Churchill Downs Racecourse was built to rival England’s Epsom Downs and would also host an equivalent race to the Epsom Derby. The idea was the brainchild of Colonel Meriweather Lewis Clark who had visited Epsom in 1873.
Within two years of his return, Churchill Downs was underway and it hosted its first Kentucky Derby two years later. See Kentucky Derby history.
These days Churchill Downs is the most recognisable of all US Race tracks, with the twin spires sitting on top of the Grandstand it has become an unmistakeable symbol of top quality US racing. The race course is much more than just a race track as it accommodates many other facilities including a museum and an off track betting and training facilty known as Trackside, Louisville.
Churchill Downs has two tracks, one turf and one dirt. The turf track is an oval shape of just under 8 furlongs in length, while the Dirt track, also oval shaped, is bigger, covering a mile and an eighth. The Kentucky Derby is run on the dirt track.