Churchill Downs Race Track

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Churchill Downs Racetrack

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Churchill Downs Racetrack 2018 Live Racing

Spring Dates: Apr 28 to Jun 30
Fall Dates: Sep. 14 to Sep. 30 and Oct 28 to Nov 25
Click here for the full calendar.

Churchill Downs Racetrack Information
Main track (dirt): 1 mile oval with a 7 furlong chute
Length of stretch from last turn to finish line: 1,234.5 feet
Composition: Sandy loam, 75% sand, 23% silt, 2% clay
Width: 80 feet
Width of backstretch: 79 feet
Turf: 7/8 mile, inside main track
Composition: 90% fescue, 10% bluegrass
Width: 80 Feet

FREE TwinSpires Tipsheets and Betting Guides here:

The 2018 Breeders' Cup Betting Guide
Churchill Downs Spring Meet Betting Guide

Churchill Downs Fall Meet Betting Guide
Iroquois Stakes Tipsheet
River City Handicap Tip Sheet


Churchill Downs Live Racing Stakes Schedule

Churchill Downs Fall Stakes Schedule  
   
   
Saturday, September 15, 2018  $150,000 Saturday, September 15, 2018 $100,000
IROQUOIS - Grade III LOCUST GROVE - Grade III
"Win and You're In Breeders' Cup Juvenile Division" For Fillies And Mares Three Year Olds and Upward
For Two Year Olds One Mile And One-Sixteenth Closing Saturday, September 1, 2018
One Mile And One-Sixteenth Closing Saturday, September 1, 2018  
   
   
Saturday, September 15, 2018 $200,000 Saturday, September 15, 2018 $100,000
POCAHONTAS - Grade II OPEN MIND - Listed
"Win and You're In Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Division" For Fillies And Mares Three Year Olds and Upward
For Fillies Two Year Olds Six Furlongs
   
   
Saturday, September 22, 2018  $100,000 Saturday, September 29, 2018     $100,000 Guaranteed
DOGWOOD - Listed For Fillies Three Year Olds Seven Furlongs President of the United Arab Emirates Cup - Grade I
Closing Saturday, September 15, 2018 For Four Year Olds and Upward
  One And One Sixteenth Miles  
   
   
Saturday, September 29, 2018  $100,000 Saturday, September 29, 2018  $200,000
ACK ACK - Grade III LUKAS CLASSIC - Grade III
For Three Year Olds and Upward For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile One Mile And One-Eighth Closing Saturday, September 15, 2018
   
   
Saturday, September 29, 2018  $100,000  
JEFFERSON CUP - Listed  
For Three Year Olds  
One Mile And One-Eighth(Turf)    
   
   
Sunday, October 28, 2018 $300,000 Guaranteed Sunday, October 28, 2018 $95,000 Added (Includes $5,700 from KTDF)
The Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes The Rags to Riches Overnight Stakes
For Two Year Olds For Fillies Two Year Olds
Seven Furlongs Closing Saturday, October 20, 2018 One Mile
   
   
Thursday, November 1, 2018 $95,000 Added (Includes $5,700 from KTDF) Friday, November 2, 2018 $100,000 Guaranteed
The Bet On Sunshine Overnight Stakes THE STREET SENSE
For Three Year Olds and Upward For Two Year Olds
Six Furlongs Closing Saturday, October 20, 2018 One Mile
   
   
Saturday, November 3, 2018 $200,000 Guaranteed Friday, November 2, 2018 $200,000 Guaranteed
THE CHILUKKI - Grade II THE MARATHON STAKES - Grade II
For Fillies And Mares Three Year Olds and Upward For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile One Mile And Three-Quarters Closing Saturday, October 20, 2018
   
   
Saturday, November 3, 2018 $200,000 Guaranteed Sunday, November 4, 2018 $95,000 Added (Includes $5,700 from KTDF)
THE CHEROKEE RUN The Dream Supreme Overnight Stakes
For Three Year Olds For Fillies And Mares Three Year Olds and Upward
Seven Furlongs      Six Furlongs Closing Saturday, October 27, 2018
   
   
Saturday, November 10, 2018 $100,000 Guaranteed Saturday, November 17, 2018 $100,000 Guaranteed
THE COMMONWEALTH TURF - Grade III THE RIVER CITY HANDICAP - Grade III
For Three Year Olds For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile And One-Sixteenth(Turf) Closing Saturday, November 3, 2018 One Mile And One-Eighth(Turf) Closing Saturday, November 10, 2018
   
