‘It will always be here’: Horse racing fans take to Churchill Downs for last spring races

Hundreds of horse racing fans head to Churchill Downs for the last races of the Spring Meet despite safety concerns.
Published: Jun. 4, 2023 at 11:37 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - After a string of horse deaths at Churchill Downs, the rest of the track’s Spring Meet will be ran somewhere else.

12 horses have died since March 30th, and they’ve been working for weeks to figure out the cause.

On Friday, they decided to move the rest of the races.

The races will continue at Ellis Park in Henderson, but that didn’t stop fans from checking out the last day at Churchill.

The last day of racing at Churchill Downs brought a lot of mixed emotions for fans.

For some, they were just excited to be a part of the last day. For others, a big part of their lives is now on hold.

“It’s very big for people who love horse racing in Louisville,” horse racing fan Grace Knopp said. “It’s a very big deal.”

Sunday wasn’t just an abrupt end to a season at Churchill for Knopp, but it’s the beginning of a seismic change.

Knopp said she goes to the track weekly and lives for the experience.

“It’s just a natural thing if you’re from Louisville or around here,” Knopp said. “It’s a natural pastime, we love it. It’s what people here do. We wait for it, live for it, and Derby time in the past, it’s just what we do. And now that we don’t have it, what do you do?”

Churchill’s decision to shut down for the spring season brought out different reactions from fans.

“I’m really surprised that Churchill would go to that length,” Knopp said. “I know horse safety is important, however, I know things happen but I just hate to see them go. I just hate it.”

“I think it’s a good decision to close it down and figure out what’s going on,” David and Delaney Ploskunak said. “I heard they’re going to do some research on the track and just find out what’s going on to see why these animals get injured or pass away.”

Ploskunak said he and his daughter are from Pittsburgh and that they panicked when they realized Sunday was the last day of racing at Churchill. So, they decided to make a day out of it.

Tim Carroll also heard about Churchill closing and traveled from South Bend, Indiana to attend, but was a little foggy at the location.

“So we drove all the way over to Ellis Park this morning and there’s nothing going on over there and the girl said that they’re still running at Churchill Downs, so we drove here and got here for the fifth race,” Carroll said.

The move shows a major dedication to experiencing the nostalgia and aura around Churchill Downs.

Something Carroll doesn’t feel will go away any time soon.

“I mean it’s a great sport, it’s the sport of kings. It will always be here,” Carroll said.

Racing will begin at Ellis Park on Saturday, June 10th.