- Road to the Kentucky Derby
- Racing & Wagering
2001 - Growth of the Kentucky Derby continued on all fronts as the 127th running attracted a crowd of 154,210, the second largest attendance in Derby history. Overall Derby Day wagering (all sources) rose to a record $107,598,904. For the first time in Derby pari-mutuel wagering history, all horses ran uncoupled with no entries or mutuel fields as betting interests. Early nominees to the Visa Triple Crown totaled a record 440 and broke the previous mark of 422 established in 1986, the first year of the common nomination process for the Visa Triple Crown. Monarchos won the Derby in the second-fastest running, 1:59.97. The National Broadcasting Company's (NBC) first-ever television coverage of the Kentucky Derby attracted a national rating of 8.1, a 40 percent increase over ABC's 5.8 rating for the 2000 Derby. Jockey Pat Day scored the 8,000th win of his career on May 31, as he joined Laffit Pincay, Jr. and Bill Shoemaker as the only North American riders to reach that plateau. Chairman William S. Farish is nominated to the post of U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, he is formally confirmed in July. Carl F. Pollard replaces Farish on July 24 to become the fourth-consecutive breeder to serve as chairman. Following the end of the Spring Meet, Levy Restaurants replaced Aramark, which has served as the food service provider at the Downs since 1994 when they acquired the former harry M. Stevens Company. An economic impact study commissioned by Churchill Downs is released in August and reports that the 2001 Kentucky Derby weekend (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) provided nearly $218 million to the Kentucky economy. The Kentucky Racing Commission and representatives of the racing industry host three hearings at sites around the state to address issues facing the industry including shrinking purses, competition for gambling dollars and the mare reproductive loss syndrome. On September 11, Churchill Downs Incorporated suspends all live racing and off-track wagering operations in response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York; facilities re-opened on Sept. 13. The board of directors, on Sept. 27, approved a renovation plan to begin a $27 million Phase I project that will include 66 luxury suites, built atop the existing grandstand roof; a large club area adjacent to the suites; and renovations of the first-floor grandstand and first and second floors of the Jockey Club (the oldest portion of the track built in 1894-95); the plan also calls for a $100 million Phase II to be voted on by the board in June 2002. A new video board, utilizing light-emitting technology, is placed on the roof of the paddock structure prior to the Fall Meet to replace the original board used since 1986. The 1990 Kentucky Derby winner, Unbridled, is euthanized on Oct. 18 after suffering a severe bout of colic. In the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedies on America, the Fall Meet opened with tighter security measures including uniformed officers, prohibiting of duffel bags and coolers, and extra surveillance cameras for the admissions gates and service gates. A crowd of 19,806 flocked to the track for the Pat Day Bobblehead Doll giveaway, with 10,000 giveaway vouchers distributed within a half-hour. Leonard Coleman, former president of National League Baseball, became the first African-American to be appointed to the Downs board of directors following an announcement in November. The Fall Meet closed with a crowd of 18,571 on hand, the largest meet-ending crowd since 1990. The Stephen Foster handicap and Humana Distaff Handicap are elevated to Grade I status, and join the Derby and Oaks as the track's only Grade I races. Two additional $100,000 stakes are placed on the spring schedule and include the Matt Winn and Northern Dancer.
