Following the overwhelming popularity of a three-date market test this spring, Churchill Downs, the legendary home of the Kentucky Derby, will stage six special “Downs After Dark” nighttime racing programs under the lights in 2010.
The announcement was made Nov. 17 during a news conference at the historic Louisville, Ky., racetrack that also revealed Musco Lighting® as the winning contract bidder to install permanent track lighting at Churchill Downs and a new online platform for patrons to purchase tickets to the track.
Churchill Downs will host its unique Downs After Dark programs – the perfect blend of an upscale night on the town with the excitement of Thoroughbred racing – on the final four Fridays of the 42-date Spring Meet and two evening cards during the 20-date Fall Meet, including opening night which doubles as Halloween.
A complete list of the 2010 Downs After Dark dates (with scheduled first post time), pending final approval from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission:
* Friday, June 11, 2010 (6 p.m. ET)
* Friday, June 18, 2010 (6 p.m. ET)
* Friday, June 25, 2010 (6 p.m. ET)
* Friday, July 2, 2010 (6 p.m. ET)
* Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010 (4:30 p.m. ET)
* Friday, Nov. 19, 2010 (4:30 p.m. ET)
Churchill Downs hosted night racing events on June 19, June 26 and July 2. The average attendance was 29,705 and the three-night total was 89,115. A modern day track record of 33,481 attended the finale on July 2 – the largest crowd for a Churchill Downs racing program other than a Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks or Breeders’ Cup. It topped the old mark of 28,396 for a pre-simulcast wagering era million-dollar Pick 6 carryover on Nov. 14, 1987.
The event’s popularity helped signal the go-ahead on a multi-million dollar project to install permanent track lighting at the home of the Kentucky Derby.
“We want to keep Downs After Dark a special and unique experience for our fans,” Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery said. “For three nights this past spring, Churchill Downs was transformed into Louisville’s ultimate nighttime hot spot. The track was the place to be and offered the biggest party in town. Our distinctive events under the lights helped redefine the on-track racing experience and generated a tremendous buzz in the community and within the horse racing industry. It could not have been accomplished without the teamwork and support of our horsemen’s groups, neighborhood associations and employees and the fantastic support and participation we received from the Greater Louisville community. Our goal for the coming year is to deliver that same level of excitement to core customers, casual patrons and entertainment-seekers within these six special Downs After Dark events in 2010.”
Reserved ticket packages to 2010 Downs After Dark events are available for purchase online at tickets.churchilldowns.com – Churchill Downs’ new and convenient online box office platform.
Cover charge (general admission) to all Downs After Dark events will be $10. A special discounted general admission pass for entrance on all six nights is available for $45 (a $15 savings). Customers also have the opportunity to purchase a special $20 package that includes general admission, a box seat in the third-floor clubhouse and an official program. Additionally, Downs After Dark “Date Night” dinner and dancing packages are available for $59.90 and include a reserved seat in Millionaires Row, an official program and buffet dinner.
Downs After Dark combined live Thoroughbred racing with subtle facility changes and abundant ancillary activities that helped create a special and festive atmosphere in an evening setting under the stars. Food, fashion, music, parties and entertainment were showcased elements that added to the merrymaking.
The Churchill Downs facilities were adorned by mood lighting, spotlights and seasonal greenery. Colorful bunting flowed throughout the grounds and entrances. With sleek and comfortable conversational seating options, stand-up cocktail tables, unique food and beverage stations and music added to the mix, the racetrack – particularly the paddock area – had the look and feel of an upscale night club.
To set the tone for the party, there was high energy live music between races for the thousands who caroused near the paddock. The revelry went to new levels late in the night when a deejay mixed sounds of modern rock, pop and hip-hop. All the while, private VIP party guests on the Clubhouse balconies danced to live salsa music and Jockey Club Suites patrons were sung standards inside the Triple Crown Room.
Patrons had the option to taste non-traditional racetrack offerings like flavorful grilled shrimp, chicken and steak skewers and vegetable kabobs. Evening appetites were satisfied by scrumptious multi-course premium “Date Night” dining and dancing offerings available for purchase inside Millionaires Row and the Skye Terrace. The historic first night even featured a limited number of high-end, elegant “Dinner by Design” packages with celebrity chefs inside the Stakes, Aristides and Directors Rooms.
Other ancillary activities included red carpet entrances, entertainment and interviews on the infield video boards and a new sweepstakes promotion call “Bet or No Bet” that randomly asked fans to either take $100 in cash or place a free $1,000 win bet on a horse in the upcoming race.
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 conduct the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 1, 2010 and the Kentucky Oaks on April 30, 2010. The track will conduct its 2009 Fall Meet from Sunday, Nov. 1 through Saturday, Nov. 28. 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 www.churchilldowns.com.
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