Churchill Downs is a 147-acre race track in Louisville, Kentucky. This track is known worldwide for its yearly hosting of what is probably the most famous horse racing event in the world - the Kentucky Derby.
There are typically two race meets (or seasons) at Churchill Downs each year - the Spring Meet and the Fall Meet. The Spring meet is normally about 3 months long while the Fall meet lasts about 1 month.
Each year, Churchill Downs plays host to some of the most important stakes events in America. Aside from the Kentucky Derby, major stakes events hosted by the track include the Kentucky Oaks, Clark Handicap, Fleur de Lis Handicap, Falls City Handicap and the Stephen Foster Handicap.
The fortunes of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby are inevitably tied to each other and one's success complements the other. Combined Kentucky Derby Day wagering, on and off track, has increased from $26,805,205 in 1985 to a whopping $140,250,590 in 2003. In tandem with that, Churchill Downs has become a leader in simulcast wagering as both a host and receiver. As a receiver, the $15 million Sports Spectrum, a state-of-the-art wagering center located seven miles from the track and constructed in 1992, has proven a national leader. The success in these areas has helped increase Churchill Downs horsemen's purses.
Churchill Downs Track Information
Track: One mile oval
Soil: Sandy loam; 75% sand, 23% silt, 2% clay
Width: 80 feet; backstretch, 79 feet
Distance from Derby Start to Finish Line
|1,320 feet; race track is 120 feet wide at Derby start|
Distance from Last Turn to Finish Line
Distance from Finish Line to First Turn
Turf: 90% Fescue, 10% Bluegrass
Width: 80 feet
Trackside Dining: 2,300
Total Seating Capacity: 32,941
Churchill Downs Track Records
|4 1/2 Furs||Chilukki||2||118||Apr 28, 1999||:51.00|
|5 Furs||D'Nile||2||119||Jun 23, 2002||:57.14|
|5 1/2 Furs||Cashier's Dream||2||118||Jul 7, 2001||1:02.52|
|6 Furs||Kona Gold||6||126||Nov 4, 2000||1:07.77|
|6 1/2 Furs||Love At Noon||3||121||May 5, 2001||1:14.34|
|7 Furs||Alannan||5||116||May 5, 2001||1:20.50|
|7 1/2 Furs||Miss Lodi||3||113||Jun 1, 2002||1:28.08|
|1 Mile||Chilukki||3||116||Nov 4, 2000||1:33.57|
|1 1/16 Mile||Yes Sir||5||110||Nov 25, 1970||1:41.60|
|1 1/8 Mile||Victory Gallop||4||120||Jun. 12, 1999||1:47.28|
|1 3/16 Miles||Bonnie Andrew||5||110||Nov 14, 1942||1:58.60|
|1 1/4 Miles||Secretariat||3||126||May 5, 1973||1:59.40|
|1 1/2 Miles||A Storm Is Brewing||4||112||Jun 17, 2001||2:32.02|
|1 5/8 Miles||Tupolev||5||112||Jul 23, 1983||2:49.40|
|1 3/4 Miles||Caslon Bold||7||114||Jul 4, 1995||2:59.64|
|2 Miles||Libertarian||4||113||Nov 28, 1998||3:22.26|
|5 Furs.||Are You Down||4||111||May 14, 2003||:55.57|
|1 Mile||Jaggery John||4||113||Jul 4, 1995||1:33.78|
|1 1/16 Miles||Ever With You||3||115||Nov 7, 2001||1:40.82|
|1 1/8 Miles||Lure||4||123||Apr 30, 1993||1:46.34|
|1 3/8 Miles||Snake Eyes||7||123||May 22, 1997||2:13.00|
|1 1/2 Miles||Tikkanen||3||122||Nov 5, 1994||2:26.50|
History of Churchill Downs
In 1872-1873, Col. M. Lewis Clark, inspired by the Epsom Derby in England, devised the idea of establishing a Louisville Jockey Club for conducting race meets. He developed a race track that would serve to showcase the Kentucky breeding industry.
Clark and a group of prominent Louisville gentlemen met in June 1874 to prepare articles of incorporation with the actual filing for the Louisville Jockey Club and Driving Park Association taking place on June 20.
To fund the track's construction, Clark sold membership subscriptions to the track. Eighty acres of land, approximately three miles south of downtown were leased from Clark's uncles, John and Henry Churchill. A clubhouse, grandstand, porter's lodge and six stables were all eventually constructed on the site for the track's opening.
The track formally opened May 17, 1875. For his inaugural race meet, Clark planned three major stakes races, the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Clark Handicap, which were patterned after the three premier races in England, the Epsom Derby, Epsom Oaks and St. Leger Stakes, respectively. These events have each since been held yearly at Churchill Downs.
Despite the success of the first Kentucky Derby, the track was not financially successful. On November 24, 1894, the New Louisville Jockey Club was incorporated with William F. Schulte being appointed president and Clark retained as presiding judge for the track.
Under Schulte, a new grandstand was constructed during fall 1894 - spring 1895 on the opposite side of the track. This grandstand was complemented by two spires constructed atop the roof. The twin spires would soon become the symbol of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby.
After financial problems plagued the race track at the turn of the century, a new management group headed by former Louisville Mayor Charles Grainger took over the operations. Under this administration, the track finally showed its first profit in 1903. As the Kentucky Derby grew in popularity, so did the race track.
Big renovations over the years led to a resurgence of the track and also helped attract the Breeders Cup Championship. Churchill Downs has successfully registered four of the top five attendance totals for the event: a record 80,452 in 1998; 71,671 in 1994, second; 71,237 in 1988, third; and 66,204 in 1991, fifth.
A key to the future success of Churchill Downs Incorporated rests upon the Company's potential for development and expansion. In September 1994, the Churchill Downs Management Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Churchill Downs Incorporated, opened Hoosier Park, a standardbred and thoroughbred race track at Anderson, Indiana.
Churchill Downs Inc. also purchased Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. & Kentucky Horse Center in Lexington, Ky. in April 1998, Calder Race Course in Miami in April 1999 and Hollywood Park in September 1999. In 2000, the company added Arlington Park in Illinois to the Churchill Downs Incorporated network of race tracks.
Churchill Downs' success has been made through consistent commitment to quality racing and this commitment ensures that Churchill Downs will continue to be one of the premier racing centers in North America.