This Week In Conversation: Amid A Pandemic and Protests, The 146th Kentucky Derby Tuesday, Sep 1 2020 

It’s 2020. Which means that everything is weird or different.  That includes the Kentucky Derby.

Which is why it’s on the first Saturday in September this year, instead of May.

It also means that there will be more jockeys, owners, trainers, staff and media on hand than spectators to watch the famous Run for the Roses because no fans will be allowed in due to COVID-19 concerns.

So, on this week’s In Conversation we’re talking about the Kentucky Derby, just not in the same way. 

We discuss the racial justice protests that are scheduled to take place on Derby Day despite the lack of visitors and spectators, and the history of civil disobedience at big events like the Derby.

And there will be racing, of course, so we discuss the art of handicapping and which horses are predicted to win, place or show, and how the coronavirus pandemic has affected racing.

Listen to the show:

Tiz The Law Is The Favorite In A Kentucky Derby Field Of 18 Tuesday, Sep 1 2020 


The post positions and early odds are set for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

An 18-horse field will be led by early favorite Tiz the Law, with 3-5 odds. The colt, trained by Barclay Tagg, won the Belmont Stakes in June. The Belmont is usually the third and final jewel in racing’s Triple Crown series, but the order of the races was changed this year because of COVID-19.

Tiz the Law will start from post position 17, with jockey Manny Franco in the saddle. The number 17 spot has never produced a Derby winner.


Gamine Is The Early Kentucky Oaks Favorite Monday, Aug 31 2020 


The post positions are set for the 146th running of the Kentucky Oaks.

Ten fillies are in the field for Friday’s race, which will be run without spectators at Churchill Downs.

The early Oaks favorite, at 1-1 odds, is Gamine, with jockey John Velazquez aboard.  She’ll run from the fifth post position. Gamine is trained by Hall of Famer and three-time Oaks winner Bob Baffert.


Churchill Downs Launches Contest for Kentucky Derby’s First-Ever “Official Menu Taste Tester” Friday, Jan 31 2020 

Winning Derby Party Recipe Will Send One Foodie on a Trip to Louisville to Help Curate the Official Menu of the 146th Kentucky Derby

LOUISVILLE KY (January 28, 2020) — The race for a Triple Crown-worthy foodie is on! Churchill Downs Racetrack announced today its search for one passionate foodie to receive the honorary title of ‘Official Menu Taste Tester of the 146th Kentucky Derby.’ Now through February 12 the first 100 culinary connoisseurs to share their favorite original Derby party recipe will have the chance to join Churchill Downs’ Executive Chef David Danielson in the iconic racetrack’s kitchen to finalize this year’s Official Menu that will be served to thousands. To enter to win, please visit

The winner of this unique gourmet getaway will be awarded a trip to Louisville with a guest in March 2020 to learn the secrets behind Danielson’s Southern specialties, tasting their way through fresh takes on classic Kentucky fare to help select the final dishes for this year’s official Derby menu. The experience also includes dining vouchers to discover Louisville’s best restaurants and tickets to the 146th Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve on May 2, 2020 to see the official menu come to life.

“The Kentucky Derby is more than just the greatest two minutes in sports – it’s a celebration of authentic Kentucky flavors, ingredients and traditions, both at Churchill Downs and across the country as viewers celebrate at home,” said Chef Danielson. “I’m excited to bring in the culinary expertise of a passionate foodie to add a special twist to this year’s menu and our culinary traditions.”

Enthusiastic foodies who are 21 or older and a resident of the 48 contiguous U.S. can enter by completing the online entry form and submitting their favorite original Derby party recipe. Chef Danielson will select the ‘Official Menu Taste Tester’ and winning recipe based on three key “ingredients:” creativity, ease of preparation and consistency with the Derby party theme.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.  Contest submission begins on 1/28/2020 at 12:00:01 a.m. ET and ends on 2/12/2020 at 11:59:59 p.m. ET or when 100 submissions have been received, whichever occurs first.  Open only to legal U.S. residents residing in the 48 contiguous U.S. & D.C. who are 21 years of age or older and who have not been convicted of a felony or any crime of moral turpitude or have been prohibited/excluded from gambling in any state or jurisdiction. Transportation to/from the Kentucky Derby in May is the sole responsibility of the winner. See Official Rules at for additional eligibility restrictions, prize descriptions/restrictions and complete details. Void in AK, HI and where prohibited.  Sponsor:  Churchill Downs Racetrack, LLC.

