Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Churchhill Downs

(Shepherdsville, KY) Hi 78 Lo 61 – Today we went to check out Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. They've been running the Derby there every May for 138 years. Neither one of us have much interest or know much of anything about horses or horse racing, but we knew we couldn't leave Louisville without seeing Churchill Downs.

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I was thinking it was a small horse track like you see in most towns. But when we came up on the complex I was amazed just how big it is.


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We arrived just as a tour was starting, so we paid for our admission and ran to catch up with the group just as they were leaving the building. The tour was a little under an hour long.

This is a panorama of the paddock area where the horses come from the stalls and parade around in front of the crowd.
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Another view
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The grandstands along the homestretch are huge. They hold 50,000 people, and another 80,000 gather in the infield for the Derby. The crowd in the infield can't even see the race, they're there mainly to party.

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A panorama of the homestretch.
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Looking toward turn 2 and the starting line.
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Looking toward turn 1.
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Up on top of the main grandstand is "millionaire's row" where the rich congregate. When we asked our tour guide how much tickets cost for the Derby, she said they range from $50 to "millions." Fifty dollars will get you into the infield (again, where you can't see the race).
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This sign is above the tunnel...
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... where the horses come from the paddock to the track.
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There are 3,000 windows to buy your race tickets. They’re everywhere, including the infield.
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This is Perfect Drift, third place finisher in the 2002 Kentucky Derby. He’s now 13 and retired. He likes to show off when people are around. It's amazing how beautiful a thoroughbred horse is. There was also a miniature horse named Winston that keeps him company, but he was hiding so we couldn't get a good picture of him.
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Of course there’s a gift shop at the end of the tour.
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Ladies' hats are very popular at Churchill Downs. They sold a lot of hats in the gift shop.
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After the tour we spent a couple of hours looking around the Kentucky Derby Museum.

We enjoyed the museum a lot more than we thought we would. They covered the whole world of horse racing. How the horses are raised and trained, all about the jockeys and trainers, and a lot of history.

This exhibit explained the different track conditions, and how they have a lot of influence on the race.
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This was a nice exhibit of jockeys' silks.

Including the silks that Ron Turcotte wore when he rode Secretariat to victory in the Triple Crown in 1973.

And of course, more ladies hats.

They even had the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame. Who knew?

Included in our admission was a short film in the 360-degree theater. We sat on little stools so we could turn around easily to watch the video on the screen that circled the theater. It was an entertaining video about what goes on during Derby Day.
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After the film workers started preparing for some fancy dinner later in the evening. The tables were arranged to look like daisies.
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Very pretty from the second story. (The room was dark which made it look even more decorated).
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We were delighted with our visit to Churchhill Downs today, and we're very glad we went. We highly recommend it even if you don't have an interest in horse racing.

We were hungry so Jim checked our GPS and found a restaurant named Tumbleweed Tex Mex Grill. It was right on the way home so we stopped there for dinner. The food was really good, and the hostess was very amused when we told her we named our RV Tumbleweed.
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We came home and recovered from a very good meal and knowing today was another fun chapter of our life on wheels.


Mike and Terri said...

Where are the pits and the garage area? OH.... wrong kind of racetrack. ;)
Seriously though, it looked very interesting and we'll have to try and get there sometime too. :)

Kyra said...

Hope I make it to Churchill one day, sounds like a nice tour!

Laurie and George said...

Great tour...thanks for sharing. I love the horses..and the Downs is on my list!

Donna W. said...

When my brother lived in louisville we went there for some races, it really is a nice place.
Still have my coffee mug that I got there.

Bob and Jo said...

Has been on our list, now we go more prepared, thanks

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