Kick up your boots, y’all, and get ready for a Southern-style country celebration as the wildly-popular Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka returns to Churchill Downs on Saturday night at 6 p.m. (all times Eastern).
This week’s theme – decided by an online fan vote – is “Boots, Brew and BBQ.” Guests are encouraged to “dress to impress” in western wear, with contests in the Plaza for best-dressed female, male, couple and group with prizes to the winners.
Churchill Downs will be decked out for Louisville’s biggest summer shindig with plenty of western accessories – red and white checks, hay bales, whiskey barrels, burlap, bandanas and rustic signage.
The spacious 30,000-square-foot Plaza adjacent to the saddling paddock will be the heartbeat of the party. There’ll be a pig roast, 1,000-pound Mechanical Bull (6-10 p.m.) and plenty of festive tunes – an SUP DJ from 4-7:30 p.m. and the popular Howl at the Moon Dueling Piano Show from 8-11:30 p.m. There also will be music by Dane Clark on the Clubhouse’s fifth floor balcony, Dillan Johnson at the Gate 10 entrance and the Benjamin Davis Group at Gate 17.
Churchill Downs’ jockeys plan to have plenty of fun with the mechanical bull between races. Throughout the night, the riders will be competing against one another, and the rider who stays on the longest will receive a $500 donation to the charity of their choice.
Admission gates will open Saturday at 4 p.m. and the first of 11 live races will begin at 6 p.m. The final live race will be 11:10 p.m. and the on-track party will continue in the Plaza area until 11:30 p.m. The last call for alcohol will be post time for the final race of night.
Other ancillary entertainment includes the popular text-to-win sweepstakes “Bet or No Bet,” sponsored by Thorntons. Four lucky on-track patrons will face a tough decision on Races 6-9: to place a $1,000 win bet on a horse in the upcoming race or take a $100 Thorntons’ gift card.
Patrons will have the option to taste non-traditional racetrack offerings such as roasted suckling pig with all the fixins – served on a mini onion roll with a side of Cole slaw and choices of Carolina Mustard, Memphis Mustard and Bourbon Peach Barbeque Sauce. Also, the folks from Brown-Forman will be on hand to serve El Jimador tequila.
Shane Co. will be on site inside the Gate 17 entrance near the Churchill Downs Store to giveaway “blinky” cups, and RAM Trucks will be on display in various locations around the venue. Also, the Churchill Downs team will be giving away red, white and blue necklaces decorated with cowboy boots and hats to select patrons in The Plaza.
Saturday’s marquee entertainment event has been paired with stellar stakes racing action. The 113th running of the $100,000-added Debutante, a six-furlong race for promising 2-year-old fillies, is the featured seventh race at 9:05 p.m. Meanwhile, older fillies and mares will sprint three-quarters of a mile in the $65,000-added Roxelana, which goes as Race 10 at 10:42 p.m.
This is the second of three consecutive Saturday night Downs After Dark racing programs at Churchill Downs. Last week’s “White Party” lured 23,509 fans and a night racing record $8,390,139 in total wagers. The June 29 theme is “Star-Spangled Night,” a pre-Fourth of July holiday celebration with lots of red, white and blue.
According to the National Weather Service, Saturday’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with a high near 91. The low will be around 71.
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. No one under the age of 18 will be admitted to the track unless they are accompanied by a parent or responsible adult.
There is limited reserved seating still available. Indoor dining packages in the Millionaires Row 6 are $59.90 per person and include a scrumptious buffet dinner, reserved seat and official program. Outdoor third-floor box seats are on sale for $20 and include general admission, a box seat in the third-floor clubhouse and an official program.
Reserved seating can be purchased online at ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets or the on-track box office located at the Gate 1 entrance off Central Ave. (open Wednesday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on ‘Downs After Dark’ Saturdays). The cutoff for online sales is Friday at noon.
Those attending Downs After Dark are encouraged to arrive early to secure on-site parking and avoid traffic delays. All on-property parking lots will open at 3 p.m. and space is available on a first-come, first-served basis (free in the Longfield Avenue lot). Typically, all lots are filled to capacity early in the racing program. Churchill Downs will offer free parking and shuttle service from Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium starting at 5 p.m. There will be free round-trip shuttle service throughout the evening. All Churchill Downs employees will be directed to park in the track’s infield (enter through Longfield tunnel).
Churchill Downs has secured the services of Louisville Metro Police Department officers and traffic guards to monitor area traffic on Central Avenue and other nearby streets to advance ingress and egress. LMPD will control traffic signals, turn lanes and pedestrian traffic and partial road closures are possible if it becomes necessary because of heavy traffic.
As usual, Churchill Downs will be open early for simulcast wagering on the second floor of the clubhouse Saturday. General admission will be its regular price of $3 from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Gate 17.
The Saturday simulcast menu includes Calder (12:50 p.m.), Monmouth Park (12:55 p.m.), Woodbine (1 p.m.), Belmont Park (1:05 p.m.), Delaware (1:15 p.m.), Arlington (2 p.m.), Louisiana Downs (2:25 p.m.), Lone Star Park (2:35 p.m.), Betfair Hollywood Park (4 p.m.), Penn National (6 p.m.), Evangeline Downs (6:40 p.m.), Mountaineer (7 p.m.), Charles Town (7:15 p.m.) and Prairie Meadows (7:30 p.m.).
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: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 3, 2014 and its 2013 Spring Meet is scheduled continues through Sunday, June 30. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.ChurchillDowns.com.