Louisville’s biggest summer parties return in earnest to Churchill Downs for the final three weeks of the Spring Meet as the historic home of the Kentucky Derby welcomes back its wildly-popular Downs After Dark nighttime racing programs Friday at 6 p.m. EDT.
A perfect blend of an upscale night on the town with the excitement of Thoroughbred racing, Downs After Dark Presented by Budweiser Select will take place on the final three Fridays of the 39-day Spring Meet: June 17, June 24 and July 1.
The elements that have made the Downs After Dark parties so special – the cuisine, fashion, style, music and entertainment – are back, and each of this year’s evening racing extravaganzas will have unique concepts: Hot Summer Nights (June 17) featuring hot orange and hot pink colors with a bit of a 1960s vibe; Cool Summer Nights (June 24) highlighting cool blue and turquoise colors with water and lit star shapes featured throughout the facility; and The White Party (July 1), a white-hot party in which guests are encouraged to wear an all-white wardrobe to kick-start the Fourth of July holiday weekend celebration.
Also, three of the most renowned and captivating DJs in the country – DJ Charlie Chan (June 17), DJ Rap (June 24) and DJ Irie (July 1) – will entertain paddock party-goers by spinning and mixing some of the hottest dance music.
Friday night’s season premiere will showcase a special performance by legendary music icon Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run-DMC fame, who will perform many of his classic hits for an hour after the last race.
Admission gates will open each Friday at 4 p.m. and the first of 11 live races will begin at 6 p.m. (all times Eastern). The final live race will be just after 11 p.m. and the on-track party will continue in the paddock area until midnight.
Night racing at Churchill Downs has been a spectacular success. The track experimented with night racing under temporary lights in 2009 and invested $4 million to add permanent lighting – 1,012 fixtures atop 50 poles and 25 rooftop structures – in 2010. The move has proved to be popular as nearly 250,000 core customers, casual patrons and entertainment-seekers have attended the nine special nighttime programs. Over the last two years, Downs After Dark events have essentially tripled the on-track attendance and doubled the on-track wagering handle compared to afternoon programs previously staged on those dates.
The average attendance for the seven summertime Downs After Dark programs has been 27,898, compared to a Friday afternoon program that typically averages 7,500 patrons. Downs After Dark on-track handle has averaged $1,472,145, while all-sources handle, which includes betting from off-track betting and advance deposit wagering outlets, has averaged $5,860,881.
Earlier this year, Churchill Downs created a new stand-alone event to kick-start the Spring Meet and Kentucky Derby Week. Simply billed as “Opening Night,” the prime-time event was a rousing success and lured an unprecedented 38,142 fans, which was the largest crowd for a Churchill Downs racing program other than a Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks or Breeders’ Cup. Attendance skyrocketed 182.3% from the 13,510 that attended the daytime opener in 2010. On-track handle jumped 89.5% from $1,065,865 to $2,020,124; off-track wagering was up 15.6% from $5,921,630 to $6,844,054; and all-sources wagering grew 26.9% from $6,987,495 to $8,864,178.
It isn’t just racing under the stars that have attracted people to the historic racetrack. After all, night racing has been part of horse racing history for several decades. Instead, it is the abundant ancillary activities coupled with live racing that have helped create a special and festive atmosphere. Quite simply, Churchill Downs is transformed into Louisville’s ultimate nighttime hot spot, leaving many attendees describing the experience as “something you’ve just got to see.”
CHURCHILL DOWNS TRANSFORMED FOR ‘DOWNS AFTER DARK’
Friday’s “Hot Summer Nights” concept will showcase lots of hot orange and hot pink décor with a bit of a ‘60s vibe, complete with Go-Go dancers on pedestals in the paddock.