The post Churchill Downs Launches Contest for Kentucky Derby’s First-Ever “Official Menu Taste Tester” appeared first on Louisville KY.

Churchill Downs To Add Hotel, Gaming Parlor Near Track’s First Turn Wednesday, Oct 30 2019 

Churchill Downs has announced at major expansion project at the home of the Kentucky Derby.

The investment of more than $300 million will include a 156-room hotel, a gaming facility for historical racing machines and new stadium seating, all near the track’s first turn.

Construction is expected to begin in December and be completed at the end of 2021, pending approval of incentives by the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority.

A news release did not indicate how much they were expecting in state incentives. But state tourism records show a $200 million project by the Churchill Downs Racetrack LLC received preliminary approval in August for a $50 million “eligible refund” under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act.

Churchill Downs says in the release that it will also spend $11 million to renovate the track’s sixth floor Millionaire’s Row. The space will feature private dining rooms, lounge seating and a speakeasy bourbon room.

Company officials say the seven-story hotel will feature suites overlooking the track and a gaming floor that will house 900 historical racing machines. Also called instant racing machines, the devices work like traditional slots but are differentiated by the game’s odds: when they take their turn, bettors are technically wagering on old races.

The new covered stadium seating for 4,700 people will replace the temporary grandstands in the area that are used for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby.

Churchill Downs says the project will create some 600 construction jobs and 300 new permanent jobs at the facility.

These Details About Kentucky Race Horse Deaths Were Secret, Until Now Friday, Jun 28 2019 

In most other major racing states, officials readily share names and details of the thoroughbred race horses that die after racing-related injuries.

Now, Kentucky has taken a step toward greater transparency and joined those states, in the wake of a Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting story about the state’s secrecy, and an appeal to the state attorney general.

Provided by Bill Willoughby

Kinley Karole, a 3 yo filly, was euthanized at Churchill Downs this May during her first race.

This week, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission gave KyCIR a list of the names of the dead race horses since 2010, along with the tracks where they last raced, the dates they died or were euthanized and details about the horse’s injury.

The commission has withheld other details it keeps in its internal data, such as a horse’s age at death, owners and trainers. The horse racing commission has cited a law about competitive disadvantages in denying access to some of these details.behind the data,

Using the new information from the state and publicly available racing data, we’ve created our own database: the most comprehensive information we can find on Kentucky thoroughbred horse racing deaths.

The below data is downloadable, and compiled from state data and Equibase searches. It does not include fatalities that occurred during training or related to injuries sustained in training.

If you see a story idea in here, we’d love to hear it. Contact reporter Caitlin McGlade at (502) 814-6541 or

Don’t miss a thing: sign up for KyCIR’s newsletter.

The post These Details About Kentucky Race Horse Deaths Were Secret, Until Now appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

With Race Horse Deaths Under Scrutiny, Kentucky Keeps Details Secret Tuesday, Jun 4 2019 


A still image from a video of Kinley Karole’s first, and last, race on May 16, 2019. The filly was euthanized.

It was Kinley Karole’s first race, ever.

On a Thursday nearly two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, the crowd at Churchill Downs was sparse. The 3-year-old filly came out of the gate slow. For the first minute, she trailed far behind the pack.

When she started to catch up, her back leg snapped.

Dennis Trusty, a regular bettor at Churchill Downs, lurched away from his spot close to the rail, punched a wall and stormed down to the paddock. Too painful to watch.

He was certain the filly would be euthanized from the way her leg bent backwards.

“I knew what happened; it’s just I wanted to be sure what happened,” he said.

He scanned social media, checked industry blogs. Nothing.

If Kinley Karole had died in other states with major races, her death would become public record. Officials from California, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland and New York share which horses die, where and when. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission largely keeps that secret, saying state law protects the business interests of their trainers and owners.

