After Tornado Damage, Churchill Downs Is Back to the Races

  • Share
  • Read Later
John Gress / Reuters

Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby, is used to some swift horses. But it must have felt like the thundering hooves of the horsemen of the Apocalypse on Wednesday, when a tornado touched down on the historic track.

Fortunately, however, the storm, which included a confirmed tornado with winds of 105 mph, did not leave any dead as it ripped off sections of roofs and turned cinderblock walls to rubble. And on Friday, the racetrack decided to go ahead with its planned racing night.

(PHOTOS: The Weirdest Kentucky Derby Hats)

“We’re going to celebrate the fact that we’re still here,” racetrack president Kevin Flanery told Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer as they toured areas of the track. “This is really a testament to all the people on the backside that have gotten on their boots, gotten back on the horse and said ‘let’s do this.’”

The tornado struck the stable area just after 8 p.m. That area houses about 1,500 people and 1,400 horses, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper. Around 100 people took shelter in a tunnel that connects the stable area to the infield. A charity poker tournament going on in the grandstand also was swiftly evacuated into underground tunnels, the paper reported.

“We kind of got a warning when it hit the ground,” Track spokesman John Asher told the Herald-Leader.

Fortunately for Derby lovers, the track’s famous grandstand, with its iconic Twin Spires, was unscathed. And as it has for many years, the racing at Churchill Downs will go on. It takes more than high water, it seems, to dampen Kentucky’s love of thoroughbred racing. As Flanery said: “We’re here, we’re ready to race.”—Via

PHOTOS: A Brief History of the Kentucky Derby