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Sports Then and Now



Horse Racing in Kentucky: An Upgrade in Tradition 1

Posted on April 03, 2015 by Ashley Andrews
Churchill Downs is the most famous horse track in America.

Churchill Downs is the most famous horse track in America.

Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky is one of the most recognizable track names in the U.S. Opening in 1875, this über famous racetrack has been the home of the Kentucky Derby and Oats ever since the race’s founding, and many other races throughout history. The closing of two earlier tracks in Kentucky paved the way for Churchill Downs to replace them in a major way. As one of the most popular sports at the time, Kentucky needed a horse racing track, and a man named Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. delivered. The track is actually named after the men who leased the land to Clark, John and Henry Churchill.

By 1902, Churchill Downs came under the control of a man named Matt Winn, who turned the track into a prestigious display of thoroughbred racing, steering away from its late-1800s reputation of being a gambling site. Being a 1 ¼ mile track, Winn and his business partners decided to use the track for more than just horses. They built a clubhouse, and began using the facility for things like auto racing and concerts. The reputation, sophistication, and discernment of Churchill Downs came to full realization when it was officially staked as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Today, the track is still home of the most famous horse races in North America, and continues to expand its capabilities and pliability by introducing events like night horse races, concert tours, and state fairs. The track has reached a total size of 147 acres, far exceeding its original size of 80 acres. This allows for the 150,000 attendants of the Derbies, especially the Kentucky Derby, and the sizable crowds that come for the 360° cinema. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Larry “The Zonk” Csonka
      January 29, 2022 | 4:43 pm
      Larry Csonka

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the leader of a running attack that was the cornerstone of two Super Bowl Championship teams, including the only undefeated squad in NFL history.

      With his distinctive headgear and a body suited for punishing contact, Larry Csonka looked the part of a fullback and for 11 NFL seasons delivered and took regular punishment on his way to the Hall of Fame.

      Following in the great tradition of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Jim Nance and Floyd Little, Csonka earned All-American honors at Syracuse while rushing for 2,934 yards.  He began earning a name for himself as the Most Valuable Player of the East–West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl, and the College All-Star Game.

      Read more »

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