Horses Return to Churchill Downs

Horses Return to Churchill Downs

The 2012 Spring Meet begins the second year with Steve Hargrave at the helm of the Churchill Downs barn area as the Stall Superintendent. His father, Mike Hargrave, held the position for 30 years. Steve served as his assistant and oversaw Churchill Downs’ Trackside Training Center facility. With Mike being known as one of the most respected “stall men” in racing, Steve had an excellent teacher. Even so, the stress and headaches of finding a stall for approximately 1900 horses each racing meet is not a task to be taken lightly. I caught up with Steve the other day and asked him how he felt leading into this year’s Spring Meet as opposed to his first experience last year. “The first year taught me to expect the unexpected. Now this year, I will be better prepared to anticipate the unexpected. And I always have Dad’s phone number in my pocket!”

Churchill Downs has opened its stall doors to the trainers who have been approved to stable their horses at the Downs for the 2012 Spring Meet. For a trainer to be stabled at Churchill Downs for a race meet, their horses must meet certain requirements and be approved by a committee of Churchill racing department staff. When the trainers are allotted their stalls, Steve must place each of them in a barn according to the number of stalls they receive. The task is somewhat like figuring out a giant jigsaw puzzle.

The stable gate, Gate 5, officially opened just after midnight on Friday, March 9th. The first horses through the gate were those trained by Tom McCarthy. Tom was the trainer of the recently retired General Quarters. The gray horse raced in the 135th Kentucky Derby, finishing 10th behind Mine That Bird. The racing oval was opened for horses to resume training on Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m. There are currently 40 horses occupying the stalls at Churchill Downs and another 40 in the stalls at Churchill’s alternate stabling/training area, Trackside. Each day Steve expects the number of horses to grow to the capacity of over 1,400 stalls at Churchill and another 500 at Trackside. The major influx of horses will begin around the 20th of March. With the close of the race meet at the New Orleans track, Fair Grounds Race Course, on April 1st the vans transporting the horses will be coming through the gates on a consistent basis. Horses from Florida and Hot Springs, Arkansas will also start to arrive not long after with the close of the race meets at Gulfstream Park and Oaklawn Park, respectively.

Derby excitement begins to build as the horses listed as contenders for the big race always attracts attention with their arrival at Churchill Downs. Hansen, became the first contender for Kentucky Derby 138 to check in. He arrived over the weekend and made his home with trainer Mike Maker’s stable at Churchill Down’s Trackside Training Center. Hansen, who is owned by Dr. Kendall Hansen and Sky Chai Racing, called Trackside home during the majority of his two year old campaign, when he became Juvenile Colt Champion and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

**Now that the horses are back on the track, the Kentucky Derby Museum’s Barn & Backside tours are up and running again as well. This tour offers Museum guests an exclusive way to experience the sights, sounds and thrills of the Churchill Downs barn area. Watching the horses step out onto the track for their morning workouts is a great experience if you have the chance to join us for one of the early morning tours (7:00a or 8:30a). For more information on the tour or general Kentucky Derby Museum information, please call (502) 637-1111, ext. 240.

Carla Grego Membership Coordinator / Horsemen Relations