Churchill Downs adjusts post times for final three days of meet
Churchill Downs officials will adjust their post times and race exclusively in the evening for the final three days of its 138th Spring Meet due to looming near-record triple-digit heat in the forecast for Louisville.
The first race on Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be 6:30 p.m. (all times Eastern). On Tuesday evening it was decided that Thursday’s nine-race program would be cancelled because National Weather Service forecasters were calling for a high of 103 with a southwest wind of 5-15 mph and gusts up to 26 mph.
The updated schedule is as follows:
–Friday, June 29 – an 11-race night racing program with a post time of 6:30 p.m., last race post time 11:30 p.m.;
–Saturday, Jun 30 – an 11-race night racing program with 6:30 p.m. post, last race post time 11:40 p.m.;
–Sunday, July 1 – Closing Day night program for the 138th Spring Meet with 10 races scheduled, with post time of 6:30 p.m, last race 11:00 p.m.
Track officials made the decision to adjust its closing weekend schedule following a meeting with National Weather Service forecasters on Wednesday afternoon.
“Given the record-setting heat expected throughout the closing weekend of our Spring Meet, we hope the shift of our Friday ‘Twilight Racing’ program and Sunday’s closing day racing program to nighttime programs is a solution that, given the forecast for extreme heat, is one that works for our horsemen and our racing fans,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “The installation of our permanent lights three years ago has allowed the flexibility to adapt to the extreme heat and develop a schedule that eases our most serious concerns about the safety of our equine and human athletes, meets the needs of our horsemen by preserving races scheduled for the meet’s final three days, and provides fans who wish to enjoy Churchill Downs racing – either on-track, online or at satellite wagering centers –the opportunity to do so.
“We regret that we will not be able to make up the races lost through the cancellation of Thursday’s racing during the final days of the Spring Meet, but our weather scenario deteriorated rapidly early in the week and we had to make a swift decision on the status of Thursday’s racing. Our team had a bit more time to focus on the meet’s final three days and we consulted with the National Weather Service to determine, as closely as possible, the hour-by-hour temperature scenario for the weekend. We will continue to take every possible precaution to guard against heat-related health issues over those three days, but we believe the night racing programs on Friday and Sunday will ease the threat of weather-related issues.”
The cancellation of races at Churchill Downs is extremely rare. Thursday’s cancellation was only the 18th documented weather-related cancellation in track history and the first related to extreme heat.
Admission gates for Friday, Saturday and Sunday will open at 4 p.m. (although Gate 17 will be open for simulcast wagering each day at 11:30 a.m.). Buffets in the dining rooms will open at 5 p.m. General admission is $3 on Friday and Sunday, and $10 on Saturday for Downs After Dark ($3 before 4 p.m.).
Friday’s Happy Hours in the paddock area, featuring 16-ounce Stella Artois for $3 and music by Edgewood, will switch to 6:30-9:30 p.m.
The spring finale of “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” is Saturday and the 11-race card is billed as the second annual “White Party,” in which on-track guests are encouraged to wear an all-white wardrobe. Paddock entertainment will be provided by Trinity, a Miami-based trio that uniquely mixes the sounds of a DJ and drums, and popular Nashville band, Burning Las Vegas. Another special treat will be an appearance by Doug O’Neill, the trainer of I’ll Have Another who’ll be on hand to accept the engraved Kentucky Derby 138 trophies on behalf of the winning connections.
Sunday’s Junior Jockey Club activities will go on as scheduled but the one-day “Who’s the Champ? Handicapping Contest” scheduled that day has been postponed because of timing conflicts. Pre-registered contestants will be contacted in the next few days by track officials.
Although live racing was cancelled for Thursday, Churchill Downs will be open at 11:30 a.m., as usual, for simulcast wagering on racetracks throughout North America in the in the track’s Clubhouse. Those groups and individual patrons who purchased seating for Thursday are being contacted by Churchill Downs to reschedule their visit.
Weather has been a topic of discussion on multiple occasions this season at Churchill Downs. The track’s 11-race “Opening Night” program on April 28 was delayed for 48 minutes when a monstrous hailstorm pounded the facility and surrounding area after Race 4. Six days later on Kentucky Oaks Day, a mid-afternoon threat of severe weather prompted track officials to order the first known temporary evacuation of the Churchill Downs’ infield with three races, including the Oaks, remaining on the 12-race card. The heaviest of the storms missed the track and racing resumed after a 52-minute weather delay.