When the racing year at Churchill Downs Racetrack winds to a close on Saturday (Nov. 30), the historic track will offer a sincere “Thank You” to its guests throughout the year in the form of food and drink specials, a visit by racing royalty, a chance to bragging rights by placing an early wager on the winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and, of course, a visitor from the North who will lend an assist as the track rings in the holiday season.

Churchill Downs offers a closing day “Thank You to Our Guests for a Great Year” with a multi-faceted day at the races that includes:

  • $1 draft domestic beers, $1 hot dogs and 50-cent soft drinks and bottled water;
  • An on-track appearance by Churchill Downs fan favorite and  reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan;
  • Opportunities to participate in the holiday weekend Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”), which offers the earliest opportunity ever to place a winning bet on the horse that wins the 2014 Kentucky Derby;
  • And a visit from Santa Claus, who will pause his busy preparation for the Christmas season with a stop beneath the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs to provide a proper kick-off to the holidays.

 Post time for the first race on Saturday’s is 12:40 p.m. (all times Eastern) and admission gates will open at 11:30 a.m.

Santa Claus will spend the day at the Downs, starting with a visit with young fans in the Junior Jockey Club from noon-2 p.m., and afterward will visit fans at various locations beneath the Twin Spires.

Champion Wise Dan, fresh off his second consecutive victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile (Grade I), will appear in the paddock with horses for Race 3 between 1:15-1:45 p.m.  Racing’s 2012 Horse of the Year could earn that honor again for 2013 after winning six of seven races during the year – including Churchill Downs’ Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) and Firecracker Handicap (GII).

Owner/breeder Mort Fink and trainer Charlie LoPresti will ship Wise Dan by van from his Lexington training base at Keeneland.

Wise Dan has long been a local fan favorite as he has raced at Churchill Downs more than any other track. Ten of Wise Dan’s 27 career races have come on either turf or dirt at Churchill Downs. The champion has won six of those, including a run on dirt in the 2011 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI). Overall, Wise Dan has won 19 of 27 races and earned nearly $6.3 million in his career.

Holding with recent tradition, the curtain will drop on the 25-day Fall Meet beneath the Twin Spires with “Stars of Tomorrow II”, a 12-race program devoted exclusively to racing for 2-year-old Thoroughbreds. Those young stars that could be contenders for the 139th runnings of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) and the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) when those classics are renewed in 2014 on the first weekend in May. 

Saturday’s biggest races are a pair of Grade II events at 1 1/16-miles: the $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club for future Derby hopes and the $150,000-added Golden Rod, which is the day’s major race for fillies that are aiming toward the 2014 Kentucky Oaks. Both races are stops on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” and “Road to the Kentucky Oaks,” the points systems that will determine the eligibility of horses to run in next spring’s big races.

In the nine years since the “Stars of Tomorrow” concept was introduced, races at Churchill Downs on those days have produced more than 30 Grade I stakes winners that include 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, 2009 Horse of the Year and Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra, 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford, 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and 2013 Stephen Foster Handicap winner Fort Larned and 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can.

As patrons watch those future stars in action on Saturday, they can also take an early stand on which horse might win the “Run for the Roses” in 2014 by participating in Churchill Downs earliest pool of its popular Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which opened its four-day Wednesday. Wagering on the special Derby Future pool – the first ever offered before Derby contenders enter their 3-year-old seasons on New Year’s Day – will conclude on Saturday at post time of the $400,000 Remsen (Grade II) at Aqueduct which is scheduled for 3:49 p.m.

The Kentucky Derby Future Wager, launched by Churchill Downs in 1999, is an innovative pari-mutuel wager that allows racing fans the opportunity to wager on potential Derby contenders well in advance of the race at odds that could be significantly more attractive than those available on the day the classic race for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds is run.  For example, 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb paid $12.80 to win on race day, but returned $26.20 for a $2 wager in Pool 2 and $29.60 for a $2 bet in Pool 3 of the 2013 Kentucky Derby Future Wager.

The Derby Future Wager is a $2 minimum bet and $1 exactas are also available and three more betting pools are scheduled in February, March and April.

After Saturday’s racing program, there will be no live racing at Churchill Downs until next spring’s celebrations of Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Week. The 2014 Churchill Downs Spring Meet and Derby and Oaks week begin with the annual “Opening Night” party on Saturday, April 26.  The 140th Kentucky Oaks will be run on Friday, May 2, and the Kentucky Derby is set for Saturday, May 3. 

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