Churchill Downs is situated in Kentucky, Louisville, America. Offically opened in 1875, Churchill Downs was named after John and Henry Churchill, who leased 80 acres (320,000 m²) of land to their nephew, Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr.
Clark designed his three major stakes races, the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Clark Handicap, after the three premier races in England, the Epsom Derby, Epsom Oaks and St. Leger Stakes, respectively. These events have each been held continuously at Churchill since their debut in 1875.
Racing at Churchill Downs occurs in two meets. The spring meet starts one week before the Derby and continues until early July. The Kentucky Derby is held the first Saturday in May and the Kentucky Oaks is run on Friday, the day before the Derby. A fall meet picks up in late October and closes Thanksgiving weekend in late November.
The Kentucky Derby is a Grade 1 thoroughbred race for three year-old horses, the highlight of the Kentucky Derby Festival. The race is run over one and a quarter miles (2 km).
The race is known in America as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” for its approximate duration, and is also called “The Run for the Roses” for the blanket of roses draped over the winner. It is the first leg of the United States of America Triple Crown and is followed by the Preakness Stakes then the Belmont Stakes .
Produced annually since 1956, the Derby Festival has become a whirlwind of 70 special events. The Festival includes several formal affairs, as well a casual, foot-stomping good times. More than just entertaining, the Derby Festival generates over $93 million annually for the local economy. Festival events also raise nearly $300,000 for area charities each year.