Latonia Race Track
Historical Marker #1853 in Covington notes the historical significance of Latonia Race Track, which sponsored the Latonia Derby for many years.
Horseracing, along with baseball, were two of America's favorite spectator sports in the last half of the nineteenth century. This era saw a rapid rise in the construction of race tracks. Latonia Race Track was built in 1883, near Covington, Kentucky.
Latonia quickly became a favorite venue for horse racing fans for a number of reasons. First, the course was aesthetically pleasing. It featured a beautiful white and green grandstand, along with a lake and flower garden in the infield of the oval. In its early years, people attended the races by horseback or carriage. Later, the Covington streetcar line was extended to the course. Secondly, Latonia hosted some of the most exciting races of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Latonia Derby, which occurred six weeks after the Kentucky Derby, was the track's premiere race. In 1912, a silent film titled "Winning the Latonia Derby" was released.
Financial difficulties forced Latonia to close in 1939. The track and grandstand was a razed in 1941 and an oil refinery was built on the location by Standard Oil. The oil refinery, too, was later leveled and the Latonia Shopping Center was built at the former site of the famous race track.
In 1959, a race track was built about thirteen miles to the west of Latonia, near Florence, which was named Latonia Race Course but became known popularly as New Latonia. The construction of the new track was spearheaded by Matt Winn Williamson, the grandson of Colonel Matt J. Winn, the well-known Churchill Downs promoter at the turn of the twentieth century. New Latonia's premiere race, the Jim Beam Stakes, started in 1982. The race is now called the Horseshoe Casino Spiral Stakes and is run every March. New Latonia was renamed Turfway Park in 1986, when it changed owners. Turfway Park features fall, holiday, and spring racing.