   
Friday, November 23, 2018 $500,000 Guaranteed Thursday, November 22, 2018 $200,000 Guaranteed
THE CLARK HANDICAP - Grade I THE FALLS CITY HANDICAP - Grade II
Presented by Norton Healthcare For Three Year Olds and Upward  One Mile And One-Eighth For Fillies And Mares Three Year Olds and Upward
Closing Saturday, November 10, 2018 One Mile And One-Eighth Closing Saturday, November 10, 2018
   
   
Saturday, November 24, 2018 $200,000 Guaranteed Saturday, November 24, 2018 $200,000 Guaranteed
THE KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB - Grade II THE GOLDEN ROD - Grade II
For Two Year Olds For Fillies Two Year Olds
One Mile And One-Sixteenth     One Mile And One-Sixteenth Closing Saturday, November 10, 2018
Clo vember 10, 2018  
   
   
Thursday, November 22, 2018 $100,000 Guaranteed Friday, November 23, 2018 $200,000 Guaranteed
THE CARDINAL HANDICAP - Grade III THE MRS. REVERE - Grade II
For Fillies And Mares Three Year Olds and Upward For Fillies Three Year Olds
One Mile And One-Eighth(Turf) Closing Saturday, November 10, 2018 One Mile And One-Sixteenth(Turf)    

 

Churchill Downs Spring Stakes Schedule  
   
   
THE KENTUCKY DERBY - Grade I LONGINES KENTUCKY OAKS - Grade I
Presented by Woodford Reserve For Fillies Three Year Olds
For Three Year Olds One Mile And One-Eighth Closing Saturday, February 17, 2018
One Mile and One-Quarter Closing Saturday, February 17, 2018 Saturday, May 5, 2018 $500,000
Friday, May 4, 2018 $1,000,000  
   
   
OLD FORESTER TURF CLASSIC - Grade I THE WILLIAM WALKER
For Four Year Olds and Upward For Three Year Olds
One Mile And One-Eighth(Turf) Closing Saturday, April 14, 2018 Five Furlongs(Turf) Closing Saturday, April 14, 2018
Saturday, April 28, 2018 $100,000 Thursday, May 3, 2018 $100,000
   
   
KENTUCKY JUVENILE THE EDGEWOOD - Grade III
For Two Year Olds For Fillies Three Year Olds
Five Furlongs Closing Saturday, April 14, 2018 One Mile And One-Sixteenth(Turf) Closing Saturday, April 14, 2018
Friday, May 4, 2018 $200,000 Friday, May 4, 2018 $200,000
   
   
THE EIGHT BELLES - Grade II THE ALYSHEBA - Grade II
For Fillies Three Year Olds For Four Year Olds and Upward
Seven Furlongs      One Mile And One-Sixteenth Closing Saturday, April 14, 2018
Friday, May 4, 2018 $400,000 Friday, May 4, 2018 $350,000
   
   
THE LA TROIENNE - Grade I THE TWIN SPIRES TURF SPRINT - Grade III
For Fillies And Mares Four Year Olds and Upward For Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile And One-Sixteenth Closing Saturday, April 14, 2018 Five Furlongs(Turf) Closing Saturday, April 14, 2018
Friday, May 4, 2018 $200,000 Saturday, May 5, 2018 $300,000
   
   
THE PAT DAY MILE - Grade III THE AMERICAN TURF - Grade II
For Three Year Olds For Three Year Olds
One Mile Closing Saturday, April 14, 2018 One Mile And One-Sixteenth(Turf) Closing Saturday, April 14, 2018
Saturday, May 5, 2018 $300,000 Saturday, May 5, 2018 $500,000
   
   
THE CHURCHILL DOWNS - Grade II THE LONGINES CHURCHILL DISTAFF TURF MILE - Grade II
For Four Year Olds and Upward For Fillies And Mares Four Year Olds and Upward
Seven Furlongs Closing Saturday, April 14, 2018  One Mile(Turf)  
Saturday, May 5, 2018 $300,000 Closing Saturday, April 14, 2018
   
   
THE HUMANA DISTAFF - Grade I The Opening Verse Overnight Stakes
For Fillies And Mares Four Year Olds and Upward For Three Year Olds and Upward
Seven Furlongs Closing Saturday, April 14, 2018 One Mile(Turf) Closing Saturday, April 28, 2018
Thursday, May 3, 2018 $70,000 Added Saturday, May 12, 2018 $70,000 Added (Includes $9,000 from KTDF)
(Includes $9,000 from KTDF)  
   
