Designed and influenced by the Epsom Derby race course in the south of England is Churchill Downs the home of the famed Kentucky Derby. There is the Kentucky Derby Museum with interactive exhibits as well a panoramic movie that follows a new born thorough bred foal to the greatest two minutes on earth.
Located in horse country near the city of Louisville this is a spectacular insight into horse racing. The pavilion has plaques that document each year and it’s winner. You can’t help but look for your significant birth years and see if you recognise the name. Being from the UK it was a long shot to be honest.
I was not with the family but a small group of invited travel professionals and journalists and it had been arranged for us to have breakfast outside on the roof of the pavilion overlooking the track. We were hosted by a local guide who absolutely knew everything about the course and it’s history. The horses are stabled at the far end of the circuit and come out at set times onto the sand track. Some horses are running along side older, more mature companions to try and keep their high spirits in check and to teach them the etiquette of the race course. All the horses go around clockwise on the outer rails because horses being put through their paces take the inside track anti-clockwise.
In the stands (bleachers) there are people with stop watches who keenly watch for rising stars of the future and apparently they report back to betting rings (correct me here) so that the horse’s reputation builds and keen gamblers get in the know.
We went down to the stands to get up close to the rails and fed an older horse some mints. Up close they aren’t very big and their hooves are really small.
Back in the Museum I got dressed (rather ill fitting) as a jockey and sat on a mannequin horse in a starting gate. The shop was interesting to browse and it is amazing what can become a horse theme.
As a souvenir we each given a horse shoe which is to displayed with open ends upwards for good luck.
A wonderful insight to a different world and well off the beaten track.