“Home to the Kentucky Derby”
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 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 in 1868.
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.
Had the best time at Derby. The mint juleps kill and the people watching is unrivaled. If you've never been, get it on the calendar and go experience the best 2 minutes in sports live! Oh and won some $$!
Church Hill Downs just started 'Downs After Dark', maybe a few years back. But on friday nights during the summer they will have races. It's a great way to see church hill downs, and win a little money!
Not at the Derby but got to see a race at this world famous track, from front row, at the start/finish line.
We loved Churchill Downs and its museum. So interesting, especially after watching it on TV for so many years! Our tourguide, Barry, a real expert of CD, was great. I definitely recommend this stop if you are anywhere in the area!
I've actually never been to the derby, but I stopped here to do a tour of the facility and have lunch. I purchased a 2 hour tour which included a 45 minute video showing of the history and features of Churchill Downs and then an Hour and 15 minute tour of the track and overall facility. The museum inside is really neat and I really appreciated all of the history and past champions. I topped off my visit by having lunch on site and ordered the Kentucky hot brown with a mint julep.
I wasn't there for a race day, but just seeing the grounds was pretty amazing. It's worth the trip if you are a horse racing fan.
I stopped in when there was no racing for the full tour and loved it. The tour was long but got to see a lot of the special rooms and heard great stories of the past. Well worth it.
Didn't happen to visit it for the Derby but it's still worth a visit no matter when you go. It just feels like something out of the early 1900's. It's a unique little spot. Defo stop by.
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- Sun, Wed, Thu, Sat: 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
- Fri: 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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