Douglas Park Racetrack

Historical Marker #2336 in Louisville notes the location of Douglas Park Racetrack, which operated from 1895 to 1958.

Horse racing flourished as a sport in late nineteenth-century America. Nowhere was that more apparent than in Kentucky. Difficult economic times, however, proved ruinous to many racing enterprises. Even the king of horse racing venues, Churchill Downs, struggled to make it through the 1890s. It was in this atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty that Colonel James J. Douglas established Douglas Park Racetrack.

Douglas believed that pacing and trotting horses deserved a premium venue as much as thoroughbreds, so, in 1895, he purchased property near present-day Standiford Field Airport. There, he constructed a one-mile oval, which featured banked turns. A large grandstand that rivaled Churchill Downs at the time was constructed along with stables and a clubhouse. Douglas Park opened in September 1895, coinciding with the national Grand Army of the Republic convention held in Louisville.

The Douglas Park Racetrack initially enjoyed success as a venue for pacing and trotting horse races, but, in 1906, the track closed for six years. When it finally reopened for the 1913 racing season, the venue had changed to thoroughbred racing and its featured race was the Kentucky Handicap.

In 1918, Douglas Park merged with Churchill Downs and became the exercise and training track for the better known race course. The Douglas Park grandstand and clubhouse were demolished in 1939, and fires in the 1940s and 1950s severely damaged the horse barns. Churchill Downs began selling off sections of the Douglas Park property in the 1950s, and, by 1958, all horse operations at the track and stables ceased.

Today, an industrial park, housing units, and apartments cover the ground where Douglas Park Racetrack once entertained thousands of equine enthusiasts.