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2018 Update

Kentucky is probably the most recognizable state in the United States associated with horse racing, and with good reason. Kentucky is one of the main reasons that pari-mutual racing is conducted in this country today.

Dating back to pre 1900, Kentucky was one of the few states that held off the moral reform efforts of the early nineteen hundreds, but in 1908 it looked like that would change. In a last ditch effort to save the Kentucky Derby that year, Churchill Downs imported a new system from France which replaced bookmakers with machines that allowed people to bet against each other.

The Pari-Mutual system became the standard in Kentucky. It took away the stigma of race fixing and corruption that was rampant in much of the country before racing was banned. As states begin to see the benefits from racing revenues using this system, racing begin to return across the country.

Kentucky is also known as the horse breeding capital of the world. The most prestigious breeding farms in the world are based in Kentucky, but things might not be that rosy in the Bluegrass State.

In 2012, Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby continue to be the number one event in horse racing in America but without the benefit of racinos other tracks are struggling. Turfway Park is cutting purses and dates. Ellis Park races only three days a week, and the always privately owned track is up for sale.   

2018 Update

With the exception of Miles Park, all other Kentucky tracks still exist, most of them are still running meets. Since the last update the major change in the state was the legalization of historic gaming. Kentucky Downs, Ellis Park and The Red Mile have installed machines at their tracks, while Churchill Downs and Keeneland are looking to open some sort of gaming parlors. Other major events were the closing of Thunder Ridge and the old grandstand being razed at Louisville Downs, which is still used by Churchill Downs for training. The number of races may have gone down but Kentucky thoroughbreds still run the same schedule they did years ago with Turfway, Keeneland and Churchill running split meets with Ellis running one meet in the summer. On the harness side Red Mile, runs mid July through mid September and caps the season with two weeks of Grand Circuit racing into October. The other harness track Bluegrass Downs, runs a short meet in the spring.