Churchill Downs; Insider Look
Sara Magers ’17 // May 9, 2017
Video created by Joanne Lagazo ’17
It’s Derby week. Tuesday morning, just before 8 AM at Louisville’s gem, Churchill Downs. The track is everything but silent. Once the gates open, tourists and natives alike pour in. Everyone seems to have different agendas with one thing in mind, the Kentucky Derby. Guests parade around the paddock and boxes lining the race track. Photos are taken, horses are practicing, and people are wagering. Radio stations and news trucks are streaming live stories. The track is all the buzz, and this is just the beginning. This year the attendance on Saturday alone was over 158,000 people.
Dawn at the Downs is a Derby tradition; this free event takes place in the early morning Tuesday through Thursday of Derby week every year. Admission is absolutely free. Throughout this event the beautiful Oaks and Derby horses practice for the public. Guests hear the inside scoop on all the horses. Churchill Downs holds races on the days leading up to the Kentucky Oaks & Derby. Races begin around noon on these days.
Assumption journalism got the opportunity to take an inside look on Churchill Downs in the heart of Derby week. Churchill Down’s Track President Kevin Flanery gave us a private tour. Our tour included everything from a look into the 6th floor Mansion to the Paddock. We got to sit in on the “run-of-show” meeting as well as the Oaks Draw. Flanery shared with us the details of the new second floor renovations.
Flanery has a vision.
We wanted to tell the story [of Churchill Down’s] through the architecture.
The latest renovation on the second floor began after Thanksgiving 2016 and was complete before this Derby season. The renovations are phenomenal. Wall to wall stories are shared. There are thousands of works of art and murals covering the interior. One wall is made up of prints of Win, Place, and Show ticket stubs. It is truly a creative masterpiece. Oaks, Derby, and Triple crown winners are listed. Jockeys are painted with their fingers representing their number of wins. With a closer look you will notice the history of jockeys. Throughout history different races have dominated the racing industry. After Jim Crowe laws were enacted many of the most talented jockeys moved to Europe to continue to compete. The second floor renovation cost over $37 million to complete. More renovations of the track are soon to come. With this more stories will be told.
The 6th floor Mansion is reserved for the elite. This colorful area is full of locally sourced art. Twenty percent of the art is purchased from local artists every year to continually support the art community. The artworks phased out of the mansion are moved to other parts of the track. The mansion also features dresses worn by celebrities over the ages at the annual Barnstable Brown party.
After our tour we had a Q&A with Kevin (you can listen below)
What sparked your interest in Churchill Downs?
Multi-Media: Photography: Sara Magers ’17 | Video & Sound Clip: Joanne Lagazo ’17 | Info Graphic: Reid Carter ’17