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.
Louisville is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the 29th most-populous city in the United States. It is one of two cities in Kentucky designated as first-class, the other being Lexington, the state's second-largest city. Louisville is the historical seat and, since 2003, the nominal seat of Jefferson County, located in the northern region of the state, on the border with Indiana.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.
The Kentucky Derby is a horse race that is held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, United States, on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The race 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.
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.
The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word thoroughbred is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed. Thoroughbreds are considered "hot-blooded" horses that are known for their agility, speed, and spirit.
North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.
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.
Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. was the founder of the Louisville Jockey Club and the builder of Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby is run.
Horse breeding is reproduction in horses, and particularly the human-directed process of selective breeding of animals, particularly purebred horses of a given breed. Planned matings can be used to produce specifically desired characteristics in domesticated horses. Furthermore, modern breeding management and technologies can increase the rate of conception, a healthy pregnancy, and successful foaling.
A horse trainer is a person who tends to horses and teaches them different disciplines. Some of the responsibilities trainers have are caring for the animals’ physical needs, as well as teaching them submissive behaviors and/or coaching them for events, which may include contests and other riding purposes. The level of education and the yearly salary they can earn for this profession may differ depending on where the person is employed.
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
The Louisville and Nashville Railroad, commonly called the L&N, was a Class I railroad that operated freight and passenger services in the southeast United States.
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.
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.
Charles F. Grainger was Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky from 1901 to 1905. He became president of Grainger & Company, his family's iron foundry.
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.
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, though only at EF1 intensity at the time.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 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 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.
Alysheba was an American Thoroughbred racehorse that won two legs of the Triple Crown in 1987. A successful sire, he produced 11 stakes winners.
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 Saratoga Casino & Hospitality Group. 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.
Hawthorne Race Course is a racetrack for horse racing in Stickney/Cicero, Illinois, near Chicago.
Maine Chance Farm was an American Thoroughbred horse racing stable in Lexington, Kentucky owned by cosmetics tycoon Elizabeth Arden.
The Polo Park Racetrack was a Canadian horse racing facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Considered one of the finest racetracks in Western Canada, it was built by Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductee R. James Speers. The six-furlong track opened in 1925 under the charter of the Winnipeg Jockey Club and the charter of St. Vital Agricultural Society in Winnipeg, Manitoba. At the same time, James Speers founded the Prairie Thoroughbred Breeders' Association to promote a breeding industry in Western Canada. In 1930 he created the Canadian Derby, a premier race for Canadian-bred three-year-old Thoroughbreds hosted by Polo Park Racetrack until its closure in 1956.
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.
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.
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.
The Regret Stakes is a Thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old fillies run on the turf at Churchill Downs in mid-June near the end of the Spring Meet in Louisville, Kentucky. Set at one and one-eighth miles, the Grade III Regret currently offers a purse of $100,000.
Michael Carl Baze was an American Thoroughbred horse racing jockey.
Dallas Stewart trains a string of thoroughbred horses in Kentucky from bases at Churchill Downs, Turfway Park, Keeneland Race Course, Fair Grounds Race Course, Arlington Park and Saratoga Race Course. Before venturing out on his own, he spent 12 years working under the tutelage of leading trainer D. Wayne Lukas. There, he oversaw such horses as Lady's Secret, Thunder Gulch, Serena's Song, Timber Country, Tabasco Cat, and many other Grade I winners.
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.
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."
Horse racing in the United States dates back to 1665, which saw the establishment of the Newmarket course in Salisbury, New York, a section of what is now known as the Hempstead Plains of Long Island, New York. This first racing meet in North America was supervised by New York's colonial governor, Richard Nicolls. The area is now occupied by the present Nassau County, New York, region of Greater Westbury and East Garden City.
Louisville Downs was a half-mile Standardbred harness race track located in Louisville, Kentucky, United States. It opened in 1966 and held over 3,400 days of harness racing until it was sold to Churchill Downs Inc. in 1991. Louisville Downs was built and managed by William H. King, a Louisville entrepreneur and promoter, who was the first to offer wagering by phone (“Call-a-Bet”) and full card simulcast wagering to television viewers. The track is now the site of Derby City Gaming, a historical racing parlor opened in 2018.
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