The Churchill Downs facilities will be adorned by mood lighting, spotlights and seasonal greenery, and colorful bunting will flow throughout the grounds and entrances. With sleek and comfortable conversational seating options, cocktail tables, unique food and beverage stations and music added to the mix, the racetrack – particularly the paddock area – will have the look and feel of an upscale night club. All the while, there will be private VIP Party Zones Presented by Woodford Reserve and Bacardi on the Finish Line Suites and Jockey Club Suites balconies, respectively, with lighted bars and guests dancing to live music starting at 7 p.m. Tat2 Latin Sounds will perform on the Finish Line Suites balcony, and a DJ will spin tunes at the Jockey Club Suites. Phil Kelly will perform music in the Turf Club.
Patrons will have the option to taste non-traditional racetrack offerings such as flavorful grilled shrimp, chicken and steak skewers and vegetable kabobs. Evening appetites also will be satisfied by scrumptious premium dining offerings available for purchase inside Millionaires Row, the Skye Terrace and other locations.
Other ancillary activities include entertainment and interviews hosted by The Voice-Tribune’s Angie Fenton on the infield video boards, Derby Nation giveaways, a Churchill Downs Foundation raffle and the popular sweepstakes promotion called Bet or No Bet, sponsored by Thorntons, that randomly asks fans to take $100 in cash or place a free $1,000 win bet on a horse in the upcoming race. Bet or No Bet will take place during Races 6-9 with sign-ups taking place in the paddock area.
To set the tone for Friday’s party, there will be deejays at each admission gate and “Happy Hours” in the paddock area from 4-6 p.m. featuring $2 Anheuser Busch products and frozen drink specials.
DARRYL “DMC” McDANIELS TO PERFORM RUN-DMC CLASSICS AFTER LAST RACE
Music will be showcased throughout the evening. The Louisville Crashers will perform on the paddock stage between live races from 4-9 p.m. ET. The party will elevate to a new level at 9 p.m. when DJ Charlie Chan Soprano, widely known as the top DJ in St. Louis and one of the best in the Midwest, mixes popular dance and new music for two hours. His appearance will serve as a tasty appetizer before the delicious main course.
Darryl “DMC” McDaniels will perform many of Run-DMC’s classics during a special performance on the paddock stage after the final race of the night, which is scheduled for 11:10 p.m.
Run-DMC, a seller of 30 million records worldwide, helped change music, culture, fashion and, language in the 1980s, and made American history when they became the first rap group to grace the cover of Rolling Stone and appear on MTV.
The group from Hollis, Queens was known for their catchy rhymes and innovative rapping over rock beats, even incorporating hard-rock guitar samples on occasion. 1985’s “King of Rock” was rap’s first platinum album, and they took rap into the Top 10 when they collaborated with Aerosmith on a remake of that group’s “Walk This Way.” Other notable singles include “My Addias,” “You Be Illin,” “It’s Tricky” and “Mary, Mary.”
Nine years after the untimely death of his band mate Jam Master Jay, DMC continues to create, inspire and motivate. He is the co-author of the critically-acclaimed autobiography entitled “King of Rock; Respect, Responsibility and My Life With Run-DMC” (2001/St. Martins), and in 2006 released an award-winning solo album “Checks, Thugs & Rock and Roll.”
That album featured the hit single “Just like Me” with Sarah McLaughlin, a song DMC wrote after discovering he was adopted, that spoke to his new revelation and began his journey down another life path in search of his birth mother. While his search struggle was captured in the 2007 Emmy-winning VH1 documentary “DMC: My Adoption Journey,” the process gave DMC tremendous insight and purpose, prompting him to become an advocate for adoption and children in foster care.
In between his work as a musician, published author and speaker, DMC co-founded the Felix Organization, a non-profit that works with adoptees and foster children. McDaniels has been invited to the White House by President Obama to address various youth groups on responsibility during a Father’s Day celebration and has appeared before Congress and various state legislatures in support of adoptees and foster children. He has received various awards including the Hard Rock’s Love All Serve All Award for his numerous philanthropic endeavors and the coveted CHILDREN’S RIGHTS Champion Award for his tireless work on behalf of foster children through his FELIX ORGANIZATION / Adoptees for Children, as well as his work providing other year-round opportunities for children in foster care.
