Early arrivals to Churchill Downs on Saturday will receive a free button to commemorate Mine That Bird’s victory in Kentucky Derby 135 (while supplies last) as the 3-year-old gelding attempts to land two-thirds of horse racing’s Triple Crown in the 141st running of the Belmont Stakes.
Churchill Downs will open admission gates just before 11:30 a.m. (all times Eastern Daylight Time) on Saturday with the first of 11 live races scheduled for 12:45 p.m. The simulcast of Belmont Park’s 13-race card will begin at 11:35 a.m., with the $1 million Belmont (Grade I) scheduled as Race 11 at approximately 6:27 p.m.
The Belmont Stakes simulcast will follow Race 11 at Churchill Downs (6:02 p.m.) and will be prominently shown on television monitors throughout the facility, including the infield and paddock JumboTrons.
Mine That Bird, trained by Chip Woolley, drew post No. 7 and was made the 2-1 favorite in the field of 10 three-year-olds. The 1 ½-mile “Test of a Champion” also attracted Peter Pan victor Charitable Man and Florida Derby runner-up Dunkirk.
Churchill Downs’ popular jockey Calvin Borel is in position to make history in the Belmont. No jockey has swept the Triple Crown in the same year on more than one horse. The 42-year-old Cajun guided Mine That Bird to his upset Derby victory then hopped aboard the fleet-footed Kentucky Oaks heroine Rachel Alexandra for her triumph in the Preakness Stakes. Borel will be back aboard Mine That Bird in the Belmont after the filly was declared from the race last Friday.
Saturday’s Belmont Park wagering menu is enticing. There are six graded stakes races, including four Grade I events, and there’ll be a $1 million guaranteed all-stakes Pick 6 pool on Races 6-11 and a $1 million guaranteed all-stakes Pick 4 pool on Races 8-11. Also, 10-cent Superfectas on all races that qualify will be available.
In conjunction with the Belmont Stakes simulcast, Churchill Downs has secured the Upshaw Briggs Band to entertain patrons with jazz music between live races from 12-4 p.m. in the paddock area. Additionally, there will be an entertaining Early Times Kentucky Whisky mascot race on the Matt Winn Turf Course immediately after Race 4, which is scheduled for 2:16 p.m. ET.
The “Belmont Breeze” specialty drink in a Belmont Stakes collectable glass will be sold by Levy Restaurants at select locations throughout the facility. The Belmont Breeze is the official drink of the Belmont Stakes and will feature 1 ½ ounces of Woodford Reserve bourbon, 2 ounces of Lemonade and 1 ounce of Pomegranate liquor. Before it’s served, the drink is shaken with ice, strained into a rocks glass with ice and garnished with a squeeze of a lemon wedge.
Early on-track arrivals will be treated to racing analyst Jill Byrne’s “Get in the Game” Handicapping Seminar, which begins at noon in the paddock area. The half-hour session – free with general admission – will feature informative and in-depth analysis of races and other handicapping. This week’s special guest is Tom Amoss, one of only 10 trainers to have won 300 races at Churchill Downs.
Saturday’s 11-race live program at Churchill Downs is topped by an outstanding renewal of the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII). The 33rd running of the 1 1/16-mile turf race landed a field of seven fillies and mares, including four graded stakes winners headed by Grade I-winning millionaire Pure Clan, who’ll make her 4-year-old debut.
In addition to the live racing and ancillary Belmont Stakes activities, there’ll be plenty of fun and excitement for the entire family. Scavenger hunts for children aged 3-10 highlight this weekend’s ledger at Churchill Downs’ Junior Jockey Club located near the Guest Services Booth inside Gate. 10. The Junior Jockey Club is open every Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Churchill Downs’ mascot Churchill Charlie will be on hand for photographs between 2-2:30 p.m. Coloring books, crayons, individual games and reading material are available as well.
Those who can’t make it to Churchill Downs on Saturday can place an advance wager on Saturday’s Belmont Stakes at the track all day on Friday. Also, a unique wager offered on Friday by the New York Racing Association is the Brooklyn/Belmont Double that links two 1 ½-mile marathon events: Friday’s Grade II, $200,000 Brooklyn Handicap for older horses (Belmont Park Race 10 at 5:49 p.m. ET) and Saturday’s Belmont.
Friday patrons for the special 2:45 p.m. twilight racing program can take advantage of the popular “Dress to Impress” Friday Happy Hours promotion. Between 4-7 p.m., there’ll be live music by Songs for Tuesday and discounted food and beverages such as $2 Budweiser Select, $2 hot dogs and $3 margaritas and $3 daiquiris. Also, one female in the crowd will be chosen as “best dressed” and win a $250 gift certificate to Luna Boutique, which is located in the Highlands area of Louisville.
Immediately following Friday’s sixth race at 5:22 p.m., Churchill Downs will host the annual YMCA Safe Place Turf Classic. Approximately 20 Louisville firefighters and corporate representatives each sponsored by a local corporation will run seven furlongs on the Matt Winn Turf Course to benefit YMCA Safe Place Services, which provides a variety of caring programs and round-the-clock assistance for teens and families in crisis. More than 500 guests are expected in Churchill Downs’ Triple Crown Room and additional proceeds will be raised through live and silent auctions.