   
The Unbridled Sidney Overnight Stakes THE LOUISVILLE HANDICAP - Grade III
For Fillies And Mares Three Year Olds and Upward For Three Year Olds and Upward
Five Furlongs(Turf) Closing Wednesday, May 9, 2018 One Mile And One-Half(Turf) Closing Saturday, May 12, 2018
Saturday, May 19, 2018 $100,000 Guaranteed Saturday, May 26, 2018 $70,000 Added (Includes $9,000 from KTDF)
   
   
The Keertana Overnight Stakes THE WINNING COLORS - Grade III
For Fillies And Mares Three Year Olds and Upward For Fillies And Mares Three Year Olds and Upward
One Mile And One-Half(Turf) Closing Saturday, May 12, 2018 Six Furlongs   
Saturday, May 26, 2018 $100,000 Saturday, June 2, 2018 $100,000
   
   
THE ARISTIDES - Grade III The Mighty Beau Overnight Stakes
For Three Year Olds and Upward For Three Year Olds and Upward
Six Furlongs Closing Saturday, May 26, 2018 Five Furlongs(Turf) Closing Saturday, May 26, 2018
Saturday, June 2, 2018 $70,000 Added Saturday, June 9, 2018 $100,000
(Includes $9,000 from KTDF)  
   
   
THE OLD FORESTER MINT JULEP HANDICAP - Grade III THE MATT WINN - Grade III
For Fillies And Mares Three Year Olds and Upward For Three Year Olds
One Mile And One-Sixteenth(Turf) Closing Saturday, June 2, 2018 One Mile And One-Sixteenth Closing Saturday, June 2, 2018
Saturday, June 16, 2018 $100,000 Saturday, June 16, 2018 $100,000
   
   
THE REGRET - Grade III THE STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP - Grade I
For Fillies Three Year Olds "Win & You're In Classic Division"
One Mile And One-Eighth(Turf) Closing Saturday, June 2, 2018 For Three Year Olds and Upward
Saturday, June 16, 2018 $500,000 One Mile And One-Eighth   
  2-Jun-18
  Saturday, June 16, 2018 $200,000
   
   
THE FLEUR DE LIS HANDICAP - Grade II THE WISE DAN - Grade II
"Win & You're In Distaff Division" For Three Year Olds and Upward
For Fillies And Mares Three Year Olds and Upward One Mile And One-Sixteenth(Turf) Closing Saturday, June 16, 2018
One Mile And One-Eighth Closing Saturday, June 2, 2018 Saturday, June 23, 2018 $70,000 Added (Includes $9,000 from KTDF)
Saturday, June 16, 2018 $200,000  
   
The Roxelana Overnight Stakes The Kelly's Landing Overnight Stakes
For Fillies And Mares Three Year Olds and Upward For Three Year Olds and Upward
Six Furlongs Closing Saturday, June 16, 2018 Seven Furlongs Closing Saturday, June 16, 2018
Saturday, June 30, 2018 $70,000 Added (Includes $9,000 from KTDF) Saturday, June 30, 2018 $100,000
   
   
THE DEBUTANTE - Listed THE BASHFORD MANOR - Grade III
For Fillies Two Year Olds For Two Year Olds
Six Furlongs Closing Saturday, June 16, 2018 Six Furlongs 
Saturday, June 30, 2018 $100,000  

Download the full stakes schedule here.


Churchill 2018 Fall Racing Stakes Overview

September Session

The Churchill Downs 2018 September Meet stakes schedule is an 11-day racing session that runs from September 14-30. Churchill Downs unveiled its September session in 2013 leading into the Fall Meet, and the 2018 session features nine stakes races including four graded stakes totaling purses of more than $1.1 million.

The opening Saturday of the September Meet is highlighted by the renewals of the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) for two-year-olds and $200,000 Pocahontas Stakes (G2) for juvenile fillies. Those 1 1/16-mile races on Sept. 15 open the respective “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points series that will determine the participants in the 2019 editions of the $2 million Kentucky Derby (G1) and $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1).

The tests for juveniles are also part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win & You’re In” series that will ensure the Pocahontas winner a guaranteed spot in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and the Iroquois winner a place in the field for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), both to be run at Churchill Downs on Friday, November 2. “Win & You’re In” race winners also earn entry fees and travel stipends for their Breeders’ Cup events.

Joining those races among four stakes contests on the first Saturday of the September Meet are the $100,000 Locust Grove Stakes (G3), a race for fillies and mares ages three and up, and the $100,000 Open Mind Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares ages three and up.

