In an earlier article I discussed the man that made Churchill Downs a reality. However, what my main question now is about the track itself, once it was built what did that mean for the city of Louisville.
With horse racing starting back up again with the fall meet October 30th I got to wondering about the actual venue.
Of course, the track is most famous for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, the annual spring horse races that started in 1875. Races that drew instant regional, national, and today international attention, of course there’s a lot more to the track than that.
Throughout the Down’s illustrious career it has hosted the prestigious Breeder’s Cup six times, and is set to host them again this upcoming November.
In addition, the Horseplayers Association of North America ranked the track as the fifth best track in the country, a title which truly means something in the horse racing community.
Continuing the track’s saga from the founders, the next chapter of the story of Churchill Downs really picks up in 1902 when the Louisville city government took the reins of the track after the former owner gave them to the then mayor to distance the track from being seen as purely for gambling, which was at the time growing increasingly frowned upon.
With the concerns of Churchill Downs management in mind, the city of Louisville took a move civic minded stance on the track.
Building a social clubhouse, and bringing in things like steeplechases and automotive related events. At one point the track even housed state fair events.
Since then, the track has been called a National Historic Landmark and has hosted concerts and similar events, most notably the Rolling Stones, The Police, and 2010’s HullabaLOU music festival.
The track has always stayed true to its roots though, and recognizes that it is first and foremost a landmark for the sport of kings.
Image courtesy of Churchill Downs