30 Things to Know About Churchill Downs' Fall Meet

Oct 25, 2012 Darren Rogers

1. The 123rd Fall Meet will feature 21 days of racing over a four-week stretch through Nov. 25. 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. and the first race at 12:40 p.m. (all times Eastern). Eleven-race programs are scheduled for opening and closing days, and there will be 12-race cards Nov. 22-24. The first race for Downs After Dark on Saturday, Nov. 17 is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., and the Thanksgiving Day card on Thursday, Nov. 22 will begin early at 11:30 a.m.

2. The first 5,000 fans in attendance on opening day will receive a free 2013 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. and first post is 12:40 p.m. 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. Fall Meet attendees will immediately notice Churchill Downs’ new-look paddock area with the creation of The Plaza – 30,000-square-feet of open gathering space for general admission patrons to enjoy. Situated between the saddling paddock and Gate 1, The Plaza was made possible when the underutilized and outdated Paddock Pavilion was razed in August. The spacious area will be the new home for the popular Friday Happy Hours, which return every Friday from 3-5 p.m. Featured drink specials are $2 Budweiser and Bud Light, and there’ll be live music by J.D. Shelburne (Nov. 2), Horizontal Boogie Band (Nov. 9), Olivia Henken (Nov. 16) and Eight Inch Elvis (Nov. 23). Churchill Downs officials are confident The Plaza will be ready for opening day, but construction workers will be laying palates of 35,000 red brick pavers, power washing and setting furniture and greenery until admission gates open Sunday at 11:30 a.m. The new Plaza Balcony that overlooks the area won’t be open to the public until mid-November. Concrete was poured earlier this week, but railing and the awning still need to be installed. When finished, 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 is expected to be open for Downs After Dark on Saturday, Nov. 17. The Plaza and Plaza Balcony are part of renovations that also include ongoing construction of The Mansion and a new Media Center. Those areas will be complete in early 2013.

4. The most lucrative race of the meet is the Grade I, $400,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare. The 138th running of the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds and up will be run on “Black Friday,” Nov. 23. It annually lures some of the top older horses in North America and is one of six stakes events to be contested over Thanksgiving weekend. All told, 14 stakes races cumulatively worth $1.98 million – which includes a duo of overnight stakes – will be run during the fall stand. Total prize money offered throughout the meet is $9,282,000 (includes $738,100 from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund), which averages to $442,000 per day.

5. There’ll be plenty of opportunities for horsemen to unleash promising 2-year-olds. Churchill Downs’ director of racing and racing secretary Ben Huffman has written 39 maiden, allowance or stakes races for juveniles in the condition book that range in distance from six furlongs on the main track to 1 1/8 miles on turf. In just seven years, Stars of Tomorrow has produced numerous graded stakes winners, including 27 Grade I victors and 14 millionaires. They include Kentucky Derby 137 champ Super Saver, 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and this year’s Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can. Two-year-old maiden or allowance winners at Churchill Downs last fall include multiple Grade I winner Lady of Shamrock; Wood Memorial (GI) hero Gemologist; Indiana Derby (GII) champ Neck ’n Neck; Grade III winners Cozzetti, Daddy Nose Best, Hierro, Miz Ida, Sacristy and Unbridled’s Note; Belmont Stakes (GI) third Atigun; Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) runner-up Ever So Lucky; and stakes winners Amie’s Dini, Good Deed, Laurie’s Rocket, Tapajo and Welcome Dance.

6. The lone “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” nighttime racing event during the Fall Meet is Saturday, Nov. 17. In keeping with a trend inaugurated in 2010, the concept for this fall’s Downs After Dark program will be “The Golden Era” in which fans are urged to celebrate the “Roaring Twenties” as they make their wardrobe selections for this exciting night of dining, dancing and racing beneath the Twin Spires. The popular 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. 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 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. 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.

