The history of Churchill Downs briefly detailed. There aren’t many more important tracks in the United States when it comes to horse racing than Churchill Downs. The track annually hosts two of the biggest races of the season; with the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby kicking off the Triple Crown season for three-year-olds. You will be able to learn more about the famous track here, including the biggest races that take place here every year.

History Of Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs opened to the public in 1875, named in honor of Samuel Churchill. Much of the history of the track revolves around the illustrious Kentucky Derby; which was first staged at the course in the same year. The importance of the track in the early years couldn’t be understated, as it helped fill the void of racing fans that were left disappointed after courses at Woodlawn and Oakland were closed down.

The ownership of the course changed hands in the 1890s; as it was brought out by a syndicate led by William Applegate. Applegate made profound changes to the course, which are still seen to this modern day. He was the driving force behind the addition of the twin spire grandstand and also shortened the Kentucky Derby to the 1 ¼ miles distance that it is today.

Churchill Downs also became a hub of social activity during the early years, as it played host to a number of motor races and also concerts. When it comes to racing in the early years, nobody has since achieved the feat accomplished by James Lee. Lee won all six cards on the racecard in June 1907.

The course was awarded the honor of being a National Historic Landmark in 1986, and history has continued to be made in recent years. Back in 2009, it hosted its first-ever night racing, while the first UllabaLOU Music Festival took place at Churchill Downs the following year.

Biggest Races

There is no shortage of huge races to take place at Churchill Downs throughout the season. In total, there are seven Grade 1s that are run at the course every season. Meanwhile, there are 14 Grade 2s and 16 Grade 3s.

The biggest races of the season at the course take place over the weekend of the Kentucky Derby; with the Kentucky Oaks taking place the day prior and the Churchill Downs Stakes being the featured race on the undercard of the Triple Crown opener. You can see below the Grade 1s that will take place at Churchill Downs this year:

  • Kentucky Derby
  • Kentucky Oaks
  • Clark Handicap
  • Churchill Downs Stakes
  • Turf Classic Stakes
  • La Troienne Stakes
  • Derby City Distaff Stakes

As well as the annual Grade 1s that the track hosts, it has also served as the track for the Breeders’ Cup on nine previous occasions. The last time that the huge event took place at the famous venue came in 2018, as Accelerate won the Breeders’ Cup Classic for trainer John Sadler.

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