The other stakes on that program are the $100,000 Ack Ack Stakes (G3) for three-year-olds and up at a mile, and $100,000 Jefferson Cup Stakes, a listed race for three-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

The meet’s stakes schedule will conclude on Saturday, Sept. 29, with a trio of stakes races at night during the ‘Downs After Dark’ program. The feature race is the sixth running of the $200,000 Lukas Classic for three-year-olds and up, a listed 1 1/8-mile race that was renamed in 2015 to honor Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks winner D. Wayne Lukas.

Winners of four of Churchill Downs’ September Meet stakes races also will earn automatic nominations to important Fall Meet stakes events at the Louisville, Kentucky, track. The first-place finishers in the Pocahontas and Iroquois will be nominated, respectively, to the Golden Rod and Kentucky Jockey Club. The Lukas Classic victor will automatically be nominated to the Clark Handicap, and the winner of the Locust Grove will earn a free nomination to the Falls City Handicap.

October Session

The 2018 Churchill Downs Fall Meet will feature a 21-day racing schedule from Sunday, October 28 through Thanksgiving weekend Sunday, November 25. The Fall Meet follows the 11-day racing schedule for the September Meet which runs September 14-30. Churchill Downs unveiled its September session in 2013.

The 2018 Fall Meet includes the 35th Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held for the 9th time at Churchill Downs Nov. 2 and Nov. 3.

Outside of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races which total $30 million in purses, the Fall Meet with feature 13 stakes events with total purses of more than $2 million. Nine graded stakes are headed by the Thanksgiving/Closing Weekend events led by the 144th running of the $500,000 Clark Handicap (G1) for 3-year-olds and up on Friday, Nov. 23. Also on Friday is the $200,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2), the last graded stakes event of the year exclusively for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.
Thanksgiving Day is the 103rd running of the $200,000 Falls City Handicap (G2) for fillies and mares ages three and up, and the $100,000 River City Handicap (G3) for 3-year-olds and up is another turkey treat on Thanksgiving Day.

The “Stars of Tomorrow II” program features a pair of 2-year-old Thoroughbred races Sat., Nov. 24 is headed by the $200,000. Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) and $200,000 Golden Rod Stakes (G2) for juvenile fillies. Also on Saturday is the 28th running of the $200,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2) for 3-year-old fillies on the grass. The 26th renewal of the $100,000 Ack Ack (G3) concludes a big day of racing on the final Saturday of the Fall Meet.  

The Clark Handicap is the only Grade 1 event on the September and Fall Meet racing schedules and the 1 1/8-mile test was won in 2016 by Horse of the Year Gun Runner. Last year’s winner was Seeking the Soul, who earned his first stakes victory. The 2015 edition was captured by Effinex, runner-up to Triple Crown hero and eventual Horse of the Year American Pharoah in his previous start in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland.

Other recent Clark winners include multiple stakes winner Hoppertunity (2014), Eclipse Award champion Will Take Charge (2013), 2011 Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Shackleford (2012) and two-time Horse of the Year, turf champion and champion older male Wise Dan (2011).

Past Clark winners also include Hall of Famer, 1997 Kentucky Derby winner and three-year-old champion Silver Charm (1998); champion three-year-old filly Surfside (2000); and 2005 Horse of the Year, champion older horse and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Saint Liam (2004).

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The Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs

The 2018 Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be held at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2 and Nov. 3. The legendary Louisville, Kentucky racetrack under the famed Twinspires will host the 35th Breeders’ Cup for the 9th time and first time since 2011.

The incredible support from the Louisville community and Kentucky residents should bring record crowds to Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup, which will feature 14 races with purses totaling $30 million. Churchill Downs has hosted the largest Breeders’ Cup crowds, including a record-breaking two-day attendance figure of 114,353 in 2010 as fans flocked to the track in part to see legendary mare Zenyatta’s bid to remain undefeated having won 19 consecutive races including the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Her career concluded with a 2nd place finish in the 2010 Classic.

The 2010 event also set a two-day on-track handle record of $22,515,318 and a total two-day handle record of 173,857,697. The following year in 2011, Churchill Downs hosted the event again, and while attendance was down slightly to more than 105,000, the widespread popularity and success of the event was on display again.

In 2018, Breeders' Cup betting and attendance numbers have the potential to reach all-time highs as interest in the Breeders’ Cup continues to grow. The excitement will build as another superstar headlines the 2018 Breeders’ Cup with Triple Crown winner Justify returning to the track following his Kentucky Derby victory.    

