Steve Sexton, former Lone Star Park executive and Churchill Downs president, dies at 57

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – Former Churchill Downs track president Steve Sexton, who guided the home of the Kentucky Derby through its largest renovation project, has died in Texas after a brief illness. He was 57.

Sexton was a former executive vice president and general manager at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie.

Churchill Downs’ parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., confirmed Sexton’s death Monday. Sexton was the 12th president in the track’s history, overseeing operations at the track from 2002 to 2009. 

“Steve led Churchill Downs during key years of change for both the institution and the Kentucky Derby,” said Bill Carstanjen, president and CEO of the Louisville-based parent company. “Along with his deep experience in horse racing and race track management, Steve brought enthusiasm and boundless energy to everything he touched at Churchill Downs.”

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(For an in-depth remembrance of Steve Sexton by horse racing journalist Ray Paulick click here.)

Sexton guided Churchill Downs through a more than $120 million project that renovated the venerable track’s clubhouse and grandstand. The multi-year construction was completed just before the 2005 Derby. The track has undergone a series of upgrades since.

Sexton’s predecessor as Churchill track president, Alex Waldrop, credited Sexton with getting the project done on time and on budget. Though the famed Twin Spires still loom over the most famous stretch of soil in horse racing, the renovation delivered a facelift to the old track and brought sports fans modern amenities.

“It has stood the test of time, and it’s been a major boon to the Kentucky Derby, to Churchill’s business and to the community of Louisville,” said Waldrop, now president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

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During his time at Churchill, Sexton also served as an executive vice president with the track’s parent company.

Earlier in his career, Sexton was an executive at Santa Anita Park, Canterbury Downs, Golden Gate Fields, Thistledown, Lone Star Park and Arlington International Racecourse, according to media reports. He most recently had been an executive at a firm that serves as an advisory role to professional and college sports teams and venues, those reports said.