CHURCHILL DOWNS - 2003 Louisville, KY
Our morning started with an early breakfast in the Churchill Downs track kitchen. As we ate, we watched the trainers and exercise riders on the track working with the horses. We were on an optional tour of the Great North American RV Rally.
The kitchen was next to the track and the adjacent patio provided convenient photo opportunities.
All riders must wear a helmet and safety vest.
They have two tracks - one sand, one grass. The sand track is groomed with big equipment. The people on foot in the background walk the grass track each morning looking for debris, horse shoes and holes. Twelve people walk it shoulder to shoulder for a final inspection before horses are allowed to run on it.
Each track selects its own mixture of sand, clay and other material for the composition of their track. This track is primarily sand, with a small amount of silt and 3% of it is clay.
The security towers surrounding Churchill Downs were the first things pointed out to us. These were installed after 9-11 and are manned 24/7.
The view across the race track of the grandstand was impressive. The signature Twin Spires show up well.
The stables can house 1,400 horses. On the walking tour of the shed rows, we learned about the training process of thoroughbreds.
One resident thoroughbred horse is very gentle and extremely photogenic - Earth Shattering. He, affectionately dubbed "Bubba", is used for the visitors who want to be near and even touch a horse. However, he refused to smile.
A veterinarian is on call at all times. This horse had a sore ankle. The vets emergency vehicle is a pickup truck loaded with supplies and equipment. According to our guide, when the horses are on the track, there are two ambulances on site, one for the animals and another for humans.
After breakfast and an interesting time in the working area of Churchill Downs, we boarded the tour bus for a short ride to the front of the track and the museum.
The backside of the grandstand is an interesting view.
Walking through the building toward the track, the first thing you notice is some of the 1,500 betting windows - a very important part of horse racing.
Ticket prices are very different on Kentucky Derby day than the remainder of the year. We are in the cheap seats - these Derby backless bench seats are $90. For other races during the year, seats are $2. Our guide only said the corporate suites were "very" expensive.
The best seats are close to the finish posts.
The winners circle on the left and on the in-field is used only for the Kentucky Derby. The one on the right is used for all other races.
That long history of Churchill Downs is reference throughout the grounds.
The museum is entered
through a starting gate.
Funny Cyde, the 2003 Derby winner, is honored as you enter the museum.
The museum is a great collection of Kentucky Derby history. The collectable Mint Julep glasses and hats are great traditions.
One neat feature of the museum is a 360 degree photo screen. The presentation is worth the 15 minutes of your time. The little screens below the large screens are the projectors for the screens across the room. You may prefer to stand during the show so you can turn easily with the action.
We found the special tour of the rear stable area as interesting, if not more, than the regular museum tour of the front part of Churchill Downs.
We are usually in the area for Derby Week visiting with family. It was good to see first hand the areas talked about so much during television coverage of the week's events.
Great North American RV Rally - 2003
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