The Courier-Journal in March reported that 43 thoroughbreds had died at Churchill Downs since 2016. Last month, The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting requested records that would further detail the circumstances of those deaths: race horse necropsies filed by veterinarians, and data the state submits to an industry database that tracks race horse death and injuries.

The commission refused to release the data, calling the submissions “drafts,” which would exempt them from disclosure under Kentucky’s Open Records Act. The commission also said state law makes veterinarians’ relationships with clients confidential.

Officials did agree to release the death reports, which include medical descriptions of the horses’ problems and the track conditions. But the commission redacted other key information: name, age, sex, time and date of death, race number, the track name and the owner’s name.

Shawn Chapman, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s deputy general counsel, cited a Kentucky state law that protects competitive information from disclosure in refusing to turn over details from the necropsies.

He said releasing that information could put trainers and owners at a competitive disadvantage. He declined to answer additional questions.

Susan West, a spokesperson for the Public Protection Cabinet, which oversees the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said in an emailed statement that other states keep the names of injured and dead horses confidential too. She did not specify which states.

West also noted that the agency will confirm the deaths of specific horses when asked; she confirmed that Kinley Karole died after that race at Churchill Downs last month.

But the horse racing commission’s position on open records makes it harder for the public to hold accountable some of the racing industry’s biggest players, said Amye Bensenhaver, with the Kentucky Open Government Coalition.

“In establishing these impediments to access, they are tipping the balance in favor of the industry rather than the public’s right to know,” Bensenhaver said.

New York, home of the Belmont Stakes, takes the opposite approach.

When New York-based trainer Robert Barbara’s horse, Tommy T, died at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, the details were entered into a publicly available database maintained by the New York State Gaming Commission.

The database says Tommy T broke a leg bone on January 27 and was euthanized on the track.

Barbara told KyCIR that he doesn’t feel at a disadvantage simply because anyone can go online and see how many of his horses died or got injured in New York.

Besides Tommy T, Barbara has lost two other horses since 2016 and had a few others that incurred injuries.

“If it’s out there, it’s out there,” Barbara said. “If people go to the internet and see this stuff, and see that I’ve had five horses break down in two years or whatever, and another guy that has the same record as me never had a horse break down, will it mean something to somebody? I guess. Does it bother me? No, it doesn’t. It is what it is.”

In Other States, Horse Fatality Details Freely Shared

A spate of deaths at Santa Anita Park in California recently sparked widespread scrutiny on fatalities and health impacts of various drugs administered to race horses.

Track fatalities in Kentucky are on the rise: they nearly doubled from 23 in 2017 to 38 in 2018, according to statistics in veterinary reports obtained through a public records request.

Mary Scollay, the racing commission’s equine medical director, declined an interview with KyCIR. She instead asked for emailed questions but did not respond.

In February, Scollay told the Paulick Report, a race industry trade publication, that she couldn’t find much that stuck out about the horses that died.

She noted the only commonality among the dead was their age: the horses dying are younger than usual.

The age group most at risk for fatal injuries is shifting to 2 and 3-year-olds rather than 3 and 4-year-olds, according to the Paulick Report story. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission blacked out the ages of the horses that died in the records provided to KyCIR.

The public should be able to independently look for trends, Bensenhaver said.

“We have to have access to these records to enable us to assess at every level how these responsibilities are being discharged; how seriously [state officials] are undertaking this effort to expose what the problem is.”

Officials from other major racing states interviewed by KyCIR all said basic details and the identities of horses that die are not confidential.

A spokesman for Maryland’s racing commission handed over a list of all horse racing deaths in 2018, with dates, locations, injury types and horse names, after a phone call. An official from California, too, quickly turned over names of the dead from Santa Anita Park.

The spokesman said names and dates of death at other tracks, as long as the deaths were not under investigation, would be available after submitting a public records request.

In Arkansas, a state official with the Arkansas Racing Commission said the agency would share the details, although they didn’t respond to a public records request prior to publication.

Several state officials remarked that they release details because they value transparency.

