Churchill Downs will kick-start an action-packed Fourth of July holiday weekend in style as the legendary home of the Kentucky Derby winds down its 42-day spring meet with the final “Downs After Dark Presented by Budweiser Select” on Friday at 6 p.m. (all times Eastern).
Only three racing dates will be left at the track’s 136th Spring Meet after the conclusion of Thursday’s nine-race card. Eleven-race programs are scheduled for Friday, Saturday and closing day Sunday, which doubles as the Fourth of July and Fan Appreciation Day.
Free Admission, $1 Beer & Hot Dogs, $500 Thorntons Gas Card Giveaway on Closing Day Sunday
As a special “thank you” to its fans for continued support of Churchill Downs, track officials have announced that general admission will be free for all patrons on Sunday, and beer and hot dogs will be sold for $1 all day (note: beer sales will begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday). Also, Churchill Downs and Thorntons have teamed to give away 11 $500 gas cards through prize drawings after each race.
2009 Kentucky Derby Winner Mine That Bird Entered in Sunday’s Firecracker Handicap
As a closing day bonus, Mine That Bird could become the first Kentucky Derby winner to race at Churchill Downs since 2005 champ Giacomo finished fourth in the ’06 Breeders’ Cup Classic beneath the Twin Spires. After two failed attempts to get into a dirt allowance race, the connections of the upset 2009 Kentucky Derby champ decided to enter the 4-year-old gelding in Sunday’s featured Grade II, $175,000-added Firecracker Handicap Presented by Thorntons at one mile on turf for his 2010 debut. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who assumed training duties in May, has said that the Aug. 7 Whitney Handicap on dirt at Saratoga is Mine That Bird’s immediate goal.
“Downs After Dark” Kicks Off Fourth of July Weekend with Boots, Brew & BBQ Theme
The closing weekend extravaganza will begin in earnest Friday night with the fourth installment of the popular Downs After Dark series. Each of this year’s nighttime events is themed, and the Spring Meet finale will be “An American Party: Boots, Brew & BBQ” complete with a patriotic and Americana street party atmosphere. Attendees are encouraged to wear blue jeans and boots (traditional dress codes in premium seat areas will be relaxed).
The Churchill Downs facility will be adorned by patriotic red, white and blue bunting, and there will be two stages for live music from 4-8:30 p.m. Rising Nashville-based country artist Artie Dean Harris will perform on the paddock stage (with line dancing instruction at the top of every hour until 8 p.m.), while Raising Einstein will entertain next to a beer garden in the north paddock area adjacent to the Paddock Pavilion.
The new beer garden will showcase a selection of Anheuser-Busch microbrews and brand favorites such as Budweiser, Bud Light and Budweiser Select. Also, Smokey Joe’s Barbecue will be on hand with a giant pig on a spit to serve holiday favorites such as pulled pork, baby-back ribs, roasted corn on the cob and thick-sliced cold watermelon. Also, Woodford Reserve will be on hand with a variety of specialty bourbon drinks to whet the appetite.
The party will be elevated to new levels around the 9 o’clock hour when darkness falls and popular VJ 2ndNature mixes the sounds of modern rock, pop and hip-hop on his turntable in the paddock area until midnight.
Other “Downs After Dark” Fourth of July-themed Events & Offerings
In addition to the traditional Downs After Dark ancillary entertainment, Churchill Downs will help celebrate America’s Independence with patriotic-themed events and offerings such as:
• A moving display of more than 1,000 U.S. flags inside the Gate 10 Jockey Garden in conjunction with Flags4Vets, whose primary goal is to place flags on every one of the graves of U.S. veterans buried in the 151 U.S. military cemeteries located in 11 countries;
• A giant 20 x 30 foot U.S. flag to be displayed for Gate 17 arrivals and an 8 x 12 foot U.S. flag to be viewed from the paddock;
• Prerace patriotic hymns by bugler Steve Buttleman; and
• Special seating in Sky Terrace 5 for members of military families through Operation Homefront, the nonprofit organization that provides support for the families of military service members deployed throughout the world (note: Operation Homefront will have an information tent located inside the Gate 10 entrance).
