About Kentucky Derby Advance Racetrack
Churchill Downs - Home of the Kentucky Derby
Horse racing in Louisville, Kentucky dates to 1783, but it was almost 100 years later, in 1875, that Churchill Downs opened and commenced its tradition of being home to the world renowned "Kentucky Derby". The track was founded by 26-year-old Col. M. Lewis Clark, who devised the idea of a Louisville Jockey Club that would host race meets. It was Clark's meetings with a number of prominent racing leaders through his travels in France and England that this idea was born.
In May of 1874, the first public notice of Churchill Downs was reported. Clark raised $32,000 to fund the construction of the track and sold 32 membership subscriptions to the track, at $100 per membership. He then leased the 80 acres of land, located approximately three miles south of downtown, from his uncles, John and Henry Churchill. Construction began and yielded a clubhouse, grandstand, porter's lodge, and six tables to begin racing on the track.
In Clark's inaugural race meet, he designed The Kentucky Derby, The Kentucky Oaks and the Clark Handicap. These were his major stakes races after three premier races in England. The first Kentucky Derby was a success, although the track was not financially successful. On November 24, 1894, the New Louisville Jockey Club was incorporated. The appointed president was William F. Schulte and Clark was retained as presiding judge for the track.
Financial problems plagued the racetrack at the turn of the 20th century and as a result the track changed hands. On October 1, 1902, a group headed by former Louisville mayor Charles Granger, Charlie Price and Matt J. Winn, agreed to take over the operation. In 1903, the track showed its first profit under the new administration, also officials of the New Louisville Jockey Club. The New Louisville Jockey Club merged with nearby Douglas Park to form the Louisville Racing Association. The main purpose of the Louisville Racing Association was to establish race dates and policies for racing in the city. Under the powerful new reign, the track flourished.
Today, Churchill Downs is a leader in horse racing. Kentucky Derby Day wagering, both on track and nationally, has increased from $26 million in 1985 to more than $123 million in 2002. In that same year, crowds of more than 100,000 showed up for the Kentucky Oaks and more than 150,000 spectators gathered to watch the Kentucky Derby. The success of Churchill Downs Inc. has been achieved through corporate strategy. It strengthened its racing program and the Kentucky Derby, increasing its share of the national simulcast market and its geographic expansions of racing operations.