Just four weeks after staging the inaugural September Meet, horse racing returns to Churchill Downs on Sunday (Oct. 27) for the 124th Fall Meet, an action-packed five-week run of great racing and entertainment.
The popular 25-day stand kicks off in style Sunday at 12:40 p.m. ET with “Stars of Tomorrow I” highlighting an 11-race opening day program that includes a 2014 Churchill Downs calendar giveaway and Trick or Treat Parade for the kids.
With a bevy of activities and top-notch racing on the horizon, here are:
1. The 124th Fall Meet will feature 25 days of racing over a five-week stretch through the Saturday after Thanksgiving on Nov. 30. After Sunday’s opening day program, racing will be conducted on a Wednesday-Sunday schedule with dark days on Mondays and Tuesdays. Most programs will feature 10 races with gates opening at 11:30 a.m. ET and the first race at 12:40 p.m. ET. There are 11 races on Sunday as well as Saturday, Nov. 16 for the lone “Downs After Dark” nighttime event that begins at 4:30 p.m. ET. Twelve-race programs will be showcased over the meet’s final three days that comprise the Thanksgiving holiday weekend: Thursday, Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving), Friday, Nov. 29 (Clark Handicap); and closing day on Saturday, Nov. 30 (Stars of Tomorrow II). Racing will begin early at 11:30 a.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day.
2. The first 5,000 fans in attendance on opening day (Sunday, Oct. 27) will receive a free 2014 Churchill Downs Wall Calendar, presented by Humana. The colorful calendar features major event listings and vivid and memorable images from the Kentucky Derby and around the historic racetrack. Admission gates will open at 11:30 a.m. ET and first post is 12:40 p.m. ET. Vouchers will be issued at the gates and they can be redeemed starting after Race 4 (approximately 2:06 p.m.) until 6 p.m.
3. The most lucrative race of the meet is the Grade I, $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare. The 139th running of the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds and up will be run on “Black Friday,” Nov. 29. It annually lures some of the top older horses in North America and is one of four stakes events to be contested over Thanksgiving weekend. All told, 13 stakes races cumulatively worth $1,815,000 – which includes a quartet of overnight stakes – will be run during the fall stand.
4. There’ll be plenty of opportunities for horsemen to uncork promising 2-year-olds. Sunday’s ninth annual “Stars of Tomorrow I” program is entirely devoted to rising 2-year-old stars who have aspirations of trail-blazing their way to next year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Longines Kentucky Oaks. In just eight years, Stars of Tomorrow – also held on Saturday, Nov. 30 (closing day) – has been the launching pad for numerous graded stakes winners. Thirty-three participants became Grade I winners, including 2010 Kentucky Derby champ Super Saver; 2011 Preakness and 2012 Met Mile and Clark Handicap winner Shackleford; 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra; 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic and 2013 Stephen Foster Handicap hero Fort Larned; and 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can. Eighteen became millionaires: Fort Larned ($4,171,322), Court Vision ($3,746,658), Rachel Alexandra ($3,506,730), Shackleford ($3,090,101), Lawyer Ron ($2,790,008), Pure Clan ($1,987,498), Super Saver ($1,889,766), Will Take Charge ($1,827,371), Macho Again ($1,825,767), Giant Oak ($1,484,829), First Dude ($1,442,140), Swift Temper ($1,296,688), Believe You Can ($1,280,324), General Quarters ($1,226,655), Fly Down ($1,256,115), Any Given Saturday ($1,083,533), Overanalyze ($1,046,381) and Uncaptured ($1,005,147).
5. There’ll be plenty of fun for the entire family every Sunday. Churchill Downs has teamed with Kroger to present Family Fun Days every Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The popular series promises fun for adults and children that include family-focused activities such as games, crafts, visits with Churchill Charlie, and special weekly events on the Plaza Balcony. The special events will kick off on opening day (Oct. 27) with a Halloween Parade for children age 3-10. Children can register for a free Trick or Treat bag in the Churchill Downs Store located near Gate 17 between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The costume parade with Churchill Downs’ mascot Churchill Charlie will begin at 2:30 p.m. at the bottom of the Plaza Balcony staircase and take the kiddos through multiple “Boo Stations” around the facility – including a trip to the paddock – to fill up those Trick or Treat bags. In addition to Family Fun Days, the Junior Jockey Club – Churchill Downs’ “Kids Zone” located near the Guest Services Booth inside Gate 10, will provide entertainment for the kiddos each weekend (except Saturday, Nov. 16). Activities include crafts, art projects, games, tours and special events or guests. Complementary coloring books, crayons, individual games and reading material are also available. Additionally, Churchill Charlie always makes a special visit between 2-2:30 p.m. and parents are encouraged to bring a camera for pictures. All children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times.
