CHURCHILL DOWNS: NEW TURF COURSE

Churchill Downs Turf Course: A week after shutting down its turf race course, Churchill Downs Racetrack has announced its plans to erect a new turf course that will cost $10 million, with the goal of boosting the number of races on the turf as well as the durability of the track.

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Churchill Downs to Install New $10 Million Turf Course

Churchill Downs does not expect to open the track before the Spring Meet in 2022. The turf course could be open for training by December 2021. Construction is expected to begin after the end of the 2021 Spring Meet.

When the course is complete, it will feature a hybrid of bluegrass and fescue. It will measure 85 feet wide, five feet wider than what the Matt Winn Turf Course measures. The current oval has a drainage crown right down the middle of the track, which limits the number of horses. Today’s course still has the same surface that was there when it was opened in 1985. The new course will keep a comparable bluegrass and fescue blend. However, the subsurface will be more absorbent and stronger.

The subsurface will have a six-inch top root layer featuring a mix of gritty sand and topsoil. Below that will sit a six-inch layer made of masonry sand. The irrigation and drainage system will be updated, keeping the whole course level. The rail options will range from 0 to 36 feet out, with a maximum capacity of 14 horses per race.

As part of the change, Churchill Downs will stop horse stabling for eight weeks during the summer. The 2021 September meet will not have any turf races, to let the root structures get embedded.

In a typical year, about 25 percent of the races at Churchill Downs take place on the turf. In 2019, the track had 169 races scheduled for turf, but weather and/or turf forced 43 to be moved to dirt. On November 12, Winning Impression had a fatal injury on the turf, and no more races were run on that surface. Moving forward, the hope is that upgrading the surface and leveling the field will make the course safer and more durable for years to come.

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