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  • Churchill DownsChurchill Downs Louisville, Kentucky
    Churchill Downs is located on Central Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky and is a world famous thoroughbred racetrack that is more famous for hosting the Kentucky Derby every year. It opened officially in 1875, and had its first Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oakes that year, but has also hosted the famous Breeder's Cup on six different occasions, with the last one being held in 2006. The Horseplayers Association of North America began a rating system in 2009 for the 65 thoroughbred racetracks in North American, and Churchill Downs was rated number 5. The track was named after Henry and John Churchill, who had leased 80 acres of land to their nephew, Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., the grandson of the famous explorer, William Clark, who became president of the Louisville Jockey Club and Driving Park Association that began in 1874. Richard Ten Broeck, Clark's father-in-law, was an avid trainer and horse breeder that had shown him horse racing by going to the English Derby in London at Epsom Downs. Two earlier racing tracks had shut down, the Oakland and Woodlawn tracks, that left a void in the region, which sat along the Louisville and Nashville Railroad tracks and the perfect medium to transport horses to and fro. So that is how Churchill Downs began, but in 1893, Clark was running short of cash, preferring the longer horse races to this short run that had grown into popularity by the 1890s, so he sold it to a syndicate led by William Applegate.

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  • Churchill Downs
    Under their leadership many changes came about, such as making it a one and a quarter mile track, and having the famous twin spired grandstand constructed in 1895. They also started giving the winner of the race a garland of roses and that tradition continues to today. Applegate turned the operation over to the mayor of Louisville in 1902, so that its bad reputation for gambling could be changed, and a new clubhouse constructed so that more social gathering could be enjoyed. More races were added, like the steeplechase, band concerts, and automobile races were soon part of the venue. The State Fair was moved to the downs and had a unique feature where two locomotives would crash head on into each other on the field. James Lee, an African American jockey set a record in 1907 by winning all six races on the ticket in one day and that has never been beaten. Pari-mutuel betting started again in 1908 since it didn't have the earlier stigmatism that it once had, and the wagering aspect of the park made it altogether more profitable. In 1986, it was made a National Historic Landmark and in 2009, had its first night race. In June of 2010, it held the first ever HullabaLOU Music Festival and plans have been made to make this a yearly event, although it hasn't been extended past 2011.

February 16, 2011