7. Churchill Downs will simulcast the Breeders’ Cup World Championships from Southern California’s Santa Anita on Friday, Nov. 2 and Saturday, Nov. 3. Churchill Downs will run 10 races those days beginning at 12:40 p.m. A simulcast of the 10-race Championship Friday card from Santa Anita will begin at 2:15 p.m. and the Breeders’ Cup will cover Races 4-9 (4:06-7:30 p.m.). Championship Saturday’s 12-race program will commence at 1:05 p.m., cover Races 4-12 and culminate with the Grade I, $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at 8:30 p.m. In addition to the simulcasts interspersed between live races, Churchill Downs will present a stakes race each day. Older horses will be showcased Friday in the 20th running of the Grade III, $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap at one mile. Saturday’s card is topped by the 27th edition of the Grade II, $150,000-added Chilukki for fillies and mares at one mile. When live racing concludes on Friday and Saturday at 5:08 p.m., simulcast wagering on the Breeders’ Cup will continue in the ITW area on the second floor of the Clubhouse, as well as the Turf Club and Horseman’s Services Center. 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.

8. 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. 22 and fans will enjoy 12 races beginning early at 11:30 a.m. and topped by the 97th running of the Grade II, $150,000 Falls City Handicap. Dining packages range from $59 to $67 ($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.

9. With a compact 21-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 (not including Breeders’ Cup races) was 9.36 per race compared to the 7.74 average during this year’s Spring Meet. 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.

10. For the first time since 2007, someone not named Julien Leparoux is likely to be the Fall Meet champion jockey. Leparoux, bound for Southern California, has won or shared in the last five Fall Meet titles (2007-11). He won 34 races last fall. Corey Lanerie took advantage of Leparoux’s departure for New York during the Spring Meet and won his first local riding title with 71 wins during the 38-day meet – an average of 1.87 wins per day (the highest Spring Meet win/day rate since Steve Brooks’ 2.42 for 46 wins during the 19-day Spring Meet of 1948). Also, Lanerie – featured on the cover of the 2012 Fall Meet official program – needs 10 wins to become the 19th jockey to win 400 races at Churchill Downs.

11. Trainer Steve Asmussen has won the last three Fall Meet training titles. A fourth straight would give him 12 Churchill Downs titles (he currently shares the record of 11 with D. Wayne Lukas) and seven Fall Meet titles (he currently shares the record of six with Bill Mott). Only Mott (1983-86) and Lukas (1988-91) have won four consecutive Fall Meet training titles. Last fall, Asmussen shared the training title with Mike Maker at 15 wins apiece.

12. Ken and Sarah Ramsey have won or shared in 10 of the last 12 Fall Meet owners titles, including five in a row. Last year, they won 12 races during the 21-day meet. The Ramseys are Churchill Downs’ all-time leading owners with 329 wins and 18 titles. Richard and Karen Papiese’s Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc. won their second straight Spring Meet champion owners crown with 15 wins during the 38-day stand.

13. Calvin Borel could become the 26th jockey in North America to win 5,000 races in his career. The three-time Derby and one-time Preakness winner began Thursday (Oct. 25) with 4,986 wins – 14 wins shy of becoming only the ninth jockey to win 5,000 races and at least four Triple Crown classics. He’d join Laffit Pincay Jr. (9,530 wins/4 Triple Crown classics); Bill Shoemaker (8,833/11); Pay Day (8,803/9); Chris McCarron (7,141/6); Angel Cordero Jr. (7,057/6); Eddie Delahoussaye (6,384/5); Jerry Bailey (5,893/5); and Kent Desormeaux (5,468/6). Each of the aforementioned was elected to racing’s Hall of Fame. In fact, there are 13 jockeys who have won 5,000 races and at least one Triple Crown classic, and each is in the Hall of Fame. Borel has been a Hall of Fame finalist but has not gained entry.

14. Churchill Downs, which ran its first race on May 17, 1875, will stage its 50,000th race. To date, there have been 49,818 races run over 5,924 racing dates at the historic Louisville oval – 182 races shy of the historic milestone. If there are no races added or lost based on director of racing and racing secretary Ben Huffman’s Fall Meet condition book, the 50,000th race would be Race 11 on Thanksgiving Day’s 12-race program.

