Following back-to-back cancellations due to a frozen racetrack, racing at Churchill Downs Racetrack will resume Friday at 12:40 p.m. EST with its regularly-scheduled 10-race program.
“Our superb track maintenance team has diligently worked around the clock to ensure that we have a suitable cushion, and after assessing the track condition this afternoon (Thursday), we concluded that it’s safe to resume training and racing,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “Horses on the track Friday will be a welcomed sight for all involved.”
Additionally, the one-mile dirt oval is expected to be open for training Friday from 6-10 a.m. Two races are scheduled for the Matt Winn Turf Course on Friday but a decision on whether or not they remain on that surface won’t be made until Friday morning.
Monday was the last day that horses trained over the Churchill Downs main track thanks to an early winter blast of three inches of snow that morning. Compounded by frigid temperatures, the track had been frozen and 10-race cards scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday were cancelled.
Churchill Downs’ track maintenance team – a 26-person operation led by David Lehr, senior director of track surfaces, and Jamie Richardson, assistant track superintendent – will continue to harrow and grade the racing surface Thursday and into Friday to ensure that it doesn’t refreeze.
The National Weather Service forecast for Louisville on Thursday called for mostly sunny skies with a high near 34 and a west wind around 10 miles per hour. Temps would fall to a low around 20 overnight and rise to 38 with sunshine on Friday. A high of 51 is forecasted for Saturday with a 30-percent chance of showers after 8 a.m. Sunday calls for an 80-percent chance of rain with a high near 61. The average temperature in Louisville this time of the year is typically in the upper 50s.
Cancellations of Churchill Downs racing programs due to weather conditions are rare. When Wednesday’s and Thursday’s programs were called off it was the first time since Nov. 23-24, 1970 that a frozen racetrack forced back-to-back cancellations. In the track’s 140-year history, there have been only 20 documented weather-related cancellations and just seven pertaining to winter weather.
Churchill Downs intends to make up as many of the cancelled races as possible by adding races to its remaining programs. Closing day of the Fall Meet is Sunday, Nov. 30, which means only eight scheduled racing dates remain. An 11-race program is scheduled for Saturday, highlighted by the $100,000-added Cardinal Handicap (Grade III) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Eleven races also were carded for Sunday, which means both weekend programs will end at 5:38 p.m. EST, a half-hour later than originally scheduled.
Closing week at Churchill Downs (Nov. 26-30) is one of the most anticipated Fall Meet events. Thanksgiving Day at the track has been a Louisville tradition since 1969 where more than 7,000 turkey dinners are served with all the trimmings, making it the largest number served anywhere in the region. The “Black Friday” card features the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) and annually lures some of the top older horses in North America. Stars of Tomorrow II is showcased on Saturday, Nov. 29, which features races exclusively for 2-year-olds that have aspirations of trail-blazing their way to next year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Longines Kentucky Oaks. The closing day card on Sunday, Nov. 30 doubles as Fan Appreciation Day with free general admission, a free 2015 Churchill Downs Wall Calendar courtesy of Humana to the first 5,000 fans, and $1 special food and beverage offerings: 16 oz. domestic draft beer, 22 oz. Pepsi product fountain drinks, bottled water and hot dogs.