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Racing Analyst, Commentator Jill Byrne Joins Churchill Downs Full-Time as On-Air Communications Director
Jill Byrne, whose insights as a television racing analyst for Churchill Downs and cable racing network TVG have earned acclaim and a loyal audience throughout Thoroughbred racing, has joined Churchill Downs on a full-time basis as Director of On-Air Racing Communications.
In her new position, Byrne will continue to serve as the track’s primary racing analyst on its daily live racing simulcast programming, during which she offers commentary on all of the track’s races along with announcer/commentator Mark Johnson. In her new position Byrne will play an expanded role in providing video and print Web content for the official sites for Churchill Downs (www.churchilldowns.com) and the Kentucky Derby (www.kentuckyderby.com), and in programming offered on TwinSpiresTV, the groundbreaking video interface for TwinSpires.com, the official advance-deposit wagering service for Churchill Downs Incorporated and its family of racetracks (www.twinspires.com).
She has served as Churchill Downs’ racing analyst since April 2008, when Byrne succeeded longtime simulcast host and former announcer Mike Battaglia in that role. Prior to joining Churchill Downs on a full-time basis, Byrne worked as an in-studio on on-site analyst and reporter for Television Games Network (“TVG”).
Byrne’s role in on-track activities, fan education efforts and as a community representative for the historic track will continue to grow in her full-time position with the historic track. She currently serves as the weekly host for Churchill Downs’ “Get in the Game” handicapping seminars, in which she interviews special guests while discussing the day’s races on Saturdays at Churchill Downs. The roster of Spring Meet “Get in the Game” guests has included jockeys Calvin Borel and Julien Leparoux, and Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr. The seminar is conducted each Saturday at noon (EDT) and a telecast is made available to simulcast outlets nationwide via Churchill Downs Simulcast Productions (“CDSP”). Byrne is also co-host, with track Vice President John Asher, of “Churchill Downs Today,” a handicapping show that airs live at 11 a.m. (EDT) during most racing at selected simulcast outlets nationwide and viewed later by on-track patrons.
Along with her on-air skills and top-notch racing analysis and handicapping, Byrne is an accomplished horsewoman who worked with her husband, trainer Patrick Byrne, in the development of 1997 Horse of the Year and juvenile champion Favorite Trick and Countess Diana, that year’s champion 2-year-old filly. The Byrne-trained Awesome Again defeated 1997 Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Silver Charm to win the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Churchill Downs in 1998.
Jill Byrne launched her career in the Thoroughbred industry as an exercise rider and assistant to her father, Peter Howe, a noted show rider and Thoroughbred trainer who conditioned two Eclipse Award winners. She climbed into the saddle aboard her first racehorse at the age of 12. She also worked for Hall of Fame trainer Scotty Schulhofer.