the first time in track history, Churchill Downs will start its 2011 Spring
Meet and Kentucky Derby Week in prime time. The first day of Churchill Downs’
39-day Spring Meet on Saturday, April 30 will take place at night under
the lights with the first of 11 live races scheduled for 6 p.m. ET. The
unique, first-time event is simply billed as “Opening Night.”
created this new stand-alone event to help properly kickoff and celebrate
Kentucky Derby Week and the return of live racing to Churchill Downs for the
Spring Meet,” said Churchill Downs racetrack president Kevin Flanery.
“Over the past two years, we’ve had exciting results by presenting special
and unique nighttime racing experiences for our core customers, casual patrons
and entertainment-seekers. This exciting new ‘Opening Night’ event is truly Louisville’s gala. The people of Louisville
and the entire Kentuckiana region love the Derby, they love to dress up and they love a
good party. We intend to deliver that to them.”
of the elements that made the eight previous night racing programs at Churchill
Downs an on-track hit will be showcased with added twists. E! News
anchor Giuliana Rancic and her husband, first-year Apprentice winner Bill
Rancic, will be on hand for Red Carpet arrival interviews and to emcee the
evening’s festivities. World-renowned DJ Clinton Sparks will spin tunes
in the paddock and perform his hit single “My Favorite DJ is.” Also, Kentucky’s born and
raised designer to the stars, Bradley Picklesimer, will set the mood
with the evening’s décor. His design portfolio includes the Elton John Oscar
Party and events for Sharon and Ozzy Osborne, Barbara Streisand
and Billie Jean King.
NBC affiliate WAVE-3 has planned a live one-hour broadcast around the
event from 9-10 p.m. ET, and will televise two races, including the featured
Grade III, $200,000-added The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (Race 8 at 9:39
p.m. ET) – the final race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby that could produce
a starter in the Run for the Roses on the following Saturday.
suggested wardrobe for ‘Opening Night’ is cocktail chic and fashionable
headwear, much like Oaks and Derby,
is encouraged,” said Casey Cook, Churchill Downs’ vice president of
Brand Development and Marketing.
Downs successfully experimented with night racing in 2009 and permanent lights
were added to the 147-acre facility in 2010. Its eight nighttime programs over
the last two years – the perfect blend of an upscale night on the town with the
excitement of thoroughbred racing – have essentially tripled the on-track
attendance and doubled the on-track wagering handle compared to afternoon
programs previously staged on those dates.
addition to Opening Night, Churchill Downs will stage four “Downs After Dark”
night racing programs in 2011 – three over the final three Fridays of the
Spring Meet on June 17, June 24 and July 1 and one date during the Fall Meet on
Friday, Nov. 19.
dramatic red glass chandelier structure
will apex over the Aristides
Garden on Opening Night
to give the Churchill Downs paddock area the look and feel of an upscale
night club. Also, there will be comfortable free-seating options, specialty
bars and food stations, colorful buntings, mood lighting, spotlights
and seasonal greenery.
be Red Carpet entrances at Gates 10 and 17, plus paparazzi
photographers, Hollywood-style lights and DJs inside the
gates to greet guests when admission gates open at 4 p.m. ET.
at the track will be showcased throughout the evening. To set the tone for the
party, musicians Off The Hook will perform on the paddock stage between
live races from 4-9 p.m. ET. Also, there will be music for VIP guests on
the Clubhouse “Bubble Balconies,” a private party that will showcase
champagne cocktails and an atmosphere accented by bubble machines.
party will elevate to new levels at 9 p.m. ET when world-renowned DJ Clinton
Sparks takes over turntable on the paddock stage until closing time at
is the E! News music correspondent; creator, host and DJ of the No.
1-rated worldwide syndicated terrestrial radio show “Smash Time Radio;”
and host and DJ of the “Sirius XM Shade 45 Satellite Radio” uncensored
Hip Hop show of the same name. He might be best known as the multi-platinum producer/songwriter
for Akon, Pitbull, Ludacris, Tyrese, Rick Ross, The Game, Bun B, Soulja Boy,
Leighton Meester, Plies, T-Pain and The Notorious B.I.G.
charge (general admission) to Opening Night and 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.
Reserved ticket packages for
Opening Night and all Spring Meet events are available for purchase online at Tickets.ChurchillDowns.com
– Churchill Downs’ convenient online box office platform. Customers also can
call the Churchill Downs switchboard at (502) 636-4400.
Limited dining packages in Skye
Terrace 6 remain available for $59.50 and include a Chef Table
dinner, a climate-controlled indoor reserved seat, viewing balcony and an
official program. Meanwhile, the outdoor third-floor box seats 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.
Churchill Downs will be open
early for simulcast wagering on the second floor of the clubhouse on
Opening Night. General admission will be its regular price of $3 from 11:30
a.m. until 4 p.m. at Gate 17.
Those attending Opening Night
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 4 p.m. There will be free round-trip
shuttle service throughout the evening with drop off and pick up at Gate 1.
Following Opening Night, Churchill
Downs will be dark Sunday, May 1 and Monday,
May 2. Kentucky Derby week racing will resume Tuesday, May 3 and
continue through Kentucky Derby Day on Saturday, May 7. Post time on May 3-5
will be 12:45 p.m. ET. The first race on Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby days
will be 10:30 a.m. ET.
racing at Churchill Downs has been a spectacular success while showcasing live
racing with ancillary entertainment such as food, fashion, music and parties.
So far, more than 210,000 horseplayers and entertainment-seekers
have attended the eight special nighttime programs since June 2009. Just less
than 90,000 fans attended three “experimental” programs under temporary lights
in 2009, and an average of 27,139 attended four night racing programs under
permanent lights last spring.