Until this year, the standard starting gate at Churchill Downs accommodated 20 horses and for the Derby, there was a six-stall “auxiliary starting gate” addition that could be attached. For the Kentucky Derby, the two sections were joined which enabled the doors of each division to open simultaneously at the press of a button by the Churchill Downs’ starter. The gates, made by United Pruett, were affixed with high-quality padding applied to all metal surfaces for maximum safety for horses, jockeys and starting gate crew.
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This year, however, the Kentucky Derby gate will have a new look in the form of a single, 20-horse device designed by Australian company Steriline Racing, who has also designed gates for the Hong Kong Jockey Club (Happy Valley and Sha Tin Racecourses), Victoria Racing Club (Flemington Racecourse), Australian Turf Club (Royal Randwick Racecourse), Meydan Racecourse in Dubai and Royal Ascot in England, among others. The new gate will fit comfortably within the 120-foot space on the racetrack at the quarter-mile pole, which marks the start for the 10-furlong Kentucky Derby.
The new gate will be put through a live-racing test on September 1 before being used on Saturday, though the Kentucky Derby field isn’t expected to be full.
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Miriam Lee has always been a horse racing fan thanks to trips to the tracks in her home state of Maryland with her father as kid. She owns an OTTB and is an advocate for promoting the sport among her peers. Miriam studies communication arts at Hood College and will receive her master’s degree in 2021, which she plans to use for a career in screenwriting. Her all-time favorite racehorse is Man O War.