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Upside of Churchill Downs

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 9/20/2010 1:13:09 PM

Horse racing’s World Series, Super Bowl and World Cup all wrapped into one will be staged for the 27th time on November 5th and 6th and Churchill Downs will be hosting the event for the 7th time.

Perhaps John Gaines, one of the founding fathers of the series, summed up the event best: Gaines: “Championship day is unquestionably racing’s finest hour. It defines our reason for being and elevates the spirit of an entire industry.”

The concept of the innovators of the extravaganza was to showcase the sport at various venues around the country and they have tried to spread the wealth along those lines but intrinsically, Churchill, which was incorporated in 1937, has always seemed like the natural home for the event.

The first Cup was staged at Hollywood Park in 1984 and it was a coming out party for Classic winner Wild Again and legendary pilot Pat Day. It has been raced in California 7 times since, splitting time between Hollypark and Santa Anita.

New York has seen 5 Cups between Belmont Park and Aqueduct and other stops along the way have been Gulfstream (thrice), and once each at Woodbine, Lone Star, Monmouth Park and Arlington Park.

The Twin Spires is what everybody identifies about Churchill Downs at the Kentucky Derby but the history of the Louisville track is much more than that and as rich with tradition as any track in the world.

The track came to being in 1873 when Lutie Clark, the grandson of Missouri governor and of Lewis and Clark explorer fame William Clark, came up with the concept of a racetrack after several trips to Europe. Two years later, Churchill Downs opened on May 17 in front of a throng estimated at 10,000 and staged the inaugural Kentucky Derby won by world record holder Aristides.

The story of Lutie Clark is not a pretty one. He was once shot in the chest after an argument with a prominent breeder, and Clark himself pulled a rifle on a bartender in Chicago and demanded respect. It all came full circle for Clark in the late 1890s. After reeling from the ravaging of Stock Market losses, and after years of traveling and working as a steward at regional tracks, Clark took his own life before the end of the decade.

This, however ironic, prompted the purchase of the Downs by bookmakers, who built the famed twin spires constructed a betting enclosure that would bring gambling into an entire new arena.

When betting the Cup this year be fully aware of the styles that have been successful at Churchill. In the Distaff and in the Classic tactical speed has been preferred and the trend has continued in the Mile, but if you are best, like War Chant was in 2000, you can come from left field. It has been possible to steal the mile and a half Turf on the front end like Great Communicator did at 12-1 but racing luck is the most important element.

Stalk and pounce types have been the order of the day with Sprint winners at Churchill including the last time when Thor’s Echo sat a perfect 3-hole trip.

The juvenile events have been won by basically lightly-raced runners who could be positioned fairly close to the early action as evidenced by Street Sense in 2006, who had only 4 races before the Cup.

The best thing for bettors about the Cup is that the information will be out there for all to see several days before the event itself.

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