Churchill Downs® and it’s iconic twin spires is most commonly known as being the home for the Kentucky Oaks® and the Kentucky Derby, but it’s history is much richer than just that. Founder Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. opened the gates in 1875 to serve as a home for the Louisville Jockey Club, and the track grew into a site to showcase the Kentucky breeding industry. In other words, say hello to the first Kentucky Derby.
Churchill Downs was essentially created by Clark selling membership subscriptions for $100 a piece to provide for the 80 acres the racetrack laid across. All Churchill housed at the time was a clubhouse, a grandstand, a porter’s lodge and six stables and three races – the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks and the Clark Handicap – all major stakes races.
As the popularity of the Jockey Club grew and Churchill Downs gained more momentum, the track acquired more land and became more developed. By 1986, Churchill was a designated National Historic Landmark.
Today, the grounds stretch across 147 acres and the grandstands can seat 50,000 spectators. However, on Derby day Churchill Downs is known to hosts crowds of over 150,000 people. The dirt oval racetrack that is used for the “Run for the Roses” is one mile long, with a turf track located just inside at 7/8 of a mile.
This turf track allowed Churchill Downs to host the “richest two days in sports,” the Breeders’ Cup, on eight occasions.
From 2001 to 2005, the track underwent a $121 million renovation of refurbishment and add-ons. Churchill Downs is also home to the Kentucky Derby Museum, where spectators and race fans alike can stroll through this history of America’s oldest sporting event.
Churchill has also been in construction this year to add a new grandstand and hospitality area that will be ready by Derby day. So if you haven’t made the trip to Louisville to visit Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby is the perfect time to do so!
See the Twin Spires on Derby Day!
There is simply no better time to see Churchill Downs and all its splendor than over Derby Weekend.
As the field of qualified three-year-olds race in the “most exciting two minutes in sports,” you’ll lose your breath in the excitement and movement of the stands, as each spectator is pulling for their horse to be crowned Churchill’s Kentucky Derby champion!
And there is no better way to experience the running of the Kentucky Derby than with Official Ticket Packages through Derby Experiences. With packages providing you with access to Churchill Downs on both Oaks and Derby days, you’ll see horse racing at its finest from some of the best seats in the stands!
Plus, because of our Official Partnership with Churchill Downs, you’ll have access to some of the most luxurious hospitality areas inside the track. With gourmet food, open bars and private wagering stations, you’ll experience the Kentucky Derby the way Churchill Downs meant for it to be watched!