The lone Downs After Dark nighttime racing event of Churchill Downs’ 21-day Fall Meet is Saturday (Nov 17), and the first of 11 races under the lights at the historic home of the Kentucky Derby will be 4:30 pm (all times Eastern).
Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka, Downs After Dark will have a “Golden Era” theme in which fans are encouraged to celebrate the “Roaring 20s” by incorporating gold, black and white colors as they make their wardrobe selections for this exciting night of dining, dancing and racing. Hats, feathers and pearls are a must for the ladies, while suits topped by fedoras will be donned by the fellas.
The elements that have made the Downs After Dark parties special since 2009 – the cuisine, fashion, style, music and entertainment – are back.
Churchill Downs will be transformed into a Roaring 20s-style estate party, reminiscent of “The Great Gatsby.” The Aristides Garden will be covered in white lights, and market lighting will run from the fourth and fifth floor Clubhouse balconies. Oversized gold metallic ceiling treatments will be seen throughout the dining rooms. Gold urns with topiary balls, black crystal candelabras, feathered centerpieces and beaded lamps will be prominent in dining rooms. Also, a five-tiered fountain will be featured inside Gate 17 with landscaping, topiaries, park benches and park lights.
Swing St. Louis, a sparkling musical performance by sisters Emily and Lacy Miller, will present melodies of the Big Band era on the Paddock Plaza Stage starting at 3:20 p.m., featuring tight harmonies, tap dancing and classy retro costuming. Later in the evening around 8 p.m., the big band sounds of Jack Garrett and The Syndicate will delight revelers.
With sleek and comfortable conversational seating options, cocktail tables, unique food and beverage stations and music added to the mix, the racetrack – particularly the paddock area – will have the look and feel of an upscale night club. All the while, there will be private parties on the Finish Line Suites and Jockey Club Suites balconies, respectively, with lighted bars and guests dancing to lively music starting at 6 p.m.
Churchill Downs admission gates will open at 3 p.m. The first of 11 races will be 4:30 p.m. and sunset is 5:29 p.m., which means at least seven races will be held under the lights. The final race is scheduled for 9:36 p.m.
Two graded stakes races for 3-year-olds will be run Saturday night at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course. Multiple graded stakes winner Centre Court heads 12 three-year-old fillies for the 22nd running of the $175,000-added Mrs. Revere (GII), which goes as Race 9 at 8:36 p.m. The ninth running of the $100,000-added Commonwealth Turf (GIII), which lured an overflow field of 16 for Race 7 at 7:32 p.m., is headed by Grade I winner King David.
Ten of the 11 races on the card are at least 1 1/16 miles or longer, which means a plethora of two-turn races will start and finish in front of the enthusiastic crowd.
Cover charge (general admission) to all Downs After Dark events is $10. Holders of shareholders passes or horsemen licenses and children age 12 and under (when accompanied by an adult) will be admitted free of charge. No one under the age of 18 will be admitted to the track unless they are accompanied by a parent or responsible adult.
All ticket packages are available for purchase online at churchilldowns.com/tickets – Churchill Downs’ convenient online box office platform. Customers can also call the Churchill Downs switchboard at (502) 636-4400, or visit the Gate 1 box office, which is open Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The box office will have extended hours on Saturday from 12-9 p.m.
Patrons will have the option to taste non-traditional racetrack offerings, and evening appetites will be satisfied by scrumptious premium dining offerings available for purchase inside Millionaires Row, the Matt Winn Dining Room, Skye Terrace and other locations.
Indoor seating is scarce, as Millionaires Row 4, Millionaires Lounge 6, Skye Terrace 4 and 5 and the Matt Winn Dining Room are near capacity. Select $59.90 packages are still available in Skye Terrace 6, which includes admission, a program, an indoor seat with an outdoor viewing balcony and the Chef Table dinner. Meanwhile, third floor Clubhouse box seats, which include admission, can be reserved in from Sections 313-320 for $20.
The new Plaza Balcony that overlooks the new Paddock Plaza will be open to the public for the first time on Saturday. Part of renovations that include the new Paddock Plaza as well as ongoing construction on The Mansion and a new Media Center, the Plaza Balcony will provide outdoor covered seating for 218 people (36 tables of six), complete with flat screen TVs, ceiling fans, lights and close proximity to the Jockey’s Quarters. It overlooks the Paddock Plaza, which is the new 30,000-square-feet of open gathering space for general admission patrons made possible by razing the underutilized and outdated Paddock Pavilion in August.
Between races, the popular text-to-win sweepstakes promotion “Bet or No Bet,” sponsored by Thorntons, will return to randomly ask patrons to choose between a $100 Thorntons gift card or to place a free $1,000 win bet on a horse in the upcoming race. The final race of the night is scheduled for 9:36 p.m. but the party will continue in the paddock and Plaza areas until 10:30 p.m.
The National Weather Service forecast for Saturday calls for sunny skies with a high near 55 (right on par with the average temperature for the date), followed by mostly clear skies in the evening with a low around 33. Churchill Downs has added several portable outdoor heaters in select locations, such as the Paddock area and Clubhouse and Jockey Club Suites balconies, to help keep outdoor patrons warm.
As usual, Churchill Downs will be open early for simulcast wagering on the second floor of the clubhouse Saturday. General admission will be its regular price of $3 from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Gate 17.
On-site parking at Churchill Downs – free in the Longfield Avenue lot and $3 in all other lots – will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. There also will be free satellite parking and shuttle service from Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium starting at 5 p.m. with drop off and pick up throughout the evening. All Churchill Downs employees will be directed to park in the track’s infield (enter through Longfield tunnel).
Churchill Downs has secured the services of Louisville Metro Police Department officers and traffic guards to monitor area traffic on Central Avenue and other nearby streets to advance ingress and egress. LMPD will control traffic signals, turn lanes and pedestrian traffic and partial road closures are possible if it becomes necessary because of heavy traffic.
Downs After Dark – the perfect blend of an upscale night on the town with the excitement of thoroughbred racing – has been a spectacular success while showcasing live racing with ancillary entertainment such as food, fashion, music and parties. So far, 438,000 horseplayers and entertainment-seekers have attended the 17 special nighttime programs since June 2009. The two nighttime events during the Fall Meet have averaged 15,651 fans – three times the norm for a Friday afternoon in the fall – and $6.1 million in total wagers ($935,000 on-track and $5.2 million off-track). Event sponsors include Stella Artois, Finlandia Vodka, RAM and Thorntons.
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