15. This will be the first meet that David Lehr will oversee the care and preparation of Churchill Downs’ racing surfaces. Lehr’s older brother “Butch” retired in July after three decades as Track Superintendent. David Lehr, named Track Superintendent and Senior Director of Track Surfaces in August, is just the fourth individual to hold that post in 101 years. Also, Jamie Richardson, the former track superintendent at Oaklawn Park, has been hired as Churchill Downs’ Assistant Track Superintendent.

16. 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, launched during the 2012 Spring Meet, promises fun for adults and children that includes Horse Racing Bingo; Junior Jockey Club activities; story time; a walking tour to the Kentucky Derby Museum garden to visit with Winston, its resident miniature horse; visits with Churchill Charlie; and more. The special events will kick off on opening day (Oct. 28) 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 in the Gate 17 lobby at 2:30 p.m. and take the kiddos through multiple “Boo Stations” around the facility to fill up those Trick or Treat bags. Other weekly themes: Industry Education Day (Nov. 4); “Fall Festival” with pumpkin and face painting, pumpkin bowling, cornhole and more games (Nov. 11); “Feather Fun” crafts (Nov. 18); and a visit from Santa Claus (Nov. 25). 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. 17). Activities include crafts, art projects, games, tours and special events and 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. Special non-Family Fun Day events include: a horse craft and a visit from the Bubble Truck (Saturday, Nov. 3); a leaf weaving craft (Saturday, Nov. 10); and holiday crafts (Friday, Nov. 23 and Saturday, Nov. 24).

17. Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association will host their annual “College Scholarship Day” on Saturday, Nov. 10. A total of $10,000 in college scholarships will be given away that day to randomly drawn students between live races. Also, all full-time college, university or trade school students will receive free general admission to Churchill Downs with a valid student identification card. The first 500 students through the turnstiles, which open at 11:30 a.m. ET, will be given a free College Scholarship Day t-shirt. Once through admission gates, students will be directed to a registration tent in The Plaza to enter the prize drawings. One $1,000 scholarship will be awarded after each of the 10 live races. Any full-time student whose name is fortunate to be drawn must be present to win, and there is a limit of one scholarship per student. The first of 10 live races is 12:40 p.m. ET.

18. The sixth annual Ladies Day at the Races benefitting the Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs will be held Wednesday, Nov. 14. The event, sponsored by CaloSpa Rejuvenation Center, will take place in Millionaires Row 6 from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and includes lunch, a holiday fashion show and silent and live auctions with Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas serving as the auctioneer. Tickets are $75 per person. For more information, please visit BacksideLearningCenter.org.

19. The $1 Super Hi-5 returns with a new wrinkle. Starting Wednesday, Oct. 31, two Super Hi-5s will be offered daily: one in Race 3 and the other in final race of the day. If no one correctly picks the top five finishers in perfect order, the pool will carryover to the next race that the Super Hi-5 is offered, which means an intra-day carryover is possible (pay extra attention to television monitors and on-track announcements). Bettors also can tackle the traditional $2 Win, Place, Show, Exacta ($1 boxes and wheels) and Pick 6 (final six races daily) wagers, plus $1 Doubles (rolling); 50-cent Trifectas (all races with five or more betting interests), Pick 3s (rolling), Pick 4s (Races 1-4, 4-7 and final four races daily) and Pick 5 (final five races daily); and 10-cent Superfecta (all races with six or more betting interests).

20. Churchill Downs’ popular “Who’s the Champ?” Handicapping Contest will return on Saturday, Nov. 24. Horse racing fans can pit their handicapping skills against the best Louisville has to offer, and the winner will receive a $1,500 first prize and a VIP trip to compete in the coveted and lucrative Horse Player World Series, which is scheduled for Feb. 21-23, 2013 in Las Vegas at The Orleans Hotel & Casino. Participation fee to each contest, which requires players to place mythical $2 Win and Place wagers on two different horses in Races 3-8, is $25. Registration will take place on the day of the contest from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside the TSC Elite Gold Room, located on the second floor of the Clubhouse.