In 2009, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is currently recording a new album to be released later this year.
HRTV TO BROADCAST LIVE FROM ‘DOWNS AFTER DARK’
HRTV, the 24-hour horse racing television network which airs on DISH Network channel 404 and Insight Communications channel 564 in Louisville, will be onsite for this year’s Downs After Dark debut with reporters Gary Stevens, Caton Bredar and Churchill Downs’ Jill Byrne. They’ll also broadcast live from the track on Saturday for Stephen Foster Handicap Day Presented by Abu Dhabi.
IDEAL WEATHER: PARTLY SUNNY SKIES, 86
According to the National Weather Service, Friday’s forecast calls for partly sunny skies with a high near 86 and a 30-percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 8 a.m. The low will be around 69.
LIMITED RESERVED SEATING STILL AVAILABLE FOR FRIDAY NIGHT
There is limited reserved seating still available. Indoor dining packages in Millionaires Row are $59.90 and include a scrumptious buffet dinner, reserved seat and official program. Outdoor third-floor box seats in sections 314-323 are going fast. They are on sale for $20 and include general admission, a box seat in the third-floor clubhouse and an official program. On July 1 only, there is a Skye Terrace package for $30 that includes a climate-controlled indoor reserved seat, viewing balcony and an official program.
‘DOWNS AFTER DARK’ COVER CHARGE IS $10
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.
As usual, Churchill Downs will be open early for simulcast wagering on the second floor of the clubhouse Friday. General admission will be its regular price of $3 from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Gate 17.
All reserved ticket packages are available for purchase online at churchilldowns.com/tickets – Churchill Downs’ convenient online box office platform. Customers can also call the Churchill Downs switchboard at (502) 636-4400.
SPECIAL DOWNS AFTER DARK PARKING, TRAFFIC PLAN
Those attending 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). Typically, all lots are 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 5 p.m. There will be free round-trip shuttle service throughout the evening with drop off and pick up at Gate 1. All Churchill Downs employees will be directed to park in the track’s infield (enter through Longfield tunnel).
Churchill Downs has secured the services of Louisville Metro Police Department officers and traffic guards to monitor area traffic on Central Avenue and other nearby streets to advance ingress and egress. LMPD will control traffic signals, turn lanes and pedestrian traffic and partial road closures are possible if it becomes necessary because of heavy traffic.
A total of 100 horses have been entered to compete on the 11-race program. The featured event is the $68,000-added Opening Verse, an overnight stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course. It will go as Race 4 at approximately 7:26 p.m.
An overnight stakes race will be featured during each Downs After Dark event. On June 24, 3-year-olds and up will sprint seven furlongs in the $68,000-added Kelly’s Landing. Fillies and mares will dash seven furlongs in the $68,000-added Roxelana on July 1.
Hunch players are advised to arrive early for Friday’s Downs After Dark premiere. The aptly-named 3-year-old filly Rap Star has been entered in the 6 p.m. opener.
DOWNS AFTER DARK POST TIMES & WAGERING MENU
Race Post Time Wagering
1 6:00 PM WPS EX DD P3 P4
2 6:28 PM WPS EX DD P3
3 6:56 PM WPS EX DD P3
4 7:26 PM WPS EX DD P3 P4
5 7:57 PM WPS EX DD P3
6 8:30 PM WPS EX DD P3 P6
7 9:03 PM WPS EX DD P3 P5
8 9:36 PM WPS EX DD P3 P4
9 10:09 PM WPS EX DD P3
10 10:42 PM WPS EX DD
11 11:10 PM WPS EX SH5
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: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 5, 2012. The track’s 2011 Spring Meet opened April 30 and continues through July 4. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record seven times and the event will return to the track for its next renewal on Nov. 4-5, 2011. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.
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