700 Central Avenue • Louisville, KY 40208
Horse racing in Kentucky is rich in history, dating back to 1789 when the first race course was laid out in Lexington. However, it was almost 100 years later, in 1875, that Churchill Downs officially opened and began its tradition as "Home of the Kentucky Derby."
In 1787, The Commons, a park-like block near Lexington's Race Street was used by horsemen for racing. By 1789, complaints by "safety minded" citizens led to the formal development of a race meet at The Commons. The men who organized this race meet, including Kentucky Statesman Henry Clay, also formed the Commonwealth's first Jockey Club. The organization later was named the Kentucky Jockey Club in 1809.
Racing in Louisville dates back to 1783 when local sources reported that races were held on Market Street in the downtown area. To alleviate the problems associated with racing on the busy city thoroughfare, a course was developed at the now abandoned Shippingport Island in 1805. Racing was conducted on the island in the Ohio River at what was called the Elm Tree Gardens.
By 1827, a new track, known as the Hope Distillery Course, was laid out on what is presently Main and 16th Streets. Racing was also held on a number of private tracks located on farms throughout the local area. One of the more prominent of these was Peter Funk's Beargrass Track which was located in an area now bordered by Hurstbourne Lane and Taylorsville Road.
The Oakland Race Course was opened in the fall of 1833 and brought racing back to a formal site with the track, complete with clubhouse, located at what is now Seventh and Magnolia Streets in "Old Louisville". This was followed in 1858 by the opening of the Woodlawn Course on the Louisville and Lexington railroad lines just outside of today's St. Matthews, east of Louisville. The site closed in 1870, but the Woodlawn Vase, the track's premier trophy, has been used in the presentation to the winner of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico since 1917.
Harness racing was also a significant part of Louisville's early racing history with a number of tracks in existence. One of the most prominent was Greeneland, a racecourse for trotters was built just east of Churchill Downs in 1868.
Derby And Oaks Hospitality Services
Churchill Downs' enhanced hospitality and guest service efforts for its Oaks and Derby days will again include a "general store" facility in the infield that will offer food, drink, coolers and other items that may not be brought into the track. This year's store will be centrally located in the infield and will be operated by Levy Restaurants, the exclusive food service provider for Churchill Downs. The infield store will again offer its products for purchase at prices comparable to those offered at stores outside of the track's admission gates. In conjucntion with the safety procedures, please see the following lists which detail what can and cannot be brought onto the track premises on Oaks and Derby days.
Items that patrons may carry-in to Churchill Downs on Derby and Oaks days are:
Food items in clear plastic bags (maximum size 18" x 18" - no trash bags) - LIMIT TWO (2) PER PERSON
"Box" lunches if packaged in clear plastic bags or plastic containers (maximum size 18"x 18" - no trash bags) - LIMIT TWO (2) PER PERSON
Cellular telephones, cameras, and camcorders (patrons required to turn electronic items on before entry is allowed)
Small personal music systems, radios and televisions - no "boom boxes"
Purses and baby bags (all subject to search)
Chairs (Gate 3 only)
Blankets (Gates 1 & 3 for infield use only)
Tarpaulins (Gates 1 & 3 for infield use only)
Strollers (only if carrying a child - no other items allowed)
Items that may not be carried into the track on Derby and Oaks Days include:
Weapons of any kind (includes all knives and scissors)
Bottles and cans of any kind (includes all beverage and lotion containers - glass, plastic or metal)
Backpacks, luggage and duffel bags
Churchill Downs will again station customer service and hospitality representatives at locations throughout the track to deal with questions and concerns voiced by patrons on Kentucky Derby and Oaks Days.
Prepare for the weather, it could change
Know how to get to and from the track
Remember which parking lot you are in
Bring some extra cash
DON’T forget your tickets!
Kentucky Derby Tickets - Order Early!