“Absolutely. we’re 100 percent transparent when it comes to the information … Horse name, trainer, the track, what kind of race …. It should be made public,” said Mickey Ezzo, projects manager for the Illinois Racing Commission.

A spokesman from New York’s gaming commission, which launched its injury and death database in 2009, wrote in an email that the racing community widely accepts the transparency.

Officials from other states said they seldom hear complaints for sharing.

“Not one,” said Ezzo, from the Illinois Racing Commission. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and never gotten any complaints from horsemen when that information was released to the public.”

The Jockey Club, which is the thoroughbred breed registry for thoroughbreds in North America, encourages race tracks to post their death and injury statistics. Only Keeneland and Turfway Park in Kentucky share their statistics; Churchill Downs does not. A Churchill Downs spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

Jockey Club President James Gagliano said his website does not publish information on individual cases but he couldn’t understand how Kentucky could argue that identifying horses that die and where they died would create competitive disadvantages.

“I really question the wisdom of a statement like that,” Gagliano said. “These are facts and there is nothing wrong with reporting the facts.”

‘Went Wrong’

Even in the midst of the nationwide controversy over horse deaths, Kinley Karole’s death two weeks after the Derby didn’t make the news.

The only place it was reported was on Patrick Battuello’s anti-horse racing website, Battuello scours the internet for information. Churchill Downs’ daily racing chart, posted to a major bettor website, said the filly “went wrong entering the lane, was pulled up and vanned off.”

Some states’ racing charts just say horses were euthanized. But not Kentucky’s, according to Battuello’s research. “Went wrong,” he says, is code for euthanized.

Caitlin McGlade

Larry Demeritte trains horses at the Thoroughbred Center in Lexington. He lost a horse in May when she broke her leg during a race at Churchill Downs

Larry Demeritte, who trained the three-year-old filly who recently died at Churchill Downs, didn’t have any problem putting it plainly: Her leg “snapped off,” he said.

“It was ugly. I couldn’t even go look at her. It was just too painful to see.”

Demeritte trains 10 horses at his stables at the Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, surrounded by rolling green hills and white fences. He said he bonds with each of his horses; that they all have their own quirks, their own way of expressing themselves to him.

He patted his chest as he searched for the words.

“That’s like one of your kids you just lost … People don’t know,” he said. “These animals we spend more time around them than we do ourselves, our families.”

It hurt, but Demeritte doesn’t think it should be a secret.

If Kentucky shared horse death data like other states do, Demeritte said, he wouldn’t see it as a competitive disadvantage. In fact, he thinks encouraging more transparency could help.

“I would like to see that people trust us more in the game,” he said. “The more secretive you are, people always say, there’s something shady about it.”

Correction: The Paulick Report, an industry trade publication, was misspelled in a previous version of this story.

Reach reporter Caitlin McGlade at (502) 814.6541 or

The post With Race Horse Deaths Under Scrutiny, Kentucky Keeps Details Secret appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Episode 45 is a day late, mainly because we had too much fun… Tuesday, Apr 29 2014 

Episode 45 is a day late, mainly because we had too much fun this weekend.

We finally made it to the Kentucky Derby Museum! We went on a tour and chatted to lead guide Barry Northern, who is a Churchill Downs and Derby encyclopedia. Many thanks to the Derby Museum for hosting us.

We’re looking forward to:

The Great Steamboat Race on Wednesday, April 30th - Melissa will be on the Belle of Cincinnati. Does that mean we should cheer for that Belle?

The Mayor’s Music & Art Series on May 1st with Alex Wright

The How-To Festival at the library on May 10th from 10-3

A Plant ID Stroll with author and botanist Patricia Haragan at the Louisville Nature Center on May 21 from 1-3 p.m.

Let Them Tweet Cake  on Wednesday, May 6 at 6:30 at Sweet Surrender

This episode, eggs are melting Linda’s butter – specifically, this book about the egg by Michael Ruhlman. After our outing at Bourbon Barrel Foods last weekend, Chef Nick Sullivan’s (610 Magnolia) concoctions are melting Melissa’s butter.

What’s your favorite Derby story? What are you looking forward to? Tweet us, Facebook us, and don’t forget to subscribe in iTunes.

Happy Derby!