2002 - City Of Louisville officials and Churchill Downs seek special national security status for Kentucky Derby from Homeland Security Office, but were denied¦Increased Oaks and Derby security measures are implemented including magnetic wand searches of all persons entering the track; no coolers, backpacks, bottles, cans or lotion containers; and an increase in the presence of uniformed security personnel. An 11th race is added to the Derby Day card as the derby event is moved to the 9th event from its previous slot as the 8th race. For the first time in history, the color coded, standardized numbered saddle towels are used for the Kentucky Derby. Derby attracts 145,033, fifth largest crowd in history, and the Oaks draws 101,923, the third largest attendance. On May 7 Seattle Slew, the only remaining Triple Crown winner, dies on the 25th anniversary of his Derby win. Churchill Downs strengthens tie to Derby Festival as official sponsor of the Great Steamboat Race. Two Japanese-breds are nominated for the Triple Crown, making a first for Japan. Employees cleaning a storage area find trainer Woody Stephens's 1984 Derby trophy that was mistakenly stored there for 18 years - the trophy was returned to Stephens's widow, Lucille. After approximately eight years of groundwork, on Feb. 26 legislative leaders file House Bill 768 to allow slots at the state's eight racetracks with the bill passing the House Licensing and Occupations Committee before stalling in the Appropriations and Revenue Committee. Following the spring meet, work begins on the Master Plan's $26 million Phase I with construction of three additional floors to the grandstand area that provide 66 luxury suites. During Phase I, the famed Twin Spires receive a total renovation. On Sept. 26, the board of directors approves $95 million Phase II renovations that will totally rebuild the track's clubhouse area with construction to begin in July 2003. Due to a conflict in dates with the national FFA convention in 2005, the Breeders' Cup announces its intent to host the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs in 2006. On Nov. 13, Churchill implements a policy in which wagering ends when the tote board reaches zero minutes to post, the measure is developed to bolster the integrity of wagering following a scandal in the Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick Six. Jockey John McKee breaks Steve Cauthen's record for most Fall Meet wins by an apprentice rider with 27 victories. Steve Sexton is appointed as the 12th track president of Churchill Downs on Dec. 10. Churchill Downs Incorporated's CFO Bob Decker resigns his position and is replaced by Mike Miller, the company's senior vice president of finance. Churchill and the City of Louisville finalized a 30-year-argreement on Dec. 26 to help fund the Master plan giving the city title to the track and then leasing it back - by removing the track from city property tax the plan would save the track approximately $250,000 per year following annual donation of $250,000 to Jefferson County Schools.
2003 - CDI launches the "Pay Day" online contest, which offers a $5 million prize to the player that picks the exact order of finish of the 129th Kentucky Derby. CDI open NASDAQ market site April 25. Funny Cide defeated heavily favored Empire Maker to become the first New York-bred to win the Kentucky Derby. Phase I of the Master Plan renovations are completed and the new Jockey Club luxury suites are open for the Fall Meet, as Phase II of the renovations begin. October 3, Chief Operating Officer John Long resigns from Churchill Downs to take the position of chief executive officer of the newly formed United States Equestrian Foundation. The Klein Family Learning Center and WinStar Library open on Churchill's backside to provide educational opportunities to backside employees and their families. Churchill Downs records gains in on-track attendance and wagering despite construction and total betting sets a record.
2004 - Churchill Downs Stakes schedule grew to a record 45 events (33 Spring, 12 Fall) with record purses of $9.375 million. Large screen video-display boards are added atop the infield toteboards at a cost of $1.5 million prior to the Spring Meet. On March 22 an OTB parlor opens in nearby Clarksville, IN, operated by Indiana Downs, a competitor to CDI's Hoosier Park. Susan E. Packard is voted to the CDI Board of Directors in June as the first woman to serve on the board. For the second time a NASCAR stock car is created with a Kentucky Derby theme and is featured on Sterling Marlin's Coors Light Dodge - this follows the 1999 NASCAR stock car featuring the 125th Derby logo driven by Jeremy Mayfield. Just two days before the Derby a federal judge ruled on Thursday to allow jockeys the right to wear advertising in the Kentucky Derby and on race day, the Kentucky Racing Authority broadened the ruling to include all jockeys racing in Kentucky. For the first time in over 20 years (1983), the Kentucky Derby winner, Smarty Jones, was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Pick Six records for the CD Pick Six were set on May 6 for largest one-day betting, $2,035, 975 and total pool, $2,891,517.85. Sunday, May 30, severe weather prompted officials to cancel racing after four races - the six cancelled races were held during the meet. Colonial Colony (62-1) pulled an upset in the $750,000 Grade I Stephen Foster. Ken & Sarah Ramsey win the Spring Meet title and set the record for most career CD owner titles - 10. Personal Seat Licenses for 3,118 seats are offered for the first time in track history as 30-year-licenses ranging between $18,000 and $75,000 are sold and provide license holders the right to purchase tickets to the Kentucky Oaks, Derby and Breeders' Cup. A storm caused a power outage that forced Trackside Louisville to close for two days, July 14-15. On Sept. 1, CDI officials announced hat an agreement had been made for the purchase of the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, LA for a price of $47 million. Three lower floors of the $121 million renovation project are opened for the track's Fall Meet and provided the fans a sneak preview of the final project to be opened the Spring 2005. A Super Sized Sixth Race Superfecta was offered each day during the Fall and provided bettors with a guaranteed minimum pool of $100,000. On Sunday, Nov. 7, following track officials offer to settle a dispute over personal accident insurance; track officials banned 15 jockeys for the remainder of the Fall Meet after they refused to accept mounts. An international simulcast distribution agreement is made between CDI and Magna Entertainment Corp. that will distribute race signals, including the Kentucky Oaks and Derby, to Europe through Magna's Austrian subsidiary, MEC Sport and Entertainment - outlets are in Great Britain, Ireland, Austria and Germany.