6. Bettors are certain to be challenged by the competitive Fall Meet racing that typically pits the fastest and battle-tested horses against the recently freshened year-end bloomers. With a compact 25-day schedule and not as many competing race meets at year’s end, the Fall Meet traditionally offers large fields. Last fall, the average field size was 9.61 per race compared to the 7.78 and 8.07 averages this year’s Spring and September meets, respectively.
7. The new 50-cent “Single 6 Jackpot” – a multi-race wager with a low minimum and big-payout dynamic – highlights the Fall Meet wagering menu. Much like its conventional $2 Pick 6 predecessor, the Single 6 Jackpot will challenge bettors to correctly pick the winners of six consecutive races. Bettors that have the highest number of winners in the six-race sequence will equally share 80-percent of the net money wagered into the pool. The remaining 20-percent of the net pool, however, will carry to the Single 6 Jackpot if there are multiple winning wagers with six winners placed at the required minimum bet value, which is sold in affordable denominations of 50 cents. The Single 6 Jackpot will be paid out only if there is a single winning wager with six winners placed at the required minimum bet value. The low probability of a single winning wager means there’s a high chance for the jackpot to grow daily and reach lottery-like levels, which creates tremendous excitement and the possibility of a financial windfall and score of a lifetime. On closing day, there’s a mandatory payout, which means all money, including the jackpot, will be distributed that day to those with the highest number of winners in the six-race sequence. The Single 6 Jackpot wager will be offered daily on Races 3-8. In addition to the Single 6 Jackpot, the Fall Meet wagering menu will feature $2 Win, Place and Show (all races); $2 Exactas and $1 boxes and wheels (all races); 50-cent Trifectas (all races with five or more betting interests); 10-cent Superfectas (all races with six or more betting interests); $1 Super Hi-5 (final race); rolling $1 Doubles and 50-cent Pick 3s; and 50-cent Pick 4s (Races 1-4; Races 4-7 and final four races daily) and a 50-cent Pick 5 (final five races daily). Additionally, parlay wagering is available for on-track patrons on up to six races on all Win, Place and/or Show pools.
8. The lone “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” nighttime racing event during the Fall Meet is Saturday, Nov. 16. The theme is “My Fall Derby Style” and fans are urged to dress to impress with Derby-inspired fall fashions for this exciting night of dining, dancing and racing beneath the Twin Spires. Attendees also will get an insider’s look into what to expect for Kentucky Derby 140. Churchill Downs admission gates will open at 3 p.m. The first of 11 live races will be 4:30 p.m. and sunset is around 5:30 p.m., which means at least seven races will be held under the lights. The final race is scheduled for 9:36 p.m. ET.
9. Those looking to socialize in a club-like premium lounge area while enjoying a night at the races will get their opportunity when Churchill Downs introduces the new “Skye Lounge” for the track’s only “Downs After Dark” nighttime event of the Fall Meet on Saturday, Nov. 16. The premiere of the Skye Lounge will provide an exclusive indoor environment to 300 customers age 21 and up – a welcomed alternative to outdoor box seating or indoor reserved dining areas for sophisticated casual customers and entertainment seekers. Tickets are $40 and include indoor lounge seating; a fifth-floor, two-tiered balcony to view the races; delicious hors d’oeuvres designed by Churchill Downs’ Executive Chef David Danielson, cocktail tastings by Southern Comfort, el Jimador and Finlandia Vodka; and entertainment by a DJ. Admission to the track and a racing program are included as well.
10. Ken and Sarah Ramsey have won or shared in 10 of the last 13 Fall Meet owners titles. Last year, they fell one win short of a five-way tie for the Fall Meet champion honors with Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilscheider, Bluegrass Hall LLC (now known as Calumet Farm), Gary and Mary West and Magdalena Racing, who each had four winners. The Ramseys are Churchill Downs’ all-time leading owners with 370 wins and 20 titles, including this year’s Spring Meet with a record 32 winners and inaugural September Meet with six victories.
