993 that a jockey has won the Oaks-Derby combo, and just the seventh time overall a jockey has accomplished this feat in the same year. On May 16, 2009, Borel won the 2009 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico with thoroughbred filly Rachel Alexandra. In doing so, Borel became the first jockey to win the first two jewels of the Triple Crown on different mounts. Borel's nickname is "Bo'rail'" due to his penchant for riding close to the rail to save ground.
Curlin is an American Thoroughbred racehorse and from 2008 until 2016 was the highest North American money earner with over US$10.5 million accumulated. His major racing wins include the 2007 Preakness Stakes, 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic, and 2008 Dubai World Cup.
Belterra Park, formerly known as River Downs, is a racino located in Anderson Township, Hamilton County, Ohio, just outside the southeast limits of Cincinnati. It is owned and operated by Boyd Gaming.
Brass Hat is an American Thoroughbred racehorse.
Dale L. Romans is an American Thoroughbred racehorse trainer, best known for winning the 2011 Preakness Stakes with Shackleford and the Breeders' Cup Turf with Little Mike. He also upset American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes with Keen Ice. He won the 2012 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer.
The Alysheba Stakes is an American Thoroughbred horse race run annually at Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. The Alysheba became the most recent addition to the Derby Week stakes lineup as it joined the schedule in 2004 and is currently run on the undercard of the Kentucky Oaks, the day before the Kentucky Derby. It was the first stakes to join the Derby Week lineup since 1997. The event is named for the talented 1987 Kentucky Derby winner and United States Racing Hall of Fame inductee, Alysheba, who returned to the Downs in 1988 to win the Breeders' Cup Classic. His victory marked the first time a Derby winner had returned to Churchill to win a stakes since Whirlaway took the 1942 Clark Handicap. He was later honored at the track that fall as he retired as the sports leading money earner, $6,679,242. The stakes received graded status in 2007. The Grade II event is open to horses age three and older and is contested on dirt over a distance of 1 1⁄16 miles.
Darrel G. McHargue is a retired American Champion jockey in Thoroughbred horse racing. One of five children from a family not connected to horse racing, he was first introduced to riding as a teenage boy when he rode a neighbor's Quarter Horse. He was seventeen years old when he made his professional debut in 1972 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The following year he was the leading rider at Laurel Park Racecourse in Laurel, Maryland.
The Kentucky Derby Trophy is a set of four trophies that are awarded to the winning connections of America's most famous race: the grade one $3,000,000 Kentucky Derby. The owner receives a gold trophy while the trainer, the jockey and the breeder win a silver half size replica of the main gold trophy. The trophy itself has been run for since the 50th running of the Kentucky Derby in 1924. Churchill Downs Race Course of Louisville, Kentucky has annually presented a gold trophy to the winning owner of the famed "Run for the Roses."
William E. Applegate was an American turfman, involved in the horse racing industry for over fifty years. He was known as a bookmaker, breeder, racer and track owner. At one time, Applegate was owner of Churchill Downs, Latonia and one of the builders of Oakley Racetrack in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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