(Monday, Oct. 20, 2008) – World-class horse racing returns to legendary Churchill Downs on Sunday, Oct. 26 for the Louisville, Ky. racetrack’s 119th Fall Meet which covers 26 days through Saturday, Nov. 29.
After opening day, live racing will be conducted on a Wednesday-Sunday schedule with dark days on Mondays and Tuesdays except for a special holiday program on Tuesday, Nov. 11. Instead of racing on Election Day, as was the case in recent years, Churchill Downs will stage a special Veterans Day program.
Most days will begin at 12:40 p.m. ET and feature 10 live races. There’ll be 11-race cards on opening day and the first Saturday of the Meet, which doubles as “Stars of Tomorrow I”. Twelve-race programs that begin early at 11:30 a.m. ET will be showcased over the meet’s final three days that comprise the Thanksgiving holiday weekend: Thursday, Nov. 27 (Thanksgiving Day); Friday, Nov. 28 (Clark Handicap Day); and closing day on Saturday, Nov. 29 (Stars of Tomorrow II).
Horsemen – led by 2007 Fall Meet leaders Julien Leparoux (jockey), Steve Asmussen (trainer) and Ken and Sarah Ramsey (owners) – will have ample opportunities to seek year-end graded stakes glory or to uncork promising juveniles throughout the action-packed five-week stand. And, bettors are certain to be challenged by the competitive racing that typically pits the fastest and battle-tested horses against the fresh.
The 16th running of the $100,000-added Ack Ack Handicap (Grade III), a one-mile test of stamina and speed for 3-year-olds and up, headlines the opening day action and kicks off a 12-race stakes schedule – all graded stakes – cumulatively worth $1.925 million.
The anchor of the lucrative program is the 134th running of the $500,000 Clark Handicap (GII) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on Friday, Nov. 28 – one of five major stakes races on Thanksgiving weekend.
Other highlights include the fourth annual “Stars of Tomorrow” programs, which are days entirely devoted to races for rising 2-year-old stars who could trail-blaze their way to next year’s Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks. They have proved to be extremely popular with bettors and horsemen, and each program will feature a pair of stakes events. “Stars of Tomorrow I” on Saturday, Nov. 1 is topped by the open $100,000-added Iroquois (GIII) and $100,000-added Pocahontas for fillies both at one mile. “Stars of Tomorrow II” is a fitting end to the meet on Saturday, Nov. 29, and its co-features are the open $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) and Golden Rod (GII) for fillies. The distance for both races is 1 1/16 miles.
Five new voices to Churchill Downs will describe the action this fall with one sure to emerge as the new “Voice of the Kentucky Derby” next spring. The star-studded lineup was invited to take weekly turns in the announcer’s booth after the unexpected death of Luke Kruytbosch, who had called the races at the track since 1999. Calder Race Course’s Bobby Neuman is first up (Oct. 26-Nov. 2) and will be followed by Louisiana Downs’ Travis Stone (Nov. 5-9); Golden Gate’s Michael Wrona (Nov. 11-16); Gulfstream Park, Monmouth Park and Suffolk Downs’ Larry Collmus (Nov. 19-23); and England’s Mark Johnson (Nov. 26-29).
Two other noticeable changes will be the addition of first-of-its-kind enhancements to the overall racing product. Churchill Downs will become the first racetrack in the United States to distribute its signal in high definition, and more than 100 new HDTVs have been installed around the facility for customers to enjoy. Also, Churchill Downs plans to unveil a payout-pumping variation of the popular Super Hi-5 wager that is expected to feature the first interstate jackpot of its kind in horse racing. Further details will be announced later this week.
In addition to the spectacular racing and wagering opportunities, a plethora of special events, giveaways and promotions are sure to wet the appetite of customers.
The first 5,000 fans in attendance on opening day will receive a free 2009 Churchill Downs Wall Calendar, complete with race dates, major event listings and vivid and memorable images from the Kentucky Derby and around the track.
Also, children age 3-10 are invited to take part in the Junior Jockey Club Halloween Costume Parade on opening day. Churchill Downs’ mascot “Churchill Charlie” will lead the kids in a parade around the facility starting at 1 p.m. ET with designated stops around the track to collect holiday treats. Activities, including the decoration of Trick or Treat bags, will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Junior Jockey Clubhouse near Gate 10. In addition, the Wizard of Oz Art Car, created by Louisville’s world-renowned artist Robbie Moriarty, will be on display.
Other Fall Meet promotional highlights include College Scholarship Day on Friday, Oct. 31 that will feature free admission to full-time college students and 10 drawings – one after each race – for $1,000 scholarships. Certain to be a hit will be the giveaways of three collectable hurricane glasses that salute popular Cajun jockeys Calvin Borel (Saturday, Nov. 8), Robby Albarado (Saturday, Nov. 15) and Kent Desormeaux (Saturday, Nov. 22). They’ll be available each day to the first 5,000 fans in attendance.
New Orleans-themed Friday Happy Hours will return for the Fall Meet (through Friday, Nov. 21) with $2 Budweiser Select, $2 hurricanes and $2 Fischer’s hot dogs to complement live jazz music on-track between 3-5 p.m.
Starting Oct. 29, racing fans can pit their handicapping skills against the best Louisville has to offer every Wednesday and Sunday in the popular twice-weekly “Who’s the Champ?” Handicapping Contest. For a $30 entry fee ($25 for Twin Spires Club members), participants will compete for weekly cash prizes and an invitation to the Nov. 23 final where the top two finishers will win coveted berths in the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Association National Handicapping Championship X slated for Jan. 23-24, 2009 in Las Vegas.
Those looking to hone or improve their handicapping skills, particularly with juveniles, are invited to attend a special Two-Year-Old Handicapping Seminar on Saturday, Nov. 1 (Stars of Tomorrow I Day). The price to attend the insightful 9-11:15 a.m. session is $25 and includes breakfast; a trip to the paddock to better understand a 2-year-old’s physical and behavioral characteristics; in-depth tips and analysis of that day’s program by Churchill’s John Asher, racing analyst Jill Byrne, Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee and clocker John Nichols; a raffle for door prizes; and reserved seats in Sky Terrace.
Finally, Churchill Downs also will stage an important philanthropic event on Sunday, Nov. 16 billed as “Horses and Hope,” a new initiative created by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear with the Kentucky Cancer Program. The event will be centered around women who work in the barn areas at Kentucky racetracks and is designed to promote and provide breast cancer awareness, education, screening and treatment referral.
General admission to Churchill Downs is $3, but only $1 to senior citizens and members of the track’s Twin Spires Club. Children 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking is free in the Longfield Avenue lot (Gates 10 & 12) and $3 in all other lots. Valet parking is $5.
Free seating is available daily over a first-come, first-serve basis in sections 113-117 and 215-218. Premium reserved seats in the Matt Winn Dining Room, Box Seats, Millionaire’s Row, Jockey Club Suites and Skye Terrace can be purchased by calling (502) 636-4400.
Special ticket packages are also being offered for Sunday Brunch in Millionaire’s Row Six every Sunday; Thanksgiving Day; and the final two days of the meet in the Triple Crown Room. Also, there are special discounted rates for rental of luxurious Jockey Club Suites on Sundays for groups of 12 or more.
For more information, please call (502) 636-4400 or visit 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 conduct the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 2009. The track’s 2008 Fall Meet runs from October 26 through November 29. Churchill Downs is scheduled to host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for a record seventh time on November 5-6, 2010. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.
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