My IL Digest: Our Local Box, Happy Birthday Park, brilliant kids, the Churchill Downs bugler and more Thursday, May 9 2013 

Gabe Bullard in the deserted infield at Churchill
There's so much to love about my job with Insider Louisville

Sure there are drawbacks to every job. 

This one's pretty high-stress at times. Sometimes I find myself climbing the stairs to my office in the morning thinking, "Okay, you're not trying to cure cancer. Things shouldn't have you this worked up."

And as we all know, the comments-section of online journalism is where simple human decency goes to die. We're lucky at IL to not have too, too many trolls, but I assure you, my email in-box is a much thornier place than the comments section. (Really, we all can't agree that a childrens' museum might be a nice thing for the city? You disagree so heartily you have to get ugly about it? Think of the children!)

One of the things that bums me out about my job– and I'm sure all journalists, online, print and otherwise, feel the same way– is how ephemeral it is. I'll pour time and research and effort and care into a story. And at best it booms for a couple of days and gets passed around social media. At worst, it gets some reads and the quietly sinks down the homepage into the archives.

And that's sad. I guess it's a little bit about ego, sure. But it's more about the fact that these people that I report on are doing such remarkable things that I wish these pieces had a little more staying power. 

(Note: all links lead to the full article)

Like Dan Campbell and Jason Lee Menard of Our Local Box, a startup subscription box that is delivering a package full of Kentucky-made goodness to doorsteps across the country every month. I met them at Tony Boombozz, where the idea for their venture first germinated and listened to them wax passionately about ecommerce and buying local. 

Like Marsha Weinstein, who may be one of my new favorite Louisvillagers, who founded the effort to get a Happy Birthday Park installed on Fourth Street to honor the composers and educators Peggy and Mildred Hill. It had been a while since I last chatted with someone who shared my passion for US Women's History. And she brought some pretty serious deficits to my attention. 
According to Marsha Weinstein, there are over 2,400 historical markers in the state of Kentucky. Sixty of them commemorate the lives and accomplishments of women. A quick search of the database of historical markers in the state finds that Weinstein was probably being generous in her estimate. Of all the public memorials and artwork in downtown Louisville, none are dedicated to women.
I eventually confirmed this last fact with the department of Public Art. We have art designed by women (very little) but nothing honoring women. Weinstein is a powerhouse and a passionate advocate for women and girls. It was an honor to spend an hour picking her brain. 
Like Anthony Perry and Susana Almaguer Martinez, whom I didn't speak with but wrote about. These two Louisville high school seniors have 4.0 averages and a remarkable resume of acheievments. They've both been accepted by the Gates Foundation to receive Gates Millenium Scholarships– full rides to the schools of their choice. Perry, from St. Francis, will go to UPenn. Martinez, who has only been in the US for 2 years and attends Seneca, will be going to USF. 
Like Steve Buttleman, the official bugler of Churchill Downs, whom Linda and I interviewed on Louisville, Not Kentucky. The story about our behind-the-scenes adventures at Churchill Downs' Opening Night is one of my all-time favorite stories, I think.
Sometimes, of course, it is all about me. Right? Even though I was sick and cranky, I think my recap of who's going to be performing at the State Fair is still pretty dead-on. Again, pissy comments, but not not fun. Likewise, my rundown of what wasn't allowed at Churchill Downs during the Derby. Jeffrey Lee Puckett of the CJ did it better (video!) later, but I did it first. 
Those articles are just from the past 10 days and represent only a quarter of what I wrote during those days for IL.
I was also interviewed by the fabulous Erin Keane for WFPL's news special on the Great Gatsby and Louisville. The two of us went in search of Daisy Fay's house in the Cherokee Triangle. It was a lovely way to spend a lovely spring morning. You can listen to the story at the link. (you can pick up my part at around 10:00, but if you're into Gatsby at all, don't miss the whole special from the start). Spoiler alert: We didn't find it. We don't think anyone can. That wasn't a journalism-thing. It was a former-English-teacher-thing. But still, part of a good couple of weeks.
Thanks to all of you who bring me great stories or who ARE great stories. You make my life and job so much better.