The 2018 event will also feature a revamped schedule. In a move that brings greater cohesiveness to Breeders’ Cup Friday, all five juvenile contests will now be contested on the first of the two-day World Championships, newly-branded “Future Stars Friday.”

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies switch to Friday, joining the events for the turf two-year-olds that had become a mainstay on Day 1. The Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Breeders’ Cup Mile have accordingly been moved to Saturday. The entire race order will be released Oct. 24 with the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic still the anchor on Saturday’s 9-race card.   


About Churchill Downs Racetrack:

Churchill Downs Racetrack

Horse racing in Kentucky is rich in history, dating back to 1789 when the first race course was laid out in Lexington. However, it was almost 100 years later, in 1875, that Churchill Downs racetrack officially opened and began its tradition as "Home of the Kentucky Derby."

In 1787, The Commons, a park-like block near Lexington's Race Street was used by horsemen for racing. By 1789, complaints by "safety minded" citizens led to the formal development of a race meet at The Commons. The men who organized this race meet, including Kentucky Statesman Henry Clay, also formed the Commonwealth's first Jockey Club. The organization later was named the Kentucky Jockey Club in 1809.

Racing in Louisville dates back to 1783 when local sources reported that races were held on Market Street in the downtown area. To alleviate the problems associated with racing on the busy city thoroughfare, a course was developed at the now abandoned Shippingport Island in 1805. Racing was conducted on the island in the Ohio River at what was called the Elm Tree Gardens.

By 1827, a new track, known as the Hope Distillery Course, was laid out on what is presently Main and 16th Streets. Racing was also held on a number of private tracks located on farms throughout the local area. One of the more prominent of these was Peter Funk's Beargrass Track which was located in an area now bordered by Hurstbourne Lane and Taylorsville Road.

The Oakland Race Course was opened in the fall of 1833 and brought racing back to a formal site with the track, complete with clubhouse, located at what is now Seventh and Magnolia Streets in "Old Louisville". This was followed in 1858 by the opening of the Woodlawn Course on the Louisville and Lexington railroad lines just outside of today's St. Matthews, east of Louisville. The site closed in 1870, but the Woodlawn Vase, the track's premier trophy, has been used in the presentation to the winner of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico since 1917.

Harness racing was also a significant part of Louisville's early racing history with a number of tracks in existence. One of the most prominent was Greeneland, a racecourse for trotters was built just east of Churchill Downs Racetrack in 1868.


The Founding of Churchill Downs

While traveling in England and France in 1872-1873, 26-year-old Col. M. Lewis Clark, devised the idea of a Louisville Jockey Club for conducting race meets. Clark toured and visited with a number of prominent racing leaders, including England's Admiral Rous and France's Vicompte Darn, vice president of the French Jockey Club.

Upon his return from Europe, Clark began development of his racetrack which would serve to showcase the Kentucky breeding industry. The track would eventually become known as "Churchill Downs." The first reference of the name Churchill Downs Racetrack came in an 1883 Kentucky Derby article reported by the former Louisville Commercial.

"The crowd in the grand stand sent out a volume of voice, and the crowd in the field took it up and carried it from boundary to boundary of Churchill Downs."

The track was incorporated as Churchill Downs Racetrack in 1937.

The first public notice of establishment of the track was reported in the May 27, 1874 edition of the Courier-Journal. The notice was met with some objections because another track had already been proposed by the Falls City Racing Association for a site near the river just east of downtown Louisville. Clark and a group of prominent Louisville gentlemen met at the Galt House on June 18, 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 construction of the track, Clark raised $32,000 by selling 320 membership subscriptions to the track at $100 each. 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 opening of the track.

For his inaugural race meet, Clark designed his three major stakes races, the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Clark Handicap, after the three premier races in England, the Epsom Derby, Epsom Oaks and St. Leger Stakes, respectively. These events have each been held continuosly at Churchill Downs Racetrack since their debut in 1875. However, in 1953, the Clark was moved from the spring to the fall meet. The Falls City was also offered during the inaugural meet and after four interruptions, the race continues to be held.

The track formally opened May 17, 1875 with four races scheduled. The winner of the first race was Bonaventure, however the winner of the day's featured race, the Kentucky Derby, was a three-year-old chestnut colt, Aristides. Owned by H.P. McGrath, Aristides was trained by and ridden by two African-Americans, Ansel Williamson and Oliver Lewis, respectively.

