Churchill Downs Racetrack will conduct its scheduled Downs After Dark night racing program on Friday, June 24. Track officials made the decision to resume live racing tomorrow after surveying damage to a number of barns and other structures in the Churchill Downs stable area this morning. The track will remain open for live racing for the remainder of its scheduled live racing dates for the 2011 Spring Meet, which is set to conclude on Monday, July 4.
As was previously announced, the racing facility is closed today (June 23) for live racing, training and simulcast-wagering operations. Churchill Downs does not plan to make up the lost live racing date and is contacting customers with reservations for today’s racing program to assist them with other accommodations.
Officials from the National Weather Service (“NWS”) visited the Churchill Downs stable area this morning and did determine that a tornado touched down in the barnyard. At this time, the NWS has not determined the size or strength of the tornado that damaged seven barns and the track’s backstretch chapel. No injuries to human beings or horses have been reported at the track, and Churchill Downs officials are examining the damaged stables to determine whether some may again be safely inhabited by horses and their human connections.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have survived last night’s tornado without injury to our backstretch human or equine population,” Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery said. “We have a lot to clean up and are coordinating with horsemen whose barns were affected on relocation arrangements for horses that may need to be moved off site—and returned to the track for live racing—for the remainder of our 2011 Spring Meet. We met with horsemen today for an update on clean-up efforts and have their support to resume live racing tomorrow with our Downs After Dark program. We will be prepared to receive horses shipping into Churchill Downs for tomorrow’s race card.
“Additionally, we will use our Churchill Charities ‘Pony Up For Charity’ fundraiser already scheduled for our night racing event tomorrow to raise money for backstretch storm victims,” Flanery continued. “Some horsemen lost equipment and feed and many backstretch workers’ living accommodations were damaged or compromised by the storm. We are hoping our guests will give generously to help those in our extended racing family that have immediate needs due to the storm. We were very lucky to come through this difficult time with no injuries or damage to our clubhouse and grandstand areas of the racetrack. The iconic Twin Spires of Churchill Downs still tower over the track, and we look forward to celebrating our good fortune tomorrow night under the lights for Downs After Dark.”
As part of the “Pony Up For Charity” promotion, customers may elect to ask their server to add or “Pony Up” a dollar or more to their food and beverage tab at Friday’s Downs After Dark event. Customers who “Pony Up” will receive a commemorative sticker, “I PONIED UP FOR CHARITY” with the Churchill Charities black and red horse head logo. Churchill Charities had partnered with New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program to serve as the beneficiary for the June 24 “Pony Up For Charity” fundraiser, but as a result of the needs created by the tornado damage, will dedicate this Friday night’s proceeds to storm victims. Churchill Charities will designate the July 1 Downs After Dark “Pony Up for Charity” event to benefit the New Vocations program.
The June 24 Downs After Dark program is titled “Cool Summer Nights.” Grandstand admission gates will open at 4 p.m. EDT, and the first of 11 live races will begin, as scheduled, at 6 p.m. Churchill Downs will host the second of three special Downs After Dark Presented by Budweiser Select nighttime racing programs, which have been described as a perfect blend of an upscale night on the town with the excitement of Thoroughbred racing. A crowd of 23,332 attended the summer season’s debut on Friday, June 17. The featured “Cool Summer Nights” theme will highlight cool blue and turquoise colors with water and lit star shapes featured throughout the facility. The featured entertainment will be an appearance by DJ Rap, considered by some critics as the top-rated female DJ in the world, who will spin tunes in the paddock area from 9 p.m. until the party concludes at midnight.