Churchill Downs Racetrack is spending $10 million on a new turf course the track said will widen the running surface and “increase the durability” for increased turf racing throughout the year.
The Louisville-based racetrack announced the project Monday and said it will start construction immediately after the conclusion of the 2021 Spring Meet. The new course is slated to open by the start of the 2022 Spring Meet or sooner if growing conditions permit, according to a news release.
Churchill Downs hosts about 700 races annually and roughly 25% of those races are ran on the turf. The Matt Winn Turf Course, a 7/8-mile oval located inside the one-mile dirt track, is the original turf course dating back to grass racing’s debut at Churchill Downs in 1985. It includes a mix of Kentucky 31 fescue and bluegrass grown in a topsoil layer over a 13-inch course masonry sand base.
Churchill Downs said “the new and more robust turf course” will contain a similar blend of fescue and bluegrass and will have a redesigned subsurface. It also will be equipped with a high-end irrigation and drainage system and will be widened to 85 feet “to use the full width and banking in the turns.”
“The new course will provide multiple rail movement options with the capacity to accommodate four racing lanes that range from 0 to 36 feet out and as many as 14 participants per race,” the release said.
Churchill Downs Racetrack hired United Kingdom-based STRI Group to design the new turf course. STRI has designed, constructed, maintained and provided consulting and monitoring services for numerous equine turf surfaces.
Because of this project, Churchill Downs said stabling will be prohibited during July and August and turf racing will not be held during the 2021 September Meet to give the roots time to grow and the turf time to take hold.