Despite the success of the first Kentucky Derby, the track was not financially successful and on November 24, 1894 the New Louisville Jockey Club was incorporated. William F. Schulte was appointed president and Clark was 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 for a reported cost of $100,000. The grandstand was complemented by two spires constructed atop the roof. The twin spires, a simple architectural element, would become the symbol of Churchill Downs Racetrack and the Kentucky Derby.

At the turn of the century, financial problems plagued the racetrack. On October 1, 1902 a group headed by former Louisville Mayor Charles Grainger, Charlie Price and Matt J. Winn agreed to takeover the operation. The takeover was done by amending the track's articles of incorporation with no transfer in the form of a deed. Grainger was named president, Price racing secretary and Winn vice president.

Under this administration, the track finally showed its first profit in 1903, 28 years after its founding. As the Kentucky Derby grew in popularity so did the racetrack. In 1907 the owners of Churchill Downs Racetrack, who were officials of the New Louisville Jockey Club, joined with nearby Douglas Park to form the Louisville Racing Association. The purpose of the new Association was to establish race dates and policies for racing in the City. This relationship led to the formation of the Kentucky Jockey Club in February 1919 as a holding company for Churchill Downs Racetrack and three other tracks in the State: Latonia in the north, Lexington in the bluegrass region, and Douglas Park and Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville.

Under the powerful Kentucky Jockey Club, the track's domain grew between 1919-1929. During this time the company acquired possession of the newly built Fairmount Park in East St. Louis, IL in 1925 and also constructed Lincoln Fields in Crete, IL in 1926. With five tracks under its control, the Kentucky Jockey Club began the process of dissolving the organization in December 1927 for the purpose of re-organizing as a separate holding corporation under the laws of the State of Delaware. According to a Louisville Times article dated December 29, 1927 . . ."incorporated under the laws of Delaware, provides for a capitalization of $6,000,000, an increase of $2,600,000 over the present capitalization."

The process was finalized on January 16, 1928 with the American Turf Association serving as the new holding company for Churchill Downs Racetrack, Douglas Park, Lexington, and Latonia in Kentucky and Fairmount Park, Lincoln Fields and Washington Park in Illinois. Washington Park was purchased by the association during this period.

The Fairmount Park track was sold in 1929, and in 1935, the association began to dramatically trim its holdings with the sale of Washington Park, the closing and eventual sale of Lexington, and the end of racing at Douglas Park. The reduction left the association with three tracks: Churchill Downs Racetrack, Latonia and Lincoln Fields. Due to economic reasons Churchill Downs and Latonia formed a separate operating corporation titled, Churchill Downs-Latonia Incorporated on January 28, 1937. Lincoln Fields was operated by Lincoln Fields Jockey Club, Inc., but all three tracks were still owned by the parent corporation, American Turf Association.

On January 13, 1942, officials of Churchill Downs-Latonia Inc. sold the Latonia track and abandoned racing at the site. Later that year on April 24, the Churchill Downs-Latonia Incorporated's name was officially changed to Churchill Downs Incorporated. The American Turf Association continued its affiliation with Churchill, but sold its last out-of-state holding, Lincoln Fields, in March 1947.

The corporate direction of Churchill Downs became a key topic in November 1948. Backed by track President Matt Winn (1938-49) and other board members, a committee was created to study the feasibility of the creation of a foundation to purchase Churchill and operate the track as a nonprofit entity with its earnings donated to the University of Louisville School of Medicine.

The proposal was founded upon the experience of the Churchill Downs Foundation, a charitable organization led by J. Graham Brown. Each fall, several days of racing were held for charitable purposes. During a 10-year period 1940-50s, the foundation donated approximately $1.5 million to charity.

The proposal was considered up until the death of Winn on October 6, 1949. Following the naming of William Veeneman as chairman and chief executive officer of both Churchill Downs and the American Turf Association on Oct. 10, and the selection of Bill Corum as track president, the proposal was permanently shelved December 30, 1949.

The end of the once mighty American Turf Association came April 3, 1950 as stockholders voted to dissolve the association. Shareholders of the association exchanged their shares on a one for one basis for Churchill Downs Incorporated stock.

Under the direction of Bill Corum, a former New York Times and New York Journal-American sports columnist, Churchill Downs and the famed Kentucky Derby continued to grow and modernize:

  • the first national telecast of the Kentucky Derby aired May 3, 1952
  • the first barns constructed of concrete firewalls were built in 1952
  • more seating boxes were added to the second floor of the grandstand and clubhouse in 1953 with 400 additional third-floor boxes in the clubhouse
  • film patrol was installed in 1954 to provide replays to the racing officials
  • in 1955 a $300,000 automatic sprinkler system was installed in the entire grandstand and clubhouse.

