In the interest of human and equine safety, Churchill Downs called off its final five races late Friday afternoon following a heavy wave of showers and thunderstorms. It was just the third cancellation of its kind in the last 19 years at the historic Louisville racetrack.
Races 6 through 10 were called off after a steady, and often heavy, rain pelted the home of the Kentucky Derby from mid-afternoon on. The rain was interspersed with lighting and cracks of thunder during the “Friday Happy Hours” program, a 10-race card that had started at the special post time of 2:45 p.m. (all times EDT). The racing program had already been delayed once because of the heavy rain before track officials decided around 5:30 p.m. to cancel the second half of the program.
Friday’s cancellation of races at Churchill Downs was the first since May 30, 2004, when tornado warnings for the area led to a decision to end that Sunday racing program after four races had been completed. That was the first weather-related cancellation of a racing program at Churchill Downs since June 6, 1990, when the program was cancelled after the third race because of severe weather and the issuance of a tornado warning by the National Weather Service.
“While racing is an outdoor sport and we are used to racing in the elements, Friday’s sustained heavy rain led to increased concern over the safety of horses and jockeys as our Friday program continued,” said Kevin Flanery, senior vice president of National Public Affairs for Churchill Downs. “Track Superintendent Butch Lehr’s team is among the very best in our industry, but given the large amount of rain that had fallen and the prospect of more rainfall through early evening hours, we decided that the best way to ensure the safety of those horses and riders was to cancel Friday’s remaining races. The safety of the equine and human participants in our sport is the top priority at Churchill Downs’ every day, and we felt that the cancellation of those races was the best move in light of the extreme weather conditions.”
Churchill Downs racing is scheduled to resume on Saturday with a 10-race program scheduled to begin with the first race at 12:45 p.m. Spring Meet racing at Churchill Downs continues through July 5. More information about Churchill Downs racing is available on the Web at www.churchilldowns.com or your can follow Churchill Downs racing on Twitter at @churchilldowns.