700 Central Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40208
The Founding of Churchill Downs
While traveling in England and France in 1872-1873, 26-year-old Col. M. Lewis Clark, devised the idea of a Louisville Jockey Club for conducting race meets. Clark toured and visited with a number of prominent racing leaders, including England's Admiral Rous and France's Vicompte Darn, vice president of the French Jockey Club.
Upon his return from Europe, Clark began development of his racetrack which would serve to showcase the Kentucky breeding industry. The track would eventually become known as "Churchill Downs." The first reference of the name Churchill Downs came in an 1883 Kentucky Derby article reported by the former Louisville Commercial.
"The crowd in the grand stand sent out a volume of voice, and the crowd in the field took it up and carried it from boundary to boundary of Churchill Downs."
Track: One mile, oval
Soil: Sandy loam, 75% sand, 23% silt, 2% clay
Width: 80 feet; backstretch, 79 feet
Distance from Derby Start to Finish Line: 1,320 feet; racetrack is 120 feet wide at Derby start
Distance from Last Turn to Finish Line: 1,234 1/2 feet
Distance from Finish Line to First Turn: 113 1/2 feet
Track: 7/8th mile, oval
Turf: 90% Fescue, 10% Bluegrass
Width: 80 feet
Churchill Downs - 1,404 stalls - 47 barns
Trackside OTB - 500 stalls