Kentucky Race Tracks
Owing in part to the quality of its famed “blue grass”, the state of Kentucky is known worldwide for the success of its home-grown thoroughbred race horses. And where you find race horses, you’ll find racing. In addition to Churchill Downs and its famed Twin Spires grandstand, Kentucky is also home to four other high quality tracks, including the only “European-style” turf course in North America. On turf or dirt, in million dollar graded-stakes or lower level claiming races, there’s always racing and wagering to be found somewhere in the Blue Grass state.
Top Horse Race Tracks in Kentucky
As something of the Mecca for horse racing in the United States, fans wanting to take in live racing in Kentucky are fortunate enough to be able to do so almost all year around. But racing isn’t the only horse-related attraction at Kentucky tracks, with museums, libraries and even the opportunity to take in sales of top young horses are all on offer at Kentucky tracks.
One of the most famous race tracks in the world, Churchill Downs in Louisville is best known – since 1875 – as the home of the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the American Triple Crown of racing. With three separate meets, racing takes place for six months of the year. In addition to the Derby, Churchill Downs also hosts the Kentucky Oaks (G1), the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), and the Clark Handicap (G1) as well as a number of other major stakes races. Churchill is also home to the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Located in Lexington, Keeneland is as well known for its annual sales of thoroughbreds as it is for its racing. Founded in 1935, Keeneland holds a Fall meet in October and a Spring meet in April. Some of the major races at Keeneland include the Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1), the Blue Grass Stakes (G1), and the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). Every year the Keeneland sales produce horses that go on to win more than 100 stakes races. In 2015, Keeneland is set to host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for the first time.
Although it only holds a short race meet in September, Kentucky Downs in Franklin is well known for the fact it boasts the only “European-style” turf course in North America. The 1 5/16ths-mile course features a number of small rises and is wider at one end than the other, and offers a straight quarter-mile run from the final turn to the finish. Located on the site of a former 18th-century “duelling grounds” the feature race at Kentucky Downs is the Kentucky Turf Cup (G3).
Located in Henderson, near the Illinois border, Ellis Park is known for its “down home charm”. The summer meet at Henderson runs from early July to the first of September, and the feature race on the calendar is the Gardenia Stakes (G3). Two-time Breeders’ Cup champ and American Female Sprinter of the Year Groupie Doll made her career stakes debut when she won the 2011 Gardenia.
As northern Kentucky’s center of racing, Turfway Park, in Florence, KY, is notable as the first track in North America to install a synthetic polytrack surface. Turfway is also the long-time home of the Spiral Stakes, long known as the Jim Beam Stakes, a race that has produced a number of Triple Crown race winners, including Summer Squall, Hansel, Lil E. Tee, Prairie Bayou and Animal Kingdom.