Churchill Downs Race Track Review
For those people who are not familiar with horse racing but might be familiar with other sports, Churchill Downs is the Yankee Stadium of horse racing, which is to say, it is the most prestigious venue that the sport takes place. It is located in Louisville, and has been open since 1875, which was also the first year of the Kentucky Derby, the race that has brought a lot of prestige to the location. Where did it get the name "Churchill"? Well, that was the name of the family that originally owned the land and leased it to the founder of the track, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark.
Churchill Downs is not only a track that is synonymous with horse racing, it is also a visual icon, recognizable by the twin spires that are located on top of the grandstand. That is, of course, the idea behind the website "Twin Spires" that serves as an online wagering outlet for customers who are situated within the state of Kentucky. It is a beautiful showcase for the sport, and has changed with the times as well, as it has branched out into other areas, albeit to a limited extent. There was a renovation to the facility that concluded in 2005; it included refurbishing the building itself and also adding a number of luxury suites, which has become the custom in other professional sports as well. Churchill Downs is desired enough as a horse racing mecca that it has been the host of the Breeders Cup World Championships, the mega-event that caps off the racing year, on eight different occasions.
The dirt track at Churchill Downs is one mile around, and is 80 feet wide on both the backstretch and the homestretch. When the Kentucky Derby is run, the starting gate is 1463 feet (a little less than three-tenths of a mile) from the first turn. Once the final turn is completed, it is 1235 feet (a little less than a quarter-mile) to the finish line. There is a turf course inside the dirt oval which measures seven furlongs around.
There are two meets that are held at Churchill Downs every year. One of them is the Spring meet, during which the Kentucky Derby is run, and the other is the Fall meet. There are a number of graded stakes races that are held at the facility, and six of them are of the Grade I variety - the Derby, of course, along with the Humana Distaff Handicap, the Stephen Foster Handicap, the Turf Classic Stakes, the Kentucky Oaks (the female equivalent of the Derby) and the Clark Handicap. There are also a number of races that serve as "preps" for the Derby, in effect filtering out the "pretenders" while finding the "contenders," and one of those is held at Churchill Downs as well, the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, which takes place during the Fall meet. There is also the Derby Trial, held a week before the Kentucky Derby, which as, on occasion, been a "last chance" for horses to achieve enough merit points to actually qualify for the overcrowded Derby field, though generally it is considered unusual for a horse to be competing in both races with so little rest.