Horse racing in North America is a huge “money-gathering” industry, worth tens of millions of dollars. North American race horses usually start running when they are only 2 years old.
The biggest tournaments in North America are Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. These three tournaments are only for 3-year-old horses, collectively known as “The Triple Crown”.
So far only 12 horses have won all three tournaments in a year. These are Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973) , Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978) and American Pharoah (2015).
Horse racing in Kentucky is rich in history, dating back to 1789 when the first racing course was held in Lexington. However, it was nearly 100 years later, in 1875, that Churchill Downs officially opened and began its tradition with the name “Home of the Kentucky Derby”.
The establishment of Churchill Downs was started in 1872, when Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark came to England and France in 1872. Clark attended the Epsom Derby in England, arousing his ambition to create a horse racing event. similar in America. Upon returning, Clark began to develop the race with the intention of introducing Kentucky’s livestock industry and eventually became known as “Churchill Downs”.
Churchill Downs spread over 147 acres with the most important structure being the Twin Spires, an architectural feature that sits atop the stands and has become a globally recognized symbol for Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby. The tower was designed by architect Joseph Dominic Baldez and was built in 1895 – always shining on the world’s most legendary race track.
Churchill Downs had the first official race day to open on May 17, 1875. In this first tournament, Meriwether Lewis Clark created three major races – Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Clark Handicap. They are modeled after the top three races in England – Epsom Derby, Epsom Oaks and St. Leger Stakes. Today, Churchill Downs is owned and operated by Churchill Downs Incorporated and currently holds the record for the most continuous sports event in the United States. In 1875, the race to open the race had nearly 10,000 spectators and set the stage for an annual festival now recognized worldwide with the record participation of more than 170,000 people.