Following Corum's death in December 1958, Wathen Knebelkamp was selected as his successor on March 3, 1959. Under his direction an aggressive building and renovation program was initiated. During Knebelkamp's tenure improvements rose from $128,000 in 1959 to $1,016,000 in 1966. Renovations ranged from the installation of 1,000 seats on the north end of the grandstand (and construction of a museum in 1960) to the addition of the fourth and fifth floors of the Skye Terrace "Millionaire's Row" in 1965-66.

The success of the track continued under Knebelkamp, but Churchill's eighth president was faced with speculation that the track was a prime target for a hostile takeover. In January,1960 a proposal was made to have the City of Louisville issue revenue bonds to purchase Churchill Downs Racetrack. However, the proposal, which was made in an effort to secure the Derby and prevent outside ownership of the track, was turned down by aldermen. In December 1963, the Kentucky Racing Commission set forth a proposal to establish a new organization to purchase Churchill Downs Racetrack and Lexington's Keeneland Race Course and to modernize both tracks through revenue bonds.

Finally, in March 1969, as a counter to a stock takeover attempt by National Industries, a group of Churchill board members, headed by John Galbreath, Warner L. Jones, Jr. and Arthur "Bull" Hancock formed what was called the "Derby Protection Group." They successfully outbid National Industries for control of the Company, moving the stock from $22 a share to $35.

Lynn Stone became Churchill Downs ninth president as he replaced the retiring Knebelkamp in December 1969. Stone had come to Churchill in 1961 as resident manager and was appointed vice president and general manager in 1966.

Under Stone's leadership: the Derby celebrated its 100th running in 1974, with a record 163,628 on hand; added the Skye Terrace's sixth floor in 1977 for $1.8 million; computerized the pari-mutuel system in 1982; and began development of a $7 million Kentucky Derby Museum.

As president, Lynn Stone headed the efforts that ended two separate takeover attempts by Brownell Combs II of Spendthrift Farm and Irwin L. Jacobs, respectively in 1984. In August 1984, Stone resigned, following huge financial losses that resulted from two years of failed summer racing. Stone was replaced by acting President Thomas H. Meeker, a former general counsel to Churchill Downs while with the law firm of Wyatt, Tarrant and Combs. In September 1984, Meeker was named permanently to the position.

At 40, Meeker became the youngest president since Meriwether Lewis Clark organized the track at age 29. Meeker immediately began a five-year, $25 million renovation renaissance, headed by: (dollar figures in millions)

$2.5 core renovations (1984)
$3.2 Matt Winn Turf Course (1985)
$2.5 paddock construction (1986)
$5 clubhouse improvements (1987)
$3.7 Skye Terrace updating (1988)
$1.2 barn area improvements (1989).
These renovations helped lead to a resurgence of the track, and were instrumental in attracting the Breeders' Cup to Churchill Downs Racetrack. Churchill has hosted the event a record six times, and holds five of the top six attendance records.

In 1994, the Churchill Downs Management Company opened Hoosier Park at Anderson, Indiana's first pari-mutuel track. This would prove to be the first in a long line of properties purchased by Churchill Downs Incorporated, as the company staged an unparalleled period of growth beginning in 1998. On April 21, 1998, Churchill Downs Incorporated finalized the purchase of Ellis Park racetrack in Henderson, Ky. , and later purchased Calder Race Course in Miami on April 26, 1999. On Sept. 10 of that same year, Churchill Downs Incorporated acquired Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif. Another significant purchase came on Sept. 8, 2000, as Churchill Downs Incorporated completed a merger with Chicago's Arlington International Racecourse (now Arlington Park), which involved an exchange of stock with Arlington owner Richard Duchossois.

On Sept. 14, 1999, Alex Waldrop was named the 11th president of Churchill Downs, allowing Meeker to devote his total attention to Churchill Downs Incorporated as president and CEO. He was succeeded by president Steve Sexton on Dec. 10, 2002.

Churchill Downs Incorporated's expansion continued in September 2004 as Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans and its affiliated OTB locations were purchased for $47 million. In 2005, Hollywood Park was sold to Bay Meadows Land Company for $257.5 million, and Ellis Park was sold to businessman Ron Geary in September of 2006. An agreement is currently being finalized to complete the sale of Hoosier Park to Centaur Inc. is being finalized. Today, Churchill Downs Incorporated owns racetracks and simulcast-wagering operations in Kentucky, Illinois, Florida and Louisiana and has an interest in various racing service companies. With its acquisition of Fair Grounds Race Course and its other Louisiana operations in October 2004, Churchill Downs added alternative gaming to its entertainment options.

