Churchill Downs Shocks Racing World: Turf Racing Suspended

Citing Turf Course Issues, Churchill Downs Suspends Racing on Matt Winn Turf Course

Churchill Downs, a renowned horse racing track, has made the decision to suspend racing on its Matt Winn Turf Course for the closing weekend of its Spring Meet. This move comes as a result of ongoing problems with the new turf course, which has caused concerns for both horse safety and track conditions. As a result, the Grade 2 Wise Dan Stakes has been canceled, and three other stakes races that were originally scheduled for the turf will now take place on the main dirt track.

New Turf Course Development Halted

The decision to suspend racing on the Churchill Downs turf course arises from the slow development of the new Bermuda-hybrid surface. The track officials acknowledge that the root system of the grass continues to mature, benefiting from the warm climate and a 2 ½-week period of rest. However, it is not yet at the desired level of readiness that ensures optimal safety and performance for the horses. Therefore, additional time is required for the course to become more robust.

Churchill Downs had already taken steps to address concerns about the turf course’s condition. They temporarily halted turf racing earlier in the Spring Meet, specifically on June 11, following an unfortunate incident involving a 3-year-old colt named Gingrich. During a race, Gingrich suffered a compound fracture on the turf and was sadly put down. In response, the track initially planned to allow two weeks for the turf to mature further. However, in recent developments, they announced that only stakes races would take place on the turf course.

Evaluating Turf Course Performance

Churchill Downs invested $10 million to construct the new turf course, which opened on April 30 for this year’s Spring Meet to positive initial reviews. The wider design and advanced irrigation system were aimed at providing an enhanced racing experience. Nevertheless, as the meet progressed, observers noticed the grass transitioning from a lush green to a yellowish hue. This change was a deliberate measure taken by track workers to promote root growth by trimming the grass shorter. However, the turf surface faced additional strain from training and racing activities before the decision to halt grass racing on June 11.

Turf Races Affected by the Suspension

The suspension of racing on the Matt Winn Turf Course directly impacts several turf stakes races that were originally scheduled for the closing weekend of the Spring Meet. Here are the affected races:

Listed American Derby

Scheduled for Saturday, the Listed American Derby is a 1 1/16-mile race exclusively for 3-year-old horses. Originally intended to be run on the turf, this race will now take place on the main dirt track.


Also scheduled for Saturday, the Tepin is a Black-Type race for 3-year-old fillies. Initially planned as a turf race, it has been moved to the main dirt track due to the turf course suspension.

Anchorage Overnight Stakes

Taking place on Sunday, the Anchorage Overnight Stakes involves older fillies and mares racing a mile. Just like the other affected races, this event is relocated from the turf to the main dirt track.


The decision to suspend racing on the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs for the track’s closing weekend stems from concerns regarding the development and readiness of the new Bermuda-hybrid turf. Churchill Downs has taken measures to address these concerns, including temporarily halting turf racing and allowing additional time for the turf to mature. However, the safety and performance of the horses remain the top priority. As a result, several turf stakes races have been relocated to the main dirt track. Churchill Downs continues to prioritize the well-being of the horses and the overall racing experience.


1. Are all the races scheduled for the closing weekend affected by the turf course suspension?

No, only the races that were originally scheduled to take place on the Matt Winn Turf Course are affected. Stakes races such as the American Derby, Tepin, and Anchorage Overnight Stakes have been relocated to the main dirt track.

2. Will the turf course be reopened after the Spring Meet?

There is no specific timeline for reopening the turf course at this time. Churchill Downs is committed to ensuring the turf becomes more robust and ready for racing before allowing horses back on it.

3. How has the new turf course been received by jockeys and trainers?

Prior to the issues with the turf course, the new Bermuda-hybrid surface received positive reviews from jockeys and trainers. However, concerns arose as the grass changed color and the course faced challenges related to maturity and durability.

4. How does the suspension of turf racing impact the overall race schedule?

The suspension of turf racing affects the specific races that were scheduled for the turf course during the closing weekend of the Spring Meet. Other races scheduled for the main dirt track remain unaffected.

5. What measures will Churchill Downs take to ensure the turf course is ready for future races?

Churchill Downs will continue to monitor and evaluate the development of the turf course. They will allow additional time for the root system to mature and make necessary adjustments to ensure the turf’s readiness for future races. The safety and well-being of the horses will remain their top priority throughout this process.

Doug I. Jones

Doug I. Jones

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