2005 - The Kentucky Derby purse was doubled to a record $2 million guaranteed minimum gross, the first purse increase since 1996...Stakes purses rose to a record $10 million...An outbreak of equine strangles, a bacterial infection of the lymph nodes, forces the quarantine of two barns at the Trackside Training Center...Churchill Downs, and other Kentucky tracks, increased medical insurance coverage for injured jockeys to $1 million from the previous sum of $100,000...Churchill's sweeping $121 million renovations are unveiled to the public as the track opens its 131st Spring Meet on April 30...NBC-Sports, in its final year of a five-year-agreement, renews to televise the Derby for an additional five years...Digital scales are used for the first time at the Downs to weigh jockeys prior and after races...The Kentucky Oaks sets a record with a crowd of 111,243....Giacomo wins the Derby at 50-1 as second biggest win payoff in Derby history ($102.60) with a crowd of 156,435, the second largest in race history on hand...During the Spring Meet an outbreak of equine herpes forces the quarantine of approximately 100 horses at the Downs...A May 7 stewards ruling fines three jockeys for wearing unapproved advertising during the Derby...Trainer Joe Woodard sets a Downs record with ten consecutive victories at the track...CDI completes the sale of Hollywood Park in September for a price of $257.5 million...The original 1969 Kentucky Derby trophy is purchased by an individual in a public auction for $60,000 - it marked the first time a Derby trophy had been auctioned since 1951...The Spring Meet, the first full meet in the newly renovated Downs, ended with gains in attendance, 10% and wagering, 12%...All simulcast operations were moved back to Churchill Downs from Trackside, marking the first time off-season simulcast wagering was held at Churchill since 1992 ...Churchill's all-time leading rider Pat Day retired in August...Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast forcing the closing of the Fair Grounds and its OTB outlets...Churchill introduced the Fanta-Bet in Nov. - a $20 wager in which players received a "fantasy" $1,000 to wager the races, with the winner determined by the player with the highest fantasy winnings at meet's end...A tornado struck Ellis Park on Nov. 6 with the death of three horses, total loss of 11 barns and heavy damage to the grandstand terrace...The Downs carded its first-ever "Stars of Tomorrow" race card during the Fall Meet featuring only races for 2-year-olds...Churchill Downs President Steve Sexton is called to testify before US Congressional subcommittee concerning health care issues relating to jockeys in the racing industry...A Churchill record nine-day pick six carryover pool grew to $1,694,336.41 and included records for total pool $5,698,493, and largest one-day wagering of $4,004,157 it was hit on Nov. 19...Riding legend Gary Stevens retires from racing after making his final ride at the Downs on Nov. 26...A Dec. 28 announcement confirmed that racing would be held at Ellis Park in 2006 with an abbreviated 36-day meet.