11. Fans interested in purchasing available inventory for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks 140 must register by Thursday, Oct. 31 at 11:59 p.m. ET. The demand for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks tickets is truly exceptional. Each year, the number of requests for reserved seating vastly exceeds available inventory. Those who register online at ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets or KentuckyDerby.com/Tickets simply by providing an e-mail address under “2014 Kentucky Derby and Oaks Ticket Request” will be notified via e-mail about a select online sale to the general public in mid-November (limit six tickets per household). Churchill Downs officials feel the online approach is the best way to give all sports fans and entertainment seekers around the world a fair shot to purchase these highly coveted reserved seats to its two premier racing events.
12. “Horses and Hope,” the initiative created in 2008 by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear with the Kentucky Cancer Program and the Pink Stable, will return on Sunday, Nov. 24. The mission is to increase breast cancer awareness, education, screening and treatment referral among Kentucky’s horse industry workers and their families. The color of pink will be scattered throughout Churchill Downs that day, including saddle towels for a featured race, jockey arm bands, groom’s vests, outriders, the bugler, flags, bunting and trophies for winning horse owners. To help celebrate, Churchill Downs’ world famous Twin Spires will be bathed in pink light, as well.
13. A Veterans Day tradition continues. In honor of Veterans Day, all United States veterans and active military will receive free general admission to Churchill Downs on Sunday, Nov. 10 with proof of identification.
14. Churchill Downs will host a Breeders’ Cup Viewing Party on Friday, Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 2 for a simulcast of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships from Southern California’s Santa Anita. Churchill Downs will run 10 races those days beginning at 2 p.m. and 2:15 p.m., respectively. Admission gates will open at 12:30 p.m. both days. A simulcast of the 11-race Championship Friday card from Santa Anita will begin at 1:40 p.m. and the Breeders’ Cup will cover Races 6-10 (4:45-7:35 p.m.). Championship Saturday’s 12-race program at Santa Anita will commence at 1:15 p.m., cover Races 4-12 and culminate with the Grade I, $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at 8:35 p.m. The final race at Churchill Downs on Friday (7:05 p.m.) and Saturday (8:15 p.m.) will conclude prior to the Distaff and Classic, respectively. In addition to the simulcasts interspersed between live races, Churchill Downs will present stakes races each day. Fillies and mares will be showcased Friday in the ninth running of the $60,000-added Dream Supreme at six furlongs. Saturday’s card is topped by the 28th edition of the Grade II, $150,000-added Chilukki for fillies and mares at one mile and the sixth running of the $60,000-added Bet On Sunshine for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs. Customers who attend Churchill Downs on Friday will be able to advance wager on the entire Championship Saturday program from Santa Anita. There is no advance wagering on-track Thursday for the Championship Friday program. Twenty-seven winners of races at Churchill Downs, including a dozen local winners this year, were pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup. Additionally, 28 locally-based horses were pre-entered.
15. Reserved seating for Thanksgiving Day is going fast. Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs has been a Louisville tradition since 1969. More than 7,000 turkey dinners with all the trimmings – the largest number anywhere in the region – will be served on Thursday, Nov. 28. Fans will enjoy 12 races beginning early at 11:30 a.m. and the program is topped by the 98th running of the Grade II, $150,000-added Falls City Handicap. Dining packages remain available in Skye Terrace for $59 ($26 for children 4-12 and free for children 3 and under) which includes admission, a racing program, reserved seat and a scrumptious Thanksgiving feast. Menu items (served from 10 a.m. until “Call to the Post” for the second to last race) are highlighted by roasted turkey breast with cranberry sauce and giblet gravy; country baked ham with spicy mustard and cranberry-apricot chutney; candied sweet potatoes; green bean casserole with mushrooms and fried onions; cornbread dressing; macaroni and cheese; whipped potatoes; bountiful fruit; mixed green salad; breakfast breads; and seasonal desserts.