General Information: Gates Open at 4 p.m., First Race is 6 p.m.
The first of 11 live races Friday is 6 p.m. ET, and the featured 10th race is the $66,500-added Roxelana, an overnight seven-furlong stakes race for fillies and mares. Between races 4, 5, 8 and 9, the popular sweepstakes promotion “Bet or No Bet” will return to ask randomly drawn fans to take $100 in cash or place a free $1,000 win bet on a horse in the upcoming race. The final live race will be around 11:20 p.m.
Friday’s admission gates will open at 4 p.m. and Happy Hours will take place in the paddock area from 4-7 p.m. featuring $2 Anheuser Busch products and other discounted food and drink offerings.
“Date Night” dining packages in Millionaires Row and Skye Terrace remain available for $59.90 and include a scrumptious buffet dinner, live entertainment from 4-7 p.m., a reserved seat and an official program. Meanwhile, the outdoor third-floor box seats in sections 314-322 are nearly sold out. They are on sale for $20 and include general admission, a box seat in the third-floor clubhouse and an official program.
Cover charge (general admission) to all Downs After Dark events is $10. Holders of shareholders passes or horsemen licenses, 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.
All reserved ticket packages are available for purchase online at tickets.churchilldowns.com – Churchill Downs’ new and convenient online box office platform. Customers also can call the Churchill Downs switchboard at (502) 636-4400.
As usual, Churchill Downs will be open early for simulcast wagering on the second floor of the clubhouse on Friday. General admission will be its regular price of $3 from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Gate 17.
Free Parking, Shuttles at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium
Those attending Friday’s 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). Last year, all lots were filled to capacity by post time for the second race.
Churchill Downs will offer free parking and shuttle service from Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium starting at 4 p.m. There will be free round-trip shuttle service throughout the evening with drop off and pick up at Gate 1.
Ideal Weather Conditions
After recording the hottest June in Louisville history including a lengthy stretch in the 90s, Friday’s National Weather Service area forecast calls for sunny skies with a high near 86 degrees and a low around 62.
Downs After Dark Lures Large Crowds
Downs After Dark, the perfect blend of an upscale night on the town with the excitement of thoroughbred racing, has showcased ancillary entertainment such as food, fashion, music and parties. So far, more than 76,000 horseplayers and entertainment-seekers have attended Downs After Dark in 2010, including an event-high 26,330 for last week’s festivities. One year ago this week, a modern day track record of 33,481 attended Downs After Dark on Thursday, July 2, which was the largest crowd for a Churchill Downs racing program other than a Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks or Breeders’ Cup. As a point of reference, a typical crowd for Friday afternoon racing at Churchill Downs is 7,500.
Stakes Doubleheader on Saturday: Locust Grove Handicap & Bashford Manor
While the first live race on Friday begins at 6 p.m., the 11-race Saturday and Sunday programs will begin at their usual start time of 12:45 p.m. Saturday’s card is highlighted by a Grade III, $100,000 stakes doubleheader. The Locust Grove Handicap for fillies and mares at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course will be run as Race 9 at approximately 4:54 p.m., and will be immediately followed by the Bashford Manor Presented by Fasig-Tipton, a six-furlong sprint for 2-year-olds at 5:26 p.m.
Prior to the start of Saturday’s racing action, Fasig-Tipton’s vice president of recruiting and selections Bill Graves and director of client services Max Hodge will be racing analyst Jill Byrne’s special guests during the free “Get in the Game” seminar in the paddock area at 11:45 a.m.
For more information, call (502) 636-4400 or log onto www.churchilldowns.com.
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 Tickets.ChurchillDowns.com or by calling (502) 636-4400. Additional information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at ChurchillDowns.com.
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