Churchill Downs is a top-class racetrack that is located in Louisville, Kentucky. It holds regular thoroughbred racing throughout the summer months and is the home of the world-famous Kentucky Derby.
There are a number of stakes events that take place at the track throughout the year, with purse money tending to increase year-on-year. The current capacity of the track is believed to be around 170,000.
It is one of the most historic racetracks in the US and has been in existence since 1875. The inaugural Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks were held at the track later that year, and the venue has gone from strength-to-strength ever since. It is in the top five racetracks based on a poll that was conducted back in 2009.
The Breeders Cup has been held at the track on nine different occasions, and it returned to Louisville in November 2018. Churchill Downs always puts on a terrific show for the iconic two-day meet.
Churchill Downs is able to regularly host major events on the sporting calendar due to its sizeable capacity. It has 47 barns, which are able to house around 1,400 at any given time, making it ideal for events such as the Breeders Cup. The Churchill Downs museum is open all year round and is extremely popular with visitors. It depicts some of the greatest races to have taken place at the track, and features 360-degree cinema which shows a documentary about some of the most memorable moments in the track’s illustrious history.
Until relatively recently, there were just two annual meets taking place at the track. However, a third meet that takes place in September has recently been added to the calendar and is proving to be extremely popular with visitors.
The Spring meet commences at the end of April (usually around seven days before the Kentucky Derby) and will run until late June. The Fall meet typically begins in October and will continue until Thanksgiving (late November). The three meetings will be altered each year to fit around the racing calendar, but they tend to follow the same pattern.
Churchill Downs Track History
The track was opened in 1875 and is built on 80 acres of land. It is named after John and Henry Churchill who purchased the plot. However, it is their nephew who was largely responsible for opening the track.
Just months earlier, two racetracks – Woodlawn and Oakland had closed, and Churchill Downs helped fill the void. It was able to pick up many of the regular racegoers from the now-defunct venues.
In 1894, the track was sold to a syndicate led by bookmaker and thoroughbred horse-breeder William E Applegate. He commissioned a new grandstand to be built, and a number of track alterations, many of which are still present today. He also began the tradition of draping the winner of the Kentucky Derby in a garland of roses in 1896, and that has remained in place ever since.
Charles F Grainger, who was mayor of Louisville at the time took over the day-to-day operations at the track, and he helped raise the profile of the venue. By the early part of the 20th century, the Kentucky Derby had become the most prominent stakes race for three-year-olds in North America.
Churchill Downs made headlines in 1907 when jockey James Lee won all six races on the card. This feat has never been matched since.
As of 1986, the track became a National Historic Landmark, and it continued to attract a worldwide audience. The Kentucky Derby remained one of the most popular events on the sporting calendar. Two years later, Churchill Downs hosted the Breeders Cup for the first time. It staged the high-profile event for the second time in 1991.
Night-racing began at Churchill Downs in 2009, and attracted a significant audience.
Churchill Downs suffered extensive damage to its stables in 2011 when an EF2 Tornado hit the Louisville area. Several horses had to be evacuated from the area as a result.
In 2018, Churchill Downs was chosen to host the Breeders Cup for a ninth time, tying it with Santa Anita Park. However, the California venue will stage the 2019 event later this year.
Churchill Downs Known Track Bias
Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel was famed for his rail-riding tactics. He has previously spoken about the favored path, stating that there is often more traction on that part of the course. He regularly spoke about the footing being more stable, especially after the track has been watered.
Louisville does get its fair share of inclement weather, and following a downpour, a rail-run is seen as particularly beneficially. Horses drawn on the inside or renowned rail-runners will almost certainly be given an advantage on a sloppy track.
Audible’s victory in 2018 proved to be a particularly memorable moment for those who back rail-runners at Churchill Downs. Many big outsiders have also out-run their price in the Kentucky Derby using these tactics.