2006— Robert L. Evans was appointed Churchill Downs Incorporated President and CEO on Aug. 14 following the retirement of Thomas H. Meeker, who led the company for 22 years…The Rolling Stones, the legendary rock and roll band, performed the biggest concert in Churchill Downs’ history with approximately 43,000 fans on hand with seats ranging from $60 to $300… Louisville-based Yum! Brands Inc., the world’s largest restaurant company, became the first-ever presenting sponsor of the $2 million Kentucky Derby, which generated record all-sources wagering of $118,426,874 and a crowd of 157,536, the second-highest in Derby history…The Breeders’ Cup World Championships made a record sixth appearance at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4, with 75,132 in attendance, the third largest total in the event’s history…The start of a new Kentucky Derby tradition began as the winning owner, trainer and jockey of the 132nd Derby received collegiate-style rings made of white and yellow gold with a replica of the Derby trophy framed by a horseshoe affixed atop a black onyx stone… Churchill Downs executives opened the NASDAQ stock exchange live from the racetrack during special televised ceremonies to commemorate the start of Derby Week 2006…Pat Day, the all-time winningest jockey at the Downs was immortalized with a larger than life-size statue placed in the track’s paddock gardens on opening day of the Fall Meet…The Post Position Draw for the Kentucky Derby was held at Fourth Street Live, an entertainment district in downtown Louisville, marking the first time the event was held outside of the grounds…A non-denominational chapel, built at a cost of $630,000 from donations from the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America, opened in the barn area for horsemen and stable area workers…Purse money was paid for all contestants in Churchill stakes events, except the Derby, with sixth place through last each receiving one percent of the purse…The Fall Meet ushered in a 72-hour entry schedule as horsemen entered for race three-days in advance…Julien Leparoux won the Spring Meet title and became the first apprentice rider to win a Downs riding crown since Jerry West in the 1949 Spring Meet…A record $10.7 million in stakes were offered during the Spring and Fall Meets with a total of 47 events…The Fall Meet ushered in the wireless age for patrons as select areas of the track offered wireless access for fans personal computers…Churchill Downs’ parent company completed the sale of Ellis Park to Kentucky businessman Ron Geary in September and in December announced plans to sell Hoosier Park at Anderson to the Indiana-based Centaur Inc.…
2007 - Churchill Downs announced a record $11.3 million stakes schedule for its 2007 Spring and Fall racing meets, including purse increases for 13 individual stakes events... 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was euthanized on Jan. 29 at the New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania following an injury in the 2006 Preakness Stakes and a lengthy battle with laminitis... In March 2007, Churchill Downs Incorporated announced a series of agreements with Magna Entertainment Corp., including the launching of joint simulcast distribution platform TrackNet Media and the purchase of a 50-percent interest in horse racing TV channel HRTV... An on-site quarantine and isolation facility was created in the Churchill Downs stable area in March to benefit foreign horsemen wishing to ship their Thoroughbreds in to compete in the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and other races at Churchill Downs... An estimated 7,000 Boy Scouts, parents and visitors were welcomed to the Churchill Downs infield in late March for the 50th anniversary celebration of the three-day "Scout-O-Rama" event, the 22nd consecutive year that the event had been held at Churchill Downs... The sale of the Company's remaining 62-percent ownership interest in Anderson, Ind., racetrack Hoosier Park was completed... On April 14, Churchill Downs hosted a first-ever public drawing for reserved seats to the Kentucky Derby, making 1,000 seats in the grandstand and clubhouse available for purchase on a first-come, first-served basis... The Company launched a new advance deposit wagering service, www.twinspires.com... Churchill Downs Incorporated President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Evans ceremoniously opened the NASDAQ Stock Market in New York City on April 25, commemorating the Company's 14th anniversary of trading on the exchange as well as the kickoff of Kentucky Derby week festivities... Churchill Downs set new records for on-track, off-track and all-sources wagering on Kentucky Oaks 133, which was witnessed by the eighth-largest crowd in history and won by post-time favorite and eventual Belmont Stakes (Grade I) winner Rags to Riches... James Tafel's Street Sense rallied from 19th under jockey Calvin Borel to capture the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) for trainer Carl Nafzger before a crowd of 156,635, the third-largest in history... Among the honored guests at Kentucky Derby 133 were Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip in their first visit to the track... Wagering on the Kentucky Derby matched the previous year's records for on-track, off-track and total wagering... Julien Leparoux and Calvin Borel each scored six wins on a single day at Churchill Downs during the Spring Meet, becoming the fifth and sixth riders, respectively, to reach that milestone... Leparoux swept the 2007 riding titles at Churchill Downs, capturing both the Spring and Fall Meet titles, while trainer Steve Asmussen swept the 2007 leading trainer honors and established a record for total victories in the Spring Meet, with 46 wins in the 52-day session... Churchill Downs Incorporated announced the acquisition of AmericaTAB, Bloodstock Research Information Services, and the Thoroughbred Sports Network, including ADW platforms Winticket.com, BrisBET.com and TsnBET.com... Churchill Downs hosted The Police in concert on July 14 in its second major concert event following a successful visit by the Rolling Stones in 2006... Viewers across the country enjoyed a daily televised preview of the Churchill Downs Fall Meet races through "Churchill Downs Today," a new 30-minute show that aired daily during the 21-day Fall Meet and was available on the New York City OTB cable channel, HRTV, and through live streaming on the Churchill Downs Web site... Churchill Downs officials announced that Champions Lounge, the only indoor facility at the track in which smoking had been allowed since the completion of renovations in 2005, would go smoke-free on Nov. 25.