16. Purchasing reserved seats or general admission tickets to Churchill Downs has never been easier. All reserved ticket packages can be purchased online at ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets, in person at the Gate 1 box office (open Wednesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 16 from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.) or by calling (502) 636-4400. General admission is $3 ($1 for senior citizens). Children 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Free seating is available daily over a first-come, first-serve basis in sections 113-118. Parking is free in the Longfield Avenue lot (Gates 10 & 12) and $3 in all other lots. Valet parking is $5.
17. Corey Lanerie and Shaun Bridgmohan have dominated the Churchill Downs jockey standings since 2012, but they could have company on top when a familiar face returns. Julien Leparoux, who won or shared in five consecutive Fall Meet riding titles (2007-11), is expected to return to Churchill Downs after the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup. Leparoux, a winner of nine local titles and 559 races (ranks 10th all-time), is returning to Kentucky with agent Steve Bass following stints in New York and California. Lanerie won three titles in Leparoux’s absence – including 29 races to top last year’s Fall Meet – while Bridgmohan was this year’s Spring Meet leading rider. Rosie Napravnik, fifth nationally in money-won this year with $11.5 million, finished second in her Spring Meet debut and returns for the fall along with other top jockeys such as Robby Albarado, Norberto Arroyo Jr., Jesus Castanon, Jon Court, Dylan Davis, Alan Garcia, Leandro Goncalves, Brian Hernandez Jr., Joe Johnson, Victor Lebron, Miguel Mena, Roberto Morales, Marcelino Pedroza, Joe Rocco Jr. and Ricardo Santana Jr. Three-time Kentucky Derby winner and recent Hall of Fame inductee Calvin Borel is expected to miss most if not all of the Fall Meet after breaking his left fibula in a fall during a race at Keeneland on Oct. 23. “It looks like he will be out three to four weeks,” agent Jerry Hissam said. “Hopefully, he can make the last three or four days of the Churchill Downs meet that ends Nov. 30.”
18. Churchill Downs will host two “Seniors Days” during the 2013 Fall Meet on Thursday, Oct. 31 and Wednesday, Nov. 27. On both days, Churchill Downs is offering a special $21 package for seniors on Millionaires Row 4 that includes admission, a racing program, a reserved seat and lunch. Call (502) 636-4400 for reservations and more information or visit ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.
19. Since 2000, either Steve Asmussen and/or Dale Romans has won or shared in the trainer’s title in 23 of the last 28 meets at Churchill Downs. Asmussen has won a record 13 crowns, including a best six during the Fall Meet (a standard shared with Bill Mott). Meanwhile, Romans has won 11 local titles, which includes three during the fall. He shared the 2012 honor with Kenny McPeek, a two-time champion Fall Meet trainer. Meanwhile, Mike Maker, who trains some of the horses for perennial leading owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, should win his fair share of races. In 2008, he won an unprecedented 31 races during a 26-day Fall Meet. The roster of top horsemen at the meet is deep, but here are the leading race winners over the last three Fall Meets (2010-12): Asmussen (34), Romans (34), McPeek (31), Eddie Kenneally (22), Maker (22), Bill Mott (18), Al Stall Jr. (18), Wayne Catalano (15), Steve Margolis (13), “Rusty” Arnold II (13), Ian Wilkes (13), Todd Pletcher (11), Nick Zito (9), Tom Amoss (8), Cecil Borel (8), Brad Cox (8), D. Wayne Lukas (8), Paul McGee (8), Merrill Scherer (8), Bret Calhoun (7), Greg Foley (7), Tom Proctor (7), Philip Sims (7), Ronny Werner (7), Jimmy Baker (6), “Jinks” Fires (6), Bernie Flint (6), Charlie LoPresti (6), Angel Montano Sr. (6), Graham Motion (6), Garry Simms (6), Mike Tomlinson (6), Joe Woodard (6), Mark Casse (5), Dave Fawkes (5), Tim Glyshaw (5), Kellyn Gorder (5), Gary Hartlage (5), Forrest Kaelin (5), Mike Lauer (5), Eric Reed (5) and Wesley Ward (5).
20. In addition to ChurchillDowns.com, customers can stay up-to-date with the latest Churchill Downs information on Facebook and Twitter. The track’s official Facebook page is Facebook.com/ChurchillDowns, and its Twitter handle is @ChurchillDowns. For information tailored for members of the media, the Twitter handle for the Churchill Downs communications department is @DerbyMedia.