Kentucky Horse Racing, Now and Then

By: Casey Wheeless Email
By: Casey Wheeless Email
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Kentucky horse racing is arguably the best in the world, for more than 2 centuries thoroughbreds have been raised in the Bluegrass to compete for millions of dollars.

In this image released by HBO, horses race in a scene from the HBO original series "Luck." The former director of the American Humane Association's Film and Television Unit sued HBO and the group on Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, claiming she was fired for complaining about the use of drugged, sick and underweight horses on the show "Luck." (AP Photo/HBO, Gusmano Cesaretti)

"Kentucky is really having a hard time with its thoroughbred industry, Florida is having even more of a difficult time. It's frankly a difficult time for most venues in the thoroughbred horse industry."

Kentucky-Kentucky horse racing is arguably the best in the world, for more than 2 centuries thoroughbreds have been raised in the Bluegrass to compete for millions of dollars.

As the annual run for the roses approaches we took a look back in time to how racing has changed through the years.

It only takes 2 miles for a half ton horse to reach 40 miles per hour, sometimes all four legs leave the ground, making the horse literally fly through the course, a spectacle many say is breathtaking.

It all started in 1873 when Colonel M. Lewis Clark devised the idea of a Louisville jockey club.

Clark started a racetrack to showcase the Kentucky breeding industry.

It wasn't until 1937 the track was incorporated as Churchill Downs now the track is known for hosting the famous Kentucky Derby.

The most exciting two minutes in sports, having a horse in the Derby is what every horse owner hopes for local attorney Gary Logsdon knows that feeling.

"Teufelsberg was a very interesting horse," says Logsdon," I had a couple partners in the horse, Kurt Maier, from Bowling Green, and as was Tyler Thompson, and we all had a glorious time at the Derby."

"Teufelsberg ran an extremely impressive race at the top of the stretch," says Logsdon, "He folded his competitive spirit and coasted home 17th."

"Kentucky is the horse breeding capital of the world, Florida may argue but, the reason for that is the quality of the environment and the water quality as well as the soils in Kentucky. "

Logsdon says the calcium in the water makes for strong, fast horses.

He no longer owns horses, but he says the racing industry isn't what it used to be. "Kentucky is really having a hard time with its thoroughbred industry, Florida is having even more of a difficult time. It's frankly a difficult time for most venues in the thoroughbred horse industry."

He says competition with other forms of gambling such as casinos or "racinos" are making it difficult.

While casino style gambling is not legal in the Bluegrass, Kentucky Downs in Franklin is getting close.

Bill Flesher, Vice President of Development at Kentucky Downs says Instant Racing has transformed the track.

"Kentucky Downs was founded as a steeple chase race track back in the 1990's it has morphed into a thoroughbred racing only track and the only track to feature all turf, there is not dirt track," says Flesher.

While Kentucky Downs may be the shortest stop in the Kentucky racing circuit, what's happening inside Kentucky Down's clubhouse is really boosting business.

"Instant Racing arrived at Kentucky Downs on September one of 2001, Kentucky Downs has expanded to 390 terminals up from the original 200 terminals," says Flesher.

It is a form of virtual racing, where you can bet on races that have already been run.

While it has caused some controversy there is no denying its success.

"It's a product that has gained wide acceptance within the area," says Flesher, "and it's a product that's really increasing our racing product in it's increasing purses and breeding funds that should enhance our live race meet when it comes back in September."

Making Kentucky Downs more than just a race track.

"Instant Racing has transformed Kentucky Downs," he says, "we were a sleepy little race track that had five days of racing a year, simulcasting a little bit of food and drink and now we're an entertainment destination."

For Logsdon, he no longer races horses but he says it's something he will never forget.

"I owned a farm in Florida in O'Calla, I now own no farm and no horses, I'm too old for all that excitement," he says.

For those of you not able to make it to Louisville for Saturday's race, Kentucky Downs will be opening its doors both Saturday and Sunday for simulcasting and celebration.

Logsdon's horse Teufelsberg is now a top stud in New York.


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