Horses with previous experience at the track are always at an advantage as the dirt track is made up of a fairly unique composition. It is mixed with a deep layer of soil, clay, and organic materials which are packed down below the surface, making it different from the majority of US tracks.
Winning Post Positions
On the Turf course, there appears to be a slight advantage to being drawn in the middle. According to the stats from the most recent spring meet, almost 21% of winners came from stall five. 19% were drawn in stall four, while 4% of winners were given the inside draw.
The outside stalls on the turf course are not the place to be statistically speaking. Only about 3% of horses drawn 10-12 has finished in front.
It’s a different story on the dirt track with 15% of winners coming from the inside stalls over distances of 1 mile or greater. Route races also saw the continued dominance of stall five, producing 17% of winners. Almost 30% of winners over these trips were drawn three and four.
The statistics for stall five continue to be extremely impressive at Churchill Downs with 22% of winners in sprints on the dirt track being drawn here. Although front-running tactics are often favored over the shorter trips, just 8% of winners were given the inside post in races shorter than a mile.
Top Trainers at Churchill Downs
The track hosts a number of top races, and as a result, some of America’s top horsemen regularly visit Churchill Downs.
There a number of names to keep an eye at future meets.
Stats (2018-19 Spring meet)
- Steven Asmussen (19% Strike Rate)
- Michael Maker (22% Strike Rate)
- Chad Brown (23% Strike Rate)
- George R Arnold II (24% Strike Rate)
- Thomas Amoss (25% Strike Rate)
- Albert Stall Jr (27% Strike Rate)
- Eddie Keneally (35% Strike Rate)
Top Jockeys at Churchill Downs
A horse’s performance and finishing position can be significantly affected by the quality and endeavor of the jockey on board, and Churchill Downs tends to attract a high caliber of rider.
Regular jockeys around this track will be well aware of the track bias, and they’ll know how to adapt to the ever-changing conditions, especially if there is a sudden downpour.
There are a number of talented jockeys who regularly compete in Louisville:
Stats (2018-19 Spring meet)
- Jose Ortiz (17% Strike Rate)
- Corey Lanerie (18% Strike Rate)
- Miguel Mana (18% Strike Rate)
- Irad Ortiz Jr (22% Strike Rate)
- Julien Leperoux (24% Strike Rate)
- Flavien Prat (25% Strike Rate)
Churchill Downs Racing Calendar and Key Races
There are now three meets taking place at Churchill Downs on an annual basis. The Spring meet begins seven days prior to the Kentucky Derby, and that tends to be around late April. There are some extremely high-quality events taking place during this period, including the Kentucky Oaks.
The second meet takes place during September and is the newest of the three.
Finally, racing gets back underway in early/mid-October and will continue until late November. The final day of racing usually coincides with Thanksgiving.
There are a huge number of graded and stakes races which are held at Churchill Downs, although the large majority of these take place during the spring meet. However, there is a decent standard of competition in the fall with events such as the Grade I Clark Handicap.
Clark Handicap, Humana Distaff Handicap, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Stephen Foster Handicap, La Troienne Stakes, Turf Classic Stakes
American Turf Stakes, Chilukki Stakes, Churchill Downs Stakes, Falls City Handicap, Firecracker Handicap, Golden Rod Stakes, Fleur de Lis Handicap, Jefferson Cup Stakes, Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, Mrs. Revere Stakes, Pocahontas Stakes
Ack Ack Handicap, Alysheba Stakes, Aristides Stakes, Bashford Manor Stakes, Cardinal Handicap, Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes, Debutante Stakes, Dogwood Stakes, Mint Julep Handicap, Iroquois Stakes, Kentucky Juvenile Stakes, Edgewood Stakes, Eight Belles Stakes, Locust Grove Handicap, Louisville Handicap, Northern Dancer Stakes, Regret Stakes Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes, River City Handicap, Commonwealth Turf Stakes, Pat Day Miles Stakes, Winning Colors Stakes.
Churchill Downs Address
700 Central Ave.
Louisville, KY 40208