Churchill Downs racetrack remains the flagship operation of Churchill Downs Incorporated, and recently underwent the most significant series of ambitious and comprehensive renovations in the history of the track. In July 2002, Churchill Downs Racetrack began Phase I of a $121 million renovation. The Phase I project provided 64 luxury suites and spacious meeting areas built atop the track's existing grandstand, with huge balconies providing stunning views of the Twin Spires. Phase I was completed for the opening of the 2003 Fall Meet. Phase II began in July 2003 with the demolition of an 800-foot expanse of the clubhouse, leveled to make way for new construction. The $95 million Phase II project took nearly two years to complete and included an expanded Turf Club, 15 luxury suites, new group sales areas, premium outdoor third-floor boxes, indoor box seats, a new media center and television production compound, new dining and entertainment areas, a new grand entrance at Gate 17 leading to the track's integrated simulcast wagering areas, a new central kitchen, and satellite kitchen facilities. The construction provided an additional 404,000 square feet and increased the permanent seating capacity to approximately 52,000.

Robert L. Evans joined Churchill Downs Incorporated as its current president and CEO in August 2006. A business strategist, entrepreneur and Thoroughbred breeder by trade, Evans is exploring growth opportunities for the Company and the horse racing industry through technology initiatives and international distribution channels while maintaining the Company's long-standing commitment to quality racing.

Kevin Flanery joined Churchill Downs in December 2005 as vice president of national public affairs and was promoted to senior vice president of national public affairs and communications in March 2008. Kevin Flanery was named the 13th president of Churchill Downs Racetrack on July 13, 2009. He also serves as a senior vice president for Churchill Downs Incorporated.

 

More Information About Churchill Downs Kentucky

Churchill Downs is one of the oldest Thoroughbred racetracks in the country and indisputably the most iconic. On the first Saturday in May, millions tune in to watch and wager on the Kentucky Derby, which has been held annually since the track was founded in 1875.

The Kentucky Derby, for three-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles, is the most popular race in the country and the prize most coveted by American horsemen. It is also the most highly-attended race in the country, with crowds in excess of 150,000 converging on the track, which is situated in a south Louisville neighborhood on Central Avenue.

The Churchill Downs facility is best known for its twin spires, two steeples that sit atop the grandstand which are the track’s signature trademark. The grandstand and clubhouse underwent major renovations in the first decade of the 21st century to include luxury suites on both sides of the twin spires.

By virtue of hosting the Kentucky Derby, which evolved into the nation’s most popular race in the early 20th century under the leadership of track president Col. Matt Winn, Churchill Downs fans have witnessed a vast majority of the greatest American Thoroughbreds at one time or another.

Triple Crown winners Secretariat, Citation, Affirmed, Count Fleet, Seattle Slew, War Admiral and Whirlaway are just a few of the legendary three-year-olds to have reached the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle. Other Hall of Fame winners include Swaps, Northern Dancer, Spectacular Bid, Alysheba, Sunday Silence, and the fillies Regret, Genuine Risk, and Winning Colors.

The Kentucky Oaks, the sister race to the Derby, is one of the premier events for three-year-old fillies in the country. Contested at 1 1/8 miles, it is traditionally held on the day before the Derby. Crowds of more than 100,000 have become on Oaks Day over the past couple of decades.

Grass racing was introduced at Churchill Downs in 1987, a year after the track was designated a National Historic Landmark. The construction of a turf course allowed the track to play host to the Breeders’ Cup for the first time in 1988. Churchill subsequently held the sport’s top year-end event in 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2006, 2010 and 2011.

While Churchill Downs has always been best known for its two major three-year-old fixtures, several of the track’s long-standing features for older horses have seen their stature rise over the past three decades. The Stephen Foster Handicap and Clark Handicap have both attained Grade 1 status in the recent past and regularly draw many of the nation’s best older horses. The same is also true for the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, which is run on Derby Day.

The Kentucky Derby Museum, one of the nation’s finest devoted to the Sport of Kings, is located next to the track. The grounds of the museum are also the final resting place of five Derby winners, including Hall of Famers Swaps and Carry Back. Another Derby winner, Barbaro, is interred outside the entrance to the museum and track admission gates.

 

Churchill Downs Racetrack