New Twist for Downs After Dark in 2010: Each Will Be Themed, Led by 'Disco at the Downs'

May 24, 2010 Darren Rogers

Dust off the flared trousers, wide collars and platform shoes.

When the wildly popular “Downs After Dark” nighttime racing programs return to Churchill Downs in earnest on Friday, June 11, there’ll be a new twist in 2010: each of the six evening extravaganzas will have a primary theme, beginning with “Disco at the Downs.”

Downs After Dark, which attracted an average of nearly 30,000 fans during its three-date market test in 2009, will be staged on the final four Fridays of the 42-day Spring Meet. Also, there are two dates scheduled for later in the year, including opening night of the 20-day Fall Meet which doubles as Halloween.

“Disco at the Downs” on Friday, June 11 will be a celebration of the 1970s, complete with disco balls and dance competitions throughout the vast Churchill Downs facility. On-track customers will be encouraged to join in the revelry and dress in their favorite ’70s garb. The women likely will be wearing floral pattern blouses, maxi dresses, halter neck catsuits, spandex hot pants and ultra short shorts. Meanwhile, the men are sure to be sporting tight-fitting cheesecloth shirts with big collars and bright patterns as well as bell bottom jeans and polyester flared trouser suits. Can you dig it?

    The ’70s celebration will continue into Saturday, June 12 when Kentucky Derby Alumni Day returns for the Stephen Foster Handicap Day program with a salute to the Derby winners from that decade, including Triple Crown winners Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978).

    Downs After Dark also will have themed celebrations around the Fourth of July and Halloween. The Friday, July 2 program is dubbed “An American Party: Boots, Brew & BBQ,” which will have a country/Americana ambiance with a regional beer garden and street party feel to kick-start the holiday weekend. On Sunday, Oct. 31, Churchill Downs will kickoff its Fall Meet and the start of Breeders’ Cup World Championships week with a “Spirits & Spires” Halloween costume party.

    The other three Downs After Dark events will have a “South Beach” (June 18), “Dress to Impress” (June 25) and “Home for the Holidays” (Nov. 19) flavor.

    The first race for each Downs After Dark program during the Spring Meet will be 6 p.m. ET. The two Fall Meet programs will begin at 4:30 p.m. Admission gates will open two hours before the first live race.

Cover charge (general admission) to all Downs After Dark events is $10. Holders of shareholders or horsemen passes, as well as select Twin Spires Club members (Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze members only) and children age 12 and under (when accompanied by an adult) will be admitted free of charge. (Note: season passes are not valid for Downs After Dark events).

A special discounted general admission pass for entrance on all six nights is available for $45 (a $15 savings).

Customers also have the opportunity to purchase a special $20 package that includes general admission, a box seat in the third-floor clubhouse and an official program.

Additionally, Downs After Dark packages in Millionaires Row are available for $59.90 and include a reserved seat in Millionaires Row, an official program, buffet dinner and live entertainment from 4-7 p.m.

A one-time-only “Dinner by Design” package is available for the June 11 debut. For $100, guests will enjoy a five-course dinner with premium wine pairings developed by Levy Restaurants’ Chef Jo-Jo Doyle and a special Louisville guest chef in the Stakes and Aristides Rooms on the fourth floor of the Clubhouse.

    All reserved ticket packages are available for purchase online at – Churchill Downs’ new and convenient online box office platform.

    For three nights last spring, Churchill Downs was transformed into Louisville’s ultimate nighttime hot spot with nearly 90,000 fans in attendance for racing under the stars. Churchill Downs hosted night racing events under temporary lights on June 19, June 26 and July. The average attendance was 29,705 and the three-night total was 89,115. A modern day track record of 33,481 attended the finale on July 2 – the largest crowd for a Churchill Downs racing program other than a Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks or Breeders’ Cup. It topped the old mark of 28,396 for a pre-simulcast wagering era million-dollar Pick 6 carryover on Nov. 14, 1987.

The event’s overwhelming popularity helped signal the go-ahead for Churchill Downs Incorporated to invest between $3 million and $4 million in permanent lighting.

Downs After Dark combined live Thoroughbred racing with subtle facility changes and abundant ancillary activities that helped create a special and festive atmosphere in an evening setting under the stars. Food, fashion, music, parties and entertainment were showcased elements that added to the merrymaking.

The Churchill Downs facilities will be adorned by mood lighting, spotlights and seasonal greenery, and colorful bunting will flow throughout the grounds and entrances. With sleek and comfortable conversational seating options, stand-up 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.

To set the tone for the party, there will be “Happy Hours” from 4-6 p.m. in the paddock area featuring $2 Anheuser Busch products other discounted food and drink offerings. There also will be live music until 9 p.m. The revelry will go to new levels late in the night when internationally renowned VJ 2ndNature will mixed sounds of modern rock, pop and hip-hop from 9 p.m. to midnight. All the while, there will be private VIP “Party Zones” on the Clubhouse and Jockey Club Suites balconies with guests dancing to live music, as well.

Patrons will have the option to taste non-traditional racetrack offerings such as flavorful grilled shrimp, chicken and steak skewers and vegetable kabobs. Evening appetites also will be satisfied by scrumptious multi-course premium dining offerings available for purchase inside Millionaires Row, the Skye Terrace and other locations.

Other ancillary activities will include entertainment and interviews on the infield video boards and the popular sweepstakes promotion called “Bet or No Bet” that randomly asks fans to take $100 in cash or place a free $1,000 win bet on a horse in the upcoming race.

    For more information, call (502) 636-4400 or log onto

    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 host the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7, 2011 and the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, May 6, 2011. The track’s 2010 Spring Meet continues through Sunday, July 4. Churchill Downs is scheduled to host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for a record seventh time on Nov. 5 and 6, 2010. Churchill Downs tickets are available at or by calling (502) 636-4400. Additional information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at

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