Churchill Downs

J. Tyler Franklin

Embattled Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit will run in this weekend’s Preakness Stakes.

The Maryland Jockey Club and a lawyer for trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday they had reached an agreement involving increased testing and monitoring of three Baffert horses ahead of the races.

That follows an announcement earlier Tuesday from Baffert that Medina Spirit was treated with an antifungal ointment that contained betamethasone. After the Derby, the horse tested positive for 21 picograms of the substance, more than the allowed limit.

Churchill Downs suspended Baffert following the initial positive test. If another test reveals the same finding, the horse could be disqualified as the Derby winner.

Updated May 1, 2021 at 10:03 PM ET

Medina Spirit overcame tough odds to win the 147th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, giving trainer Bob Baffert a record seventh Derby victory.

Medina Spirit, mounted by jockey John Velazquez, broke out of the gate with an early lead and held fast as the race met the final stretch.

J. Tyler Franklin

Key employees at the Churchill Downs racetrack may strike on Derby Day. Representatives for the track’s workers’ union said they haven’t been able to come to an agreement with Churchill Downs over pay and benefits for the company’s valets.

“And now we’re getting to the brink of a very scary decision: whether we strike an event that the world watches,” said attorney David Suetholtz, who represents the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 541. 

The union has about 400 members, and around 200 of them usually work the Derby, Suetholtz said.

According to Suetholtz, the union has been trying to negotiate its three-year contract since last July for the valets at Churchill Downs, and since last February for those at Turfway Park in Florence. Valets saddle and unsaddle the horses, and make sure each horse is carrying the same weight.

Churchill Downs To Run Fall Meet Amid Surge in COVID-19

Oct 23, 2020
Stephanie Wolf

Churchill Downs plans to open for its 131st Fall Meet this weekend as the state contends with a third surge in COVID-19 infections. 

The racetrack has announced plans to kick off a 24-day stand on Sunday with 11 races. It will be the first time the track has opened to spectators this year. The opening day arrives as Louisville experiences what the White House considers “uncontrolled spread” of COVID-19.

Cases are on the rise around the state and country. Over the last week, Kentucky reported 25.5 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Any number over 25 is considered uncontrolled spread.

Ryan Van Velzer

Churchill Downs has closed general admission at the Kentucky Derby this year in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The track still plans to host an estimated 23,000 guests at the 146th Running For the Roses scheduled for September 5th, Churchill Downs said in a statement Wednesday.

As part of a 62-page “health and safety operations plan”,  the track said reserved seating would be limited to 40% occupancy and standing room-only tickets have been eliminated. The plan calls for outdoor ticket holders to be placed in a “new comparable location” to meet social distance guidelines.  Pre-purchased General Admission tickets will be refunded.

Officials say guests will receive temperature checks and medical questionnaires before entering the track.

J. Tyler Franklin

The Kentucky Derby has an outsize impact on the Louisville region’s economy. It’s Churchill Downs’ signature event. Hotels run out of rooms and short-term rental hosts hike rates. And last year, the day after Derby was the busiest in the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport’s history.

With a little more than a month to go until Thunder Over Louisville, the start of the Kentucky Derby Festival, there are questions about how public fears of coronavirus could affect turnout. For Louisville, fewer attendees could mean less revenue for local businesses, according to one expert.

Freezing Temps Cause Rare Cancellation At Churchill Downs

Nov 18, 2014
Churchill Downs

This week’s blast of winter weather has prompted officials at Churchill Downs to cancel Wednesday's live racing program.  

The main dirt track is frozen and spokesman Darren Rogers says the Churchill Downs maintenance crews won’t be able to get it into suitable shape for racing until temperatures rise above freezing.  

He says the frigid weather is especially tough on jockeys and outriders.

Churchill Downs is considering dropping September racing in 2015 if required to share racing dates with Kentucky Downs.

Track president Kevin Flannery told the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's race date committee that there are issues with horse population and making sure everybody can fill the fields.

Kevin Willis

Before the horses sprint from the starting gates, the Kentucky Derby crowd will hand over millions of dollars in wagers. Gamblers lucky enough to pick the right colts will be getting a little less back.

Churchill Downs is taking a bigger cut of the money bettors place on its races. The decision comes after Kentucky lawmakers rejected the racing industry's latest effort to add slot machines to generate more cash to boost prize money for horse owners.

Churchill spokesman John Asher says without the bigger cut, the track would have had to reduce prize money for winners of spring races and some races would likely have been cut.

Kentucky touts itself as the world's horse capital. But some tracks are struggling to compete with tracks in states such as New York and Pennsylvania that use casino gambling to offer higher purses.

The home of the Kentucky Derby wants to make sure every fan attending the famous race actually sees the horses running.
Churchill Downs said Monday it will install a video board bigger than three basketball courts to give fans a giant-size view of the thoroughbreds stampeding along the track. 

The track is teaming with Panasonic for the $12 million project expected to be done early next year _ well ahead of the Run for Roses on the first Saturday in May. 

"It's going to present coverage of the race unlike anything we've ever been able to do before," said Ryan Jordan, the track's general manager.

Track officials said the 15,224-square-foot, high-definition LED video board will be installed about midway along the backstretch and outside the dirt course.

The video board's position will maximize the viewing angle for fans in the 55,638 clubhouse and grandstand seats and the tens of thousands of fans packed in the track's 26-acre infield for the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks. The Oaks is a race for 3-year-old fillies run the day before the Derby.

The two days of racing are a revenue bonanza for the track's parent company, Louisville-based Churchill Downs Inc.

Kevin Willis

A federal judge in Texas has ruled against Churchill Down Incorporated in a challenge over online gambling laws.

The Louisville-based company was hoping the judge would throw out a Texas law that bans internet gambling offered by the racetrack’s website.

The Courier-Journal reports the Texas  Racing Commission has recently started to enforce a law requiring that all gambling on horse racing be done in person at the racetrack. The law was later revised by Texas authorities to explicitly outlaw online wagering.

Churchill claimed the “in person” part of the law was a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s interstate commerce clause. But the Texas judge rejected that argument, saying that Churchill Downs and other racetracks can reach gamblers in the Lonestar State through simulcasting—something that is permitted under Texas law.

Churchill started Twinspires.com in 2007 in order to take bets online and over the phone.

Friday is For the Fillies at Churchill Downs in Louisville

May 3, 2013

Friday is the day for the fillies at Churchill Downs.

More than 100,000 fans are expected at the track for the 139th running of the Kentucky Oaks, the biggest race of the year for three year old fillies.

Like at Saturday's Kentucky Derby, there will be plenty of security in place. Police have increased their presence at the gates with more electronic wand searches. Purses larger than 12 inches are prohibited as are coolers and camera with detachable lenses.

The traffic plan around Churchill Downs remains the same as in previous years. Central Avenue is closed and the taxi lot has been moved from Gate 17 to the area between 3rd and 4th Streets on Central.

It's called the "Road to the Kentucky Derby", and starting next year it will be used to determine the field for the world's most famous horse race.

The Courier-Journal reports Churchill Downs will determine the 20-horse field for the Derby through a points system. Beginning this fall, two-year-old horses will earn points based on their placement in designated races.

The points system will essentially organize the horse racing season into a regular season and playoffs, which racing officials hope will build fan interest along the way.