21. Churchill Downs will host two “Seniors Days” during the 2012 Fall Meet on Wednesday, Oct. 31 and Wednesday, Nov. 21. 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.

22. A Veteran’s 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. 11 with proof of identification.

23. Recycling aluminum cans during the Fall Meet will benefit Louisville’s West End School. Patrons will be asked to drop their empty aluminum beverage cans into specially-marked receptacles throughout Churchill Downs to benefit Louisville’s West End School.  In turn, the cans will be sold for recycling and all proceeds will benefit the free private college-prep school for at-risk young men in our community. Information on West End School is available at www.westendschool.org.

24. Churchill Downs will welcome outstanding Metro Louisville area high school students who are members of the 2012 Churchill Downs Governor’s Scholars initiative with a reception at the track on Friday, Nov. 16. The students will be joined by their parents, family members and officials of their respective schools to celebrate their participation in the track’s Governor’s Scholars Program, an initiative launched in 2001 that funds the participation in the overall Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program by students from Jefferson County and portions of surrounding counties who have overcome personal adversity and challenges to become high achievers in their personal lives and academic pursuits.  One student is chosen from each of Jefferson County’s legislative districts, some of which extend into surrounding counties, to benefit from the Churchill Downs Governor’s Scholars Program.

25. “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. 18. 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. Additionally, “Horses and Hope” are inviting backstretch workers and spouses to a “Party for Women” with free breakfast, door prizes and gifts in the Track Kitchen on Monday, Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

26. The Lord’s Kitchen, Churchill Downs and Levy Restaurants will team for the sixth consecutive year to provide needy families and neighbors with frozen turkeys and boxes of food during the annual Thanksgiving Family Food Box Giveaway on Tuesday, Nov. 20. About 600 Louisville families are served annually with charitable boxes of food, which contain canned goods and non-perishable items sufficient to feed a family of four. The Lord’s Kitchen, which is located just a few blocks from the historic racetrack at 2732 South 5th Street, is in its 25th year of serving needy families and residents in the neighborhood. Additional volunteers to serve meals at The Lord’s Kitchen on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day are needed. Those interested in volunteering or donating food should call (502) 964-3304 ext. 1250.

27. 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 Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 17 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.

28. 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.

29. Fans interested in purchasing available inventory for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks 139 must register by Friday, Nov. 2 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 our available inventory. Those who register online at ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets or KentuckyDerby.com/Tickets simply by providing an e-mail address under “2013 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.

30. A room on the second floor of the Clubhouse commonly known as “The Old President’s Room” will serve as a workspace for working media and the Churchill Downs communications staff during the 2012 Fall Meet while construction continues on the new Media Center (scheduled to open in January). The President’s Room is adjacent to the Upper Jockey Club balcony and overlooks the saddling paddock and Aristides Garden. Also, it is adjacent to Grandstand’s Section 319 in the original Clubhouse and in the vicinity of the Central Avenue Deli concession stand and bar. The new state-of-the-art Media Center is being constructed in the area that was formerly occupied by Churchill Downs employees on the first floor of the General Offices. The converted space will feature assigned seating for approximately 400 (including more than 300 individual carrels), a separate room for major media outlets, built-in news conference location, offices for the communications team, numerous flat screen TVs, mutuel windows, private restrooms and a bar. Also, there is a stairwell that leads to an assigned viewing area for 200 working media adjacent to the eighth-pole in Sections 322-323. Atop the viewing area will be a row of workspace for radio broadcasters. More details and pictures will be presented to media when construction is complete, and will be included with the 2013 Kentucky Derby Media Credential Online Application in January. If anyone has immediate questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact Darren Rogers at (502) 636-4461 or [email protected].

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