SportsRace to the Derby


Peek behind the scenes at the 'city beyond the track' at Churchill Downs

Posted at 11:21 AM, May 01, 2021

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — There is another world on the backside of the racetrack at Churchill Downs; a city that caters to everything "horses."

Sixteen-year-old, Lexington native Johnny Cano works on the backside of the Downs as a groom, a job that helps horses prepare for their performance on racing's biggest stage.

"It's all about the horse," he said. "I mean, it's every morning, every day of the year. No days off."


"I walk them, I bathe them, I groom them, I clean them, I do everything with them," he said.

The same process applys for all 47 barns at the back of the track.

"At any given time, there could be 1,400 horses housed back here on the backside," said Rachel Collier, director of communications at the Kentucky Derby Museum. "That means there are hundreds of people back there too."


Some of the barns at Churchill Downs have living quarters. Behind Churchill Downs there is also an activity center and even a church.

"These people are getting up at 4 a.m., working in the morning, you know, these horses are just incredible athletes, and they have to have really good people taking care of them," Collier said.

"There are about 20,000 foals born each year," Collier said, "and only about 20 of them make it into the Kentucky Derby."

"So we've got the best 3-year-olds in the world back here at Churchill Downs," she added. "It's just really an incredible place seeing the horses. There's just nothing like it."

Cano said in his mind, the job is simple, "They're horses and they can't take care of themselves."

Even during Derby week, he said the process remains a routine.

"We do the same thing, same schedule every day. Same thing, same horses. Every horse works out every day," Cano said. "And it's amazing. I can't explain it more than that."

LEX 18