We went to Churchill Downs, and took the back track tour. There’s a front track tour that’s included in the admission price, but to cause more money to depart from your wallet, they charge if you want a chance to get a look at the training stables.
I thought this was pretty interesting. They use 100,000 gallons of water, per day, to water the track so the 3.5 inch top layer stays soft. Under the sand is concrete, so they have to keep the top layer watered and groomed so the horses don’t ruin their legs. (Not that it doesn’t happen anyway) The regular winners circle and the press area where they display the horses before the races is lined with recycled tires, which again is a softer surface for the horses’ legs. There are schooling stalls in the display area to get young horses accustomed to the noise and commotion.
For the back track tour, we climbed into a van and headed through an underground tunnel to the inside of the track. On Derby Day, they sell 100,000 $40 tickets, and have a huge party on the interior of the track! Most of the people in there can’t even see the horses run! They just go for the party. Personally, I don’t want to pay 40 bucks to be packed like a sardine into a small area with 100,000 of my closest friends!
The barn area was interesting. There is a school for anyone who wants to go that is staffed by volunteers for the people working on the track. There are free dorm rooms, too. Some of the barns have small apartments above them. The trainers lease out the barns, and they charge an average of 3,000 per horse per month for training. (And I thought Blondie was expensive!!) Some of the trainers have leased the same barns for decades! During the racing season, there are about 1400 horses stabled at the tracks. During the off season (now), there are only about 1000. We missed the morning warm ups, which would have been interesting, and during race season, the tour group can see the races start from the stable area. Missed out again!