There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes on to make an event like the Kentucky Derby come together so perfectly. In fact, we’re covering the story of David Lehr, the track superintendent at Churchill Downs, just in time for the 2015 race. Here’s a few facts about the famous racetrack to get you ready for the action on May 2.

  • The famed racetrack, which opened in 1875, has hosted 140 Kentucky Derbies and eight Breeders’ Cups.
  • Churchill Downs features a near-mile-long dirt track and near-mile-long turf course.
  • The “dirt” is comprised of 75 percent sand, 22 percent silt and 3 percent clay. This precise combination of materials helps the track drain well.
  • The turf course is comprised of tall fescue, which holds up well to the battering of horse hooves. The turf is mowed at a 3-inch height with commercial-grade mowers in the off-season and at 4.5 inches when racing.
  • Once upon a time at Churchill Downs, races were only scheduled for 19 days in the spring and 19 days in the fall. Now spring racing begins in April and runs through June. The track is closed until racing starts up again in September and continues through Thanksgiving.

(This post was originally published on March 27, 2015.)