Churchill Downs today announced that multiple-award winner and country music superstar LeAnn Rimes will help the historic racetrack launch a modern-day Kentucky Derby tradition when she performs the national anthem live as part of the ceremonies leading up to the 135th running of the Grade I Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on Saturday, May 2, 2009. Rimes’ performance will be the first live vocal performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” by a national recording artist on Derby Day and will be televised by NBC Sports as part of its pre-race coverage, which begins at 4 p.m. EDT.
“Churchill Downs is honored to have such an accomplished, respected and gifted singer as LeAnn Rimes perform the national anthem before the tens of thousands of Derby fans watching in person from the racetrack on the first Saturday in May, as well as the millions of television viewers who will share in the experience from Derby parties around the country while watching NBC’s coverage on May 2,” said Kevin Flanery, senior vice president of Churchill Downs Incorporated. “We know how special Derby Day and its many traditions are to fans around the world, and we are careful to only add new elements to the Derby collage when we are confident they will make for a more entertaining and memorable event. We believe LeAnn Rimes is the perfect performer to help us begin a 21st century Derby tradition – one that has been a long-standing and well-accepted part of other major sporting events.”
Rimes’ singing of the national anthem will take place shortly after 5 p.m. EDT and will be one of two performances of the “Star Spangled Banner” at Churchill Downs on May 2. The Fort Knox Army Band, which has performed an instrumental version of the national anthem near the start of the race card for many years, will continue to do so with this year’s instrumental performance slated for shortly after noon EDT.
LeAnn Rimes has sold more than 38 million albums, won two Grammy Awards, three Academy of Country Music Awards, 12 Billboard Music Awards and was recently named “Humanitarian of the Year” at this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards – quite an accomplishment for a 26-year-old performing artist. The Jackson, Miss., native, who recorded her first album at the tender age of seven, is the youngest Grammy Award-winner in history and was the first country recording artist to win the Grammy’s “Best New Artist” category.
In 2008, Rimes released her critically acclaimed album, Family, which was entirely co-written by Rimes. With the lead single, the Grammy-nominated “Nothin’ Better to Do,” Rimes became the first artist to have a song on Billboard’s Country, Adult Contemporary and Dance charts simultaneously. In 2008, Rimes won the CMT Award for “Collaborative Video of the Year” with Bon Jovi and claimed the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Award for her song from the Evan Almighty movie soundtrack. Rimes has scored numerous hit singles in her career, including “Can’t Fight The Moonlight,” which climbed to No. 1 in 11 countries, and “How Do I Live,” which holds the record for the longest charting song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at 69 weeks.
LeAnn Rimes has acted in film and television productions and in early 2009 starred in a Lifetime original movie, Nora Roberts’ “Northern Lights.” An accomplished author, Rimes is also the creator of the children’s books Jag and Jag’s New Friend, as well as Holiday In Your Heart, which was later adapted into an network television special starring Rimes. She has also launched WhatICannotChange.com, a Web site inspired by her music single of the same name, hoping to encourage forgiveness and acceptance by giving fans the chance to share their personal stories. This month, Rimes released a book of the same name inspired by the stories she culled from fan postings on that Web site.
Tickets to Kentucky Derby 135 and its companion event, Kentucky Oaks 135, can be purchased online at www.kentuckyderby.com/2009/tickets.
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 2009. The track’s 2009 Spring Meet will take place from April 25 through July 5. Churchill Downs is scheduled to host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for a record seventh time on Nov. 5 and 6, 2010. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.