135th Derby, Oaks Launch Historic Churchill Downs Spring Meet That Introduces Night Racing

Apr 25, 2009 by John Asher

Historic Churchill Downs will raise the curtain on Saturday, April 25 on its historic 52-day Spring Meet that begins with the 135th renewals of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and the Kentucky Oaks (Grade I), but will also be marked by first sessions of night racing in the legendary track’s history and the introduction of Mark Johnson as track announcer and the first international voice to provide the on-track call of the “Run for the Roses.”

Johnson, the British commentator who succeeds the late Luke Kruytbosch as announcer, will welcome racing fans who gather beneath the track’s historic Twin Spires on Saturday for an 11-race program opening day program that get underway with its first race at 12:45 p.m. (all times EDT).  The racing program is topped by the 85th running of the $100,000-added Derby Trial (Grade III), a 7 ½-furlong race for 3-year-olds that is the final significant prep race for the May 2 Kentucky Derby.

Racing during Kentucky Derby Week will be held daily, with the exception of Monday, through the running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 2.  First race post time for each of those programs – with the exception of Oaks and Derby Days – will be 12:45 p.m. First post on Kentucky Derby and Oaks Days will be 10:30 a.m. – a half-hour earlier than last year.  Admission to the track for Derby Week, with the exception of Derby and Oaks Days, and most of the rest of the meet will be $3 for adults, $1 for Twin Spires Club members, $1 for seniors 60 and over, and free to children 12 and under.

The three-day celebration of Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Weekend kicks of with the increasingly popular Thursday program that features 10 races and is headed by the $100,000-added, Grade III Kentucky Juvenile.  That race for 2-year-olds at five furlongs is the first graded stakes event of the year for that age group.

Fans visiting the track on Thursday, April 30 will have the first opportunity to enjoy the new Infield Club as part of the “Crown Royal Festival in the Infield Club.”   The Infield Club offers the energy and excitement of the infield in a more comfortable sports-bar atmosphere.  The private section of the infield includes a 430-foot horseshoe bar, first-come first-served shaded seating, food and music.

The Infield Club will be the only infield activity at Churchill Downs on Thursday of Kentucky Derby Week.

Admission to the track for the Thursday program is $5, $1 for Twin Spires Club members and seniors 60 and over, and free to children under 12.  Admission to the Infield Club on Thursday will cost an additional $10 and will be available for purchase on that day, but advance sale of those tickets will be offered at Gate 17 each day leading up to that program.

Advance tickets for the Infield Club experience on Kentucky Oaks and Derby Days will also be offered on track at Gate 17 and will continue through Thursday.  Infield Club tickets for Kentucky Oaks Day are available for $50 and for $150 for Kentucky Derby Day.  A ticket for both of those big days can be purchased for $175.

A race has been added to both the Kentucky Oaks program on Friday, May 1 and the Kentucky Derby racing card on Saturday, May 2.  Post time for the first race on each day is 10:30 a.m. – 30 minutes earlier than last year – and admission gates open at 8 a.m.  General admission tickets will be available for both days at a cost of $25 on Oaks Day and $40 for Derby Day.

After next week’s Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby Weekend, the April 25-July 5 Spring Meet will resume on Wednesday, May 6.  The meet will feature its regular schedule of stakes races that include the Grade I, $750,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap on June 13.  But the first sessions of night racing conducted beneath the historic Twin Spires figure to be highlights of the Spring Meet.  Temporary lighting will illuminate the historic track during those sessions of racing under the stars at Churchill Downs.

The first racing sessions in the history of the home of the Kentucky Derby are scheduled for June 19 and 26, which are Friday nights, and Thursday, July 2, an evening of racing under the lights which will serve as the kick-off for Independence Day Weekend festivities.  Post time for the three night racing sessions is set for 6 p.m.  Details of those special programs will be announced after the Kentucky Derby.

Along with the Derby Trial, Saturday’s opening day program will also feature a T-shirt Giveaway sponsored by Fifth Third Bank.  Those shirts will be given away to the first 5,000 patrons through the admission gates, which open on Saturday at 11 a.m.  And all opening day fans will have the opportunity to register for a chance to escort the famed Garland of Roses that goes to the winning horse in the Kentucky Derby to the Winner’s Circle prior to the running of America’s greatest race.  Each patron will receive a voucher at the admission gates that they can fill out and deposit at any active Fifth Third Bank ATM location at the track.

The winner will be selected in a drawing from those vouchers and that person will receive two tickets to both the Kentucky Derby and the May 1 Kentucky Oaks (GI), and the winner and a guest will help escort the prized Derby roses to the winner’s circle for the post-race salute to the winner following the “Run for the Roses.”

Sunday’s second day of the Spring Meet features a 10-race program at 12:45 p.m. that will be preceded by the unveiling of an extraordinary sculpture of Barbaro, the winner of the 2006 Kentucky Derby.  The statue was commissioned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who bred and owned Barbaro, and was created by Wisconsin sculptor Alexa King.  The bronze also marks the final resting place for Barbaro, who died in early 2007 following a courageous battle for life that captured the attention of the nation.  Barbaro was cremated following his passing and his remains are interred at the site, which is located at the Gate 1 entrance to Churchill Downs.

2009 Churchill Downs Spring Meet At A Glance

Saturday, April 25 through Sunday, July 5 (52 days). No racing on April 27, May 3-4-5. After Derby Week, dark on Mondays and Tuesdays except for Memorial Day week, with racing Monday, May 25 and dark days May 26-27.

700 Central Avenue.

Derby Week, 11 a.m., except for Kentucky Oaks/Derby Days (May 1-2), 8 a.m.
After Derby Week: 11:30 a.m. except for Fridays (1:30 p.m.)
Special Night Racing: 4 p.m. on Friday, June 19; Friday, June 26 and Thursday, July 2

Derby Week, 12:45 p.m., except for Kentucky Oaks/Derby Days (May 1-2), 10:30 a.m.
After Derby Week, 12:45 p.m. except for Fridays (2:45 p.m.)
Special Night Racing: 6 p.m. on Friday, June 19; Friday, June 26 and Thursday, July 2

Nine races on Wednesdays and Thursdays after Derby and July 3
10 races April 26, 28-29-30 and Sundays after Derby
11 races on opening day, Fridays and Saturdays after Derby, July 2 and July 5
12 races on Oaks Day (May 1)
13 races on Derby Day (May 2)

Derby Day general admission: $40
Oaks Day general admission: $25
Thursday, April 30 general admission: $5
Night Racing Debut on Friday, June 19: $10, $1 senior citizens and Twin Spires Club members
Night Racing on Friday, June 26 and Thursday, July 2: $6, $1 senior citizens and Twin Spires Club members
All other days: $3 clubhouse and grandstand, $1 senior citizens and Twin Spires Club members; children 12 and under free when accompanied by adult.

Free in Longfield lot (Gates 10, 12).
$3 in all other lots; $5 valet.
No on-site parking on Kentucky Oaks or Kentucky Derby Day.

$2 on-track, $2.50 off-track.
Oaks and Derby programs $5 each on-track; $5.50 each off-track.
Simulcast program $4 on-track, $4.50 off-track.

Schedule will vary but will include Aqueduct, Arlington, Belmont, Calder, Colonial Downs, Evangeline, Golden Gate, Hawthorne, Hollywood, Hoosier, Lone Star, Louisiana Downs, Meadowlands, Monmouth, Mountaineer, Penn, Pimlico, Prairie Meadows, River Downs, Suffolk, Thistledown and Woodbine.

Daily Doubles and rolling Pick 3 every race.
Exactas every race; trifectas, superfectas & over/under every race that qualifies on field size.
Super Hi-5 on the last race daily (except a special Derby Hi-5 on Derby Day).
Pick 6 on the last six races of each race card (except Oaks Day and Derby Day – races 6-11).
New 50-cent Pick 4 on races 1-4 & final four races (except Oaks Day – races 2-5, 4-7 and 8-11 – and Derby Day – races 2-5, 4-7, 8-11 and 10-13).

All races except Derby live on HRTV on Insight-564 in Louisville and DISH network channel 404.

On WHAS-840: Results and a live call of the feature race.


(502) 636-4404 or (502) 58-DOWNS

(502) 636-4403 or (502) 58-DOWNS

4520 Poplar Level Road (962-2200)
Open at 9 a.m. Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby Day. Admission $10.
Open Sunday, May 3, noon-7:30 p.m. Simulcast wagering on tracks around the nation. Admission free.
All simulcast wagering after May 3 will be held at Churchill Downs.

Click here for the full 2009 Spring Meet stakes schedule.

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 is scheduled for April 25-July 5. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record six times, and will host the international racing championship again on